The immune system is an intricate mechanism that helps to defend our body against infection and disease. Whilst taking steps to maintain its function makes perfect sense, there is a lot of misleading information out there, making it difficult to separate good advice from the inaccurate, or (even) potentially dangerous.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we aim to deliver the most trustworthy lifestyle tips that will help you stay healthy this autumn/winter. These can benefit all, no matter your fitness level, but it goes without saying that support of the immune system is even more crucial to those who train frequently/harder. We’ll also be dispelling common myths that are thrown around too readily (such as wet hair causing you to 'catch a cold'?)!

We going to start by looking at the macronutrients: Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates, and their role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

Carbohydrates

Whilst refined sugars should be avoided where possible, owing them encouraging an inflammatory response, slower-release carbohydrates serve as the primary source of energy for the brain and muscles. Refuelling after exercise is important not only in terms of performance, but in providing fuel for metabolic processes and immune function.

Protein

It goes without saying that a good diet helps to support the immune system. Protein is essential for the maintenance, growth and repair of body tissues, as well as being crucial to several aspects of immune health. Furthermore, enzymes and hormones – involved in just about every process in the body – are all formed from proteins. Regular intake from high quality sources can help to support the above.

Fats

Among its many functions, fat is required to maintain healthy cell membranes. An inadequate intake can affect the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which can further impact immune defence. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be of particular importance, helping to reduce the inflammatory response, which is valuable to the operation of the immune system. More recently, (unrefined) coconunt oil (a medium-chain triglyceride) has been reputed for its benefits, owing to key components such as lauric acid. 

So, it's not just an apple a day that keeps the doctor away... more like three proper meals! 

Next, we’ll be looking at the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that have been shown to help boost the immune system!