A healthy immune system is an essential aspect of optimal health and wellness. A significant component of one’s immune health depends upon supporting the gut microbiome since 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut. Imbalances in the gut microbiota due to unhealthy lifestyle factors such as stress, poor sleep hygiene, lack of exercise, processed foods, sugar and dietary triggers may contribute not only to inflammation but also to leaky gut; dysbiosis of gut microbiota has been closely linked to several diseases, such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and autoimmunity.

Conversely, healthy lifestyle factors, including a diversified diet, limited consumption of processed and refined foods and consumption of adequate dietary fiber, have been shown to promote a healthy microbiome. These specific foods and nutrients not only support immune function but can also promote gut health. By providing essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, plant-based food sources play an important role in maintaining and positively influencing the immune function. Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, are components of plants that help protect the plant from insects or the environment, contributing to health benefits. This can include things like carotenoids (red and orange colorful foods), flavonoids (plant-based foods that act as an antioxidant) and phytosterols (help remove cholesterol from the body). Through anti-microbial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, these essential nutrients and phytonutrients provide multiple benefits to the immune system, highlighting the role of nutrition as a powerful tool in promoting good health.

Supporting a healthy microbiome is a cornerstone of functional medicine and essential for strengthening immune responses and improving overall health. Personalized therapeutic interventions that focus on modifiable lifestyle factors have proven to optimize the function of the immune system while supporting gut health. Successful lifestyle modifications include the following:

  • Personalized therapeutic food plans

  • Multi-strain-specific probiotic and prebiotic supplementation

  • Restorative quality sleep

  • Movement and exercise plans

  • Reduction of dietary triggers and toxic exposures

  • Stress Resiliency and transformation

  • Connection to others, not isolation

Implementing personalized treatment approaches that support the health and balance of the intestinal microbiome may be essential to not only strengthening resilience for high-risk chronic illnesses but also optimizing immune function, and disease prevention can help you and your family stay healthy.

TIPS for supporting immune response with nutrition:

  • Focus on a rich variety of colorful plant foods: Consume two or more vegetables per meal and aim for three or more colors per day to ensure you consume a wide variety of immune-supportive nutrients.

  • To retain nutrients: eat fruits and vegetables fresh when possible. Do not overcook. Steaming for less than two minutes is ideal for preserving nutrients.

  • Several nutrients (including vitamins A, D, and E) are fat-soluble and are better absorbed if eaten with a healthy fat. For example, consuming a salad with higher fat vs. lower fat dressing is optimal for absorption of the carotenoids (Vitamin A).