The Immune System

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Upon mention of terrorism and war, the images that come to mind are bloodshed, suffering, and mayhem. National security is the foremost concern of every country-well-trained soldiers, sophisticated weaponry, and state-of-the-art defense mechanisms are in place around the clock to monitor and safeguard the security of the entire country.

Similarly, each one of us is equipped with an internal army that is just as efficient at watching out for invisible enemies at all times. The air we breathe, the food and drinks we consume, and the things we touch every day may seem clean on the surface, but are in fact teeming with all kinds of microbes-bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. These deadly invaders are ready and waiting. They can enter the body in many different ways and catch us off guard. 

Luckily, a sophisticated immune system protects us. The immune army never takes its enemies for granted. An itching throat or watery eyes are subtle signs that the immune system is hard at work. Ironically, perhaps because we do not see it, we often overlook the importance of this army. We think about protecting the heart, liver, skin, and other vital organs, but we rarely take into account the health of the immune system. Only when we fall ill do we start to take notice of the immune system's presence. 

 

A Healthy Immune System Can Effectively Prevent Diseases

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In a war, the stronger party will be victorious. A weak army will soon surrender to its antagonists. The same applies to our bodies. When microorganisms invade the human body, a healthy immune system kicks into action and fights the battle immediately. 

Take, for example, two individuals facing the same influenza virus. One falls seriously ill while the other remains healthy. Although threatened by the same virus, only the individual with the weaker immune system succumbs to the virus. 

Microorganisms like bacteria and viruses are responsible for causing many diseases. Yet they will not be able to wreak havoc on our bodies in the face of a strong immune army, whose job is to defend the body against infections. Most illnesses are, in fact, allowed to flourish by a malfunctioning immune system. 

The human immune system malfunctions when it is weak. Therefore, to facilitate normal functioning, the immune system needs the support of a healthy diet and sufficient rest. In contrast, malnutrition or excessive stress will cause us to fall sick more easily. 

A weak immune system causes the human body to experience more serious, and even dangerous, symptoms when faced with highly infectious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pneumonia, hepatitis, influenza, or tuberculosis. In fact, a weak immune system can even lead to the onset of cancer. Under normal circumstances, the immune cells keep a vigilant watch over every part of the body, always at the ready to kill off any mutated cell that has the potential to develop into cancer. But when the immune system is weakened, it is unable to swiftly identify and destroy cancer cells, resulting in an uncontained spread of cancer cells in the human body.

Cancer accounts for nearly one of every four deaths in the U.S. In 2012, there were an estimated 8.2 million cancer-related deaths and 14.1 million new cancer cases worldwide. Lung, liver, stomach, colorectal, and breast cancers cause the most cancer deaths each year. 

How Diet Affects Immunity

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According to Nutritional Immunology, people's daily diets have a direct impact on the performance of their immune systems, as well as the way they look, feel, and behave as a whole.

Food is like fuel for the immune system. Normally, our bodies will obtain a good amount of nutrition when we consume wholesome plant foods picked at the right time. However, when we eat too many animal-based products or foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, the immune system will lack the nutrients it needs to fight against diseases. When we are in good health, whole foods help strengthen our defenses. When we fall sick, proper nourishment and sufficient rest can help us to recover faster. 

Nutrition and drugs are not necessarily mutually antagonistic. They are equally important in the fight against disease because they can complement each other. The likelihood of a complete recovery becomes higher when the immune system is nourished properly and adequately to help it function smoothly while undergoing treatment and using appropriate medication. Conversely, even with the best medicine in the world, a quick recovery from an illness is unlikely if the immune system is weak. 

Human beings have been afflicted by disease since the beginning of mankind. But the weakening of the immune system may further fuel the rampage of diseases in modern times. Many factors have led to the increase in immune-related diseases. But the underlying issue is the quality of the food we consume.

Much of today's food contains preservatives and pesticides. They are often highly processed, thereby lacking the nutrients needed by the human immune system, such as phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides. Yet these are exactly the nutrients the immune system desperately needs to work efficiently. 

Achieve Good Health and Longevity

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According to projections by the World Health Organization (WHO), between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years old will double from about 11 % to 22%. In the same period, the number of people aged 80 or older will have almost quadrupled to 395 million.

By 2017, the number of adults aged 65 and above will outnumber children under the age of 5; this is unprecedented in human history. By 2050, these older adults will outnumber children under the age of 14. Scientists have found that human beings can expect to live a full and meaningful life to 120 years old. Not only that, but according to research, it is not impossible for humans to live to 150 years old through proper care and eating a complete and nutritious diet. 

Nonetheless, maintaining a healthy and strong body requires effort, more so as a person ages. Therefore, consuming foods that can defend against diseases becomes of utmost importance. Guiding the elderly to consistently consume more wholesome plant foods can help them to maintain good health.In this regard, Nutritional Immunology is a longevity science that has become increasingly pivotal for human beings to achieve a healthier and longer life. 

Nutrition plays an important role in the fighting of infections-an absence of any one nutrient will have unfavorable effects on the immune system. However, Nutritional Immunology does not focus on the need for basic nutrients like proteins, minerals, and vitamins. Rather, it focuses on nutrients like phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides. Although a deficiency in proteins, minerals, and vitamins will lead to a malfunctioning immune system, most people do not lack these nutrients in this day and age.

The nutrients we usually lack are those that are especially beneficial to the functioning of the immune system, like phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides. Therefore, exploring ways to obtain these nutrients that help keep the immune system in optimal condition is the crux of health topic discussions. 

 

Nutritional Immunology's Research Focus: Nutrition and the Immune System

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Nothing comes close to a healthy immune system at preventing and overcoming diseases or defending the human body against the harmful effects of chronic exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins. However, the remarkable progress of medical science has led to such an overemphasis on the research and development of medicines used to treat diseases that the innate abilities of the world's best doctor, the immune system, are overlooked. Many people believe that a person is considered healthy if no disease symptom has presented itself. This is not entirely correct.

The truth is that many diseases may have existed in the body for a long time before manifesting outward signs and symptoms. A disease sufferer would gradually notice increased fatigue or unusual changes to the way the body behaves. This general sense of feeling weak would already have been experienced by the sufferer long before more serious disease symptoms actually presented themselves. By the time a person feels seriously ill, it is too late for prevention. Therefore, the key to staving off disease is in maintaining the health of the immune system. Each day, we should be diligent in providing the immune system with generous servings of the right nutrients. 

There is a clear relationship between nutritional intake and immune response. The ways in which they influence each other form the basis of Nutritional Immunology. At its core, Nutritional Immunology studies the human immune system and how it defends against attacks from pathogens and foreign substances. Since the discovery of antibiotics, emphasis has been placed on medicines and the treatment of diseases. The amazing powers of the human immune system and the importance of disease prevention have been overlooked. 

The science of Nutritional Immunology is centered on the explicit link between proper nutrition and the health of the immune system. This forms the backbone of research in the field of Nutritional Immunology, which emphasizes the fact that a nutritionally balanced immune system has the power to influence a person's health in a positive way. 

The Essence of Nutritional Immunology: Prevention Is Better than Cure ​​​​​​​

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Nutritional Immunology is a science that studies the link between nutrition and the immune system. A healthy immune system can prevent diseases and help the body stay healthy. However, when deprived of sufficient nutrients, the immune system becomes weak and unable to defend against cancer and other diseases. The human body requires a constant supply of nutrients. When one is healthy, balanced nutrition can help prevent illness; when ill, adequate nourishment aids in recovery. The relationship between nutrition and immune response forms the basis of Nutritional Immunology. 

Can you recall when you last ate a balanced diet or actively avoided greasy, high-cholesterol food and alcoholic beverages, opting instead for fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods? The truth is many people only do so when they fall sick, with the hope that a healthy diet will help them recover faster.

Most of us only pay attention to proper nutrition when we are sick. Few actually take precautionary measures that could have prevented the illness altogether. Research shows that about two thirds of American adults tend to eat more foods high in fats and refined sugars instead of plant foods. This leads to an insufficient intake of essential nutrients needed to maintain health. Given that a diet high in fat and sugar increases the risk of cancer, it is no surprise that more than a million Americans get cancer each year. 

Simply put, Nutritional Immunology advocates prevention over cure. It helps us to discern what proper nutrition is in a world of myriad food choices. Therefore, it is essential to understand why Nutritional Immunology plays a vital role in our daily lives.