Immune Health 101
This global health crisis has put a greater emphasis on immune health as people look to protect themselves from covid-19. We have seen that the novel coronavirus has led to significant mortality among individuals with vulnerable or compromised immune systems. But also, people with no obvious underlying health conditions. The spike in online searches for immunity, stress relief and sleep have increased since the global pandemic was announced. There is growing support that a large portion of people are embracing healthier strategies, from nutrition to fitness, in response to the pandemic. Credentialed health professionals like myself, are being sought out for their qualified nutrition, health, and food information during this time, when self-care is not only something we have control over, it is something we can improve upon. Let’s explore immune health 101.
The Immune System
The immune system has a vital role: It protects your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you ill. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins. The main tasks of the body’s immune system are: 1) to fight disease-causing germs (pathogens) like bacteria, viruses (like covid-19), parasites or fungi, and to remove them from the body; 2) to recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment, and 3) to fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells. Because the adaptive immune system is constantly learning and adapting, the body can also fight bacteria or viruses that change over time. Did you know a huge proportion of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract? Therefore, it is important to have a healthy microbiome.
Maintaining a Healthy Immune System
Along with having a healthy gastrointestinal tract and microbiome, eating a balanced diet, having a fitness strategy, getting restful sleep and stress management are all part of maintaining a healthy immune system. Based on the current global health crisis, people are showing an increased interest immune health across all markets and all age groups. Over the years, I have written and been interviewed about foods and adaptogens, and how they can support a healthy immune system. I recommend a dietary pattern filled with nutrient-dense foods, lean protein, citrus fruits, fibrous vegetables, monitoring portion sizes, hydration with water, and talk to your health professional(s) about optimizing with certain supplements like vitamin D.
Immune Health Innovations
Vitamins and minerals, along with ingredients like prebiotics, and probiotics are on the radar of consumers of all age groups more than ever. This is excellent news for food companies innovating and/or expanding in the better-for-you sector. Ingredients such as shelf-table probiotics will become even more popular, and we will see innovative products promoting both the benefits of prebiotic and probiotic ingredients. Hydration continues to be important for overall health with the increased innovation and launches of functional beverages.
I was the Health Expert at SIAL Canada 2020 Virtual Food Week and on Tuesday September 29, I led the webinar Opportunities in Immune Health across all Markets. If you missed it live, click here for the link to replay on the SIAL YouTube channel.
Immune Health Bottomline
The global pandemic has transformed the way we shop, eat, and think about food. Consumers have never been so interested in their immune health and are putting an emphasis on self-care, wellbeing, and resilience. Research trends continue to show consumers want to eat healthier compared to pre-pandemic and want solutions to enhance their immune systems, reduce stress and support wellness.