Published on July 31st, 2020 | by Dr. Doug Pucci0
The Healing Power of Food
by Doug Pucci
When choosing the foods we eat and considering their impact on our health, most people generally think about sugars, fats and carbs. That’s important, but we need to go a step further and think about foods that help to strengthen our immune system. The connection between the foods we eat, the health of our gut microbiome and the strength of our immune system is undeniable. Functional medicine has recognized this connection for some time, and now mainstream medicine is finally beginning to study this relationship.
Physical injuries, allergic reactions and infections are examples of when an appropriate immune response is triggered, resulting in inflammation and a release of fatty acids called omega-3s from cell membranes. These fatty acids signal molecules that determine how inflammation is reduced and resolved.
The National Institutes of Health published a study on how n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) modulate B cell activity (which produce antibodies and fight bacteria) and influence the immune system’s response to infection. Researchers found that PUFAs boost B cell activation and antibody production and can potentially benefit several clinical populations such as the aged and obese that have poor humoral immunity. The good news is that we can get them from some whole food sources of PUFA include salmon, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sardines, walnuts, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, Brussels sprouts, spinach and avocado.
While everyone’s dietary needs are different, the Mediterranean diet is good for just about everyone. Its focus on vegetables, fish and healthy fats is high in omega-3s, so it is easy to get what is needed in an optimal way through diet. Processed foods and fast foods, regardless of their package claims, are not healthy choices for myriad reasons.
As we age, there is a tendency toward chronic inflammation, as well as lower immune function, both of which are common factors in a variety of diseases and disorders. A NU-AGE study of the Mediterranean diet among a healthy older population group aged 65 to 79, published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, showed that after one year, an individually tailored Mediterranean, diet coupled with vitamin D3 supplements, can improve a person’s natural immunity and could also aid the design of strategies to counteract age-associated disturbances.
Research has historically shown that n-3 PUFA found in omega-3-rich foods and high-quality fish oil supplements have a positive impact on immune response to infections by modulating B cell antibody functions that are imperative for protecting against infection and reinfection, improving response to pathogens and keeping tissues healthy.