As we age our immune function normally becomes weaker - manifesting as a decreased ability to fight viral and bacterial infection, diminished response to vaccination, slower recovery times, and increased incidence of cancer1.
Researchers call it immune-senescence2 and a key driver is the decline in the numbers and quality of T cell and B cells. Absorption of nutrients by the intestines that support immunity also declines.
But it is a two-way street - the normal decline in immune function also triggers processes that accelerate aging.
So can we fight this decline and support or even boost the immune system? We can in four ways – and one is a new discovery.
First an increase in fruits, vegetables and herbs helps reduce excess inflammation – which otherwise damages immune cells.
Second, these plant foods contain many of the micro-nutrients that the immune system needs to stay strong – notably vitamins A, C, E, D, zinc, iron, copper and selenium.
Thirdly fruits, vegetables and herbs contain compounds called phyto-nutrients. A recent paper in the Journal of Complementary and Integrated Medicine confirms that “phytonutrients play a positive role by maintaining and modulating immune function”.
Fourthly color nutrients support stronger immunity via the gut. The gut is a major site of immune activity, and this is strongly influenced by diet. A plant-rich diet with plenty of colorful fruits, vegetables and legumes, and color nutrients, supports the growth and maintenance of beneficial microbes.
So color nutrients are central to supporting and improving your immune system as you get older. But don’t forget that regular exercise, reducing over-weight, at least 7 hours sleep and reducing stress are also important to support your immune system.