Nutrition & Immunity

Strengthening Your Immune System Naturally

Nutrition has a profound affect on how well your body can protect from diseases both infectious and degenerative. A varied diet of natural foods is the best way to ensure your immune system is functioning properly. Variety allows more opportunities for your body to absorb the nutrients it needs. Deficiency in some nutrients causes decreased abilities to resist disease. Those most susceptible to lasting effects of malnutrition (deficient nutrition) include; the very young, the aged, the hospitalized or chronically ill, and those without access to a well-balanced natural foods diet for long periods of time. The very young because their bodies are still forming, the affects of malnutrition can many times be long lasting or permanent. The aged are often dealing with depleted reserves, lack of energy, and weakness to the point which they are unable to recover from a period of malnutrition. Anyone chronically ill is at risk of falling into a vicious cycle, the process of which usually starts with impaired immunity due to malnutrition, which opens a path of easy access for disease, which in turn impairs the body's ability to properly absorb nutrients from food, which leads to further deterioration of the person's nutritional status. This is compounded if the ill person is also very young or elderly.

Hippocrates said, "If there is any deficiency in food or exercise, the body will fall ill."

Although nutrition by itself may not be a cure, if you are malnourished you are less capable of resisting infectious diseases such as; tuberculosis, small pox, polio, malaria, and the various influenza. While these diseases may be rare for those of you in the West, degenerative diseases such as; diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity are common. While these diseases may have a predisposition factor due to heredity, proper nutrition can delay or prevent the onset all together. If already afflicted, proper nutrition makes the body capable of managing these diseases to lessen their impact on the quality of life.

Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله تعالى said:"Some of the early scholars of medicine have stated: Whoever wants the wellness of the body, let him minimize the intake of food and drink. And whoever wants the wellness of the heart, let him abandon committing sins."

Likewise, a diet of excess brings its own set of problems as reflected in the obesity complications faced by many. It behooves us to limit our intake of junk food (food of very low nutritional value) and eat adequate quantities of nutritionally dense foods. Deficiency of nutrients leads to malnutrition but excess in nutrients does not lead to the body being better equipped to resist disease and in some cases may lead to toxicity.

Ibn al-Qayyim رحمه الله تعالى said, " Material illnesses arise from an increase of matter which comes to a point of excess in the body whereby it harms its natural functions- and these are the most common illnesses. They are caused by consuming more food before the previous meal has been properly digested, by eating in excess of the amount needed by the body, by consuming food which is of little nutritional value and is slow to digest..."

One outcome of excess is obesity. The number of obese people is rising at alarming rates. Obesity leads to other complications such as; becoming more sedentary, some cancers, gall bladder disease, type 2 diabetes,and hypertension (high blood pressure). In addition, an obese person is more prone to strokes and heart attacks. Being obese also affects your general quality of life. Obesity can be caused by excess in food or excess in the wrong kinds of fats. Eating low quality food can also lead to obesity as the body feels it needs to eat more seeking adequate nutrition. Then the habit of overeating is formed. Nutritional counseling can help the obese person by providing them with a diet plan that includes sufficient amounts of nutrients as well as helping them to break the bad eating habits to which they have grown accustomed.

In conclusion, the best way to strengthen your immune system is through having a proper diet. Too little nutrients leads to being malnourished which leads to being ill-prepared to resist disease. Too much leads to diseases of excess, toxicity, and does not improve the body's ability to resist disease. A proper diet includes restricting intake of foods that have little nutritional value (junk food) and eating sufficient amounts of high nutritional value foods. In addition we should vary the foods we consume to ensure the body has opportunity to absorb the nutrients it needs but we should not eat in excess of what is sufficient. Having an active lifestyle is also especially important for us women as we spend a lot of time indoors and if we are not running after toddlers we may develop sedentary habits. A Nutrition Counselor can help develop a diet plan that's right for you and include lifestyle changes that may help you live a more fulfilling life.

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