A strong immune system is akin to a good insurance plan. For Dr. Oyie Balburias, the best way to boost our body’s defenses against viruses such as the dreaded coronavirus is by eating nutrient-rich food.
“A healthy immune system will be able to perform its role of defending and repairing our body,” says Dr. Balburias, one of the functional medicine pioneers in the Philippines.
Functional medicine, according to the general internist, is a new approach to traditional medicine that helps people manage their health and well-being; it starts from the base health instead of merely treating diseases based on symptoms. Or put simply, a holistic approach to wellness.
First on Dr. Balburias recommended immunity-boosting food items are fruits and leafy vegetables rich in vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, a superhero when it comes to boosting the immune system.
According to studies, ascorbic acid inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation, thus clinical trials have found that vitamin C shortens the frequency, duration, and severity of the common cold and the incidence of pneumonia.
Orange, kiwi, strawberry, red bell pepper, broccoli, malunggay, and kale are rich in vitamin C, providing the body antioxidants it needs to renew itself and fight free radicals, the molecules that damage the immune system.
“If you’re under stress, these foods are helpful in protecting your immune system from becoming susceptible to viruses,” experts say.
Another must-eat food to strengthen immune system especially during a pandemic is seafood—the richest natural food source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps activate the body’s immune system defenses with its anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties. This nutrient is vital in immune function so much so that low levels of this have been associated with increased susceptibility to infections, diseases, and immune-related disorders.
Seafood rich in vitamin D are sardines, salmon, tuna, mackerel or tanigue, halibut, and swordfish. Eggs, beans, avocado, and lettuce are also rich in vitamin D.
Now is a better time to load up on protein, Dr. Balburias says, as it promotes the growth of new cells. Protein has arginine, which is an amino acid that heals damaged tissues. Protein-rich food items include chicken, pork, and fish, as well as plant-based sources nuts, seeds, and legumes like monggo or mung beans.
Fermented fruits and vegetables are great sources of probiotics and prebiotics that stimulate the immune system by inhibiting toxins and stopping bad bacteria from infesting the body.
Get a daily dose of probiotics from kimchi, kombucha, miso, natto, and atchara or papaya relish, while prebiotic food sources include eggplant, asparagus, bananas, garlic, onions, and nuts.
“Let’s proactively find ways to support how our immune system can induce, enhance, suppress, regulate, and if needed, strengthen its responses to viruses and infections,” advises Dr. Balburias.
More science-based health tips and information are available at www.sekaya.com.ph and on Sekaya’s social media pages. Sekaya is a brand of pharma-grade health products such as food supplements and botanic infusions from Unilab’s natural products company Synnovate Pharma Corp