Viruses, bacteria, toxins and yes, even tumors, are all the aggressions from which the immune system defends us. That's why it's important to take care of it. There are lifestyle habits and particular food choices that can help strengthen the immune system, some more known, others less. We’ll see better in detail and we’ll try also to understand what remedies are really effective and supported by scientific studies.
Vitamins C and E have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Not only that, vitamin C supports different functions of the immune system, for example, it supports the protective functions of the skin against pathogens and damages caused by free radicals such as those induced by the sun, while vitamin E increases the response of the immune system, especially in the elderly (Carr et al, Nutrients, Nov 2017 - Laura Rall, National Academy of Sciences, 1999). These vitamins can be introduced with supplements or, even better, with a varied diet that includes citrus fruits, kiwi fruits, chili peppers, broccoli, all sources of vitamin C, and extra virgin olive oil, wheat germ oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, mango , kiwi fruits and avocado, sources of vitamin E (Rizvi et al, Sultan Qaboos Univ Med, May 2014).
Echinacea, also called coneflower, is considered the classic remedy against colds and flu and, in fact, it shows antiviral and antifungal properties and modulates the immune system (Zhai et al, J Med Food, Sep 2007). In addition, if taken at the first symptoms of colds and other respiratory tract infections, it is able to reduce the duration of the disease and its severity, however, it is not a preventive remedy. In fact, in this case, studies showed that, despite the intake of Echinacea for a long period as a preventive treatment, there were no effects compared to those who did not take this plant (Karsh-Voelk et al, Cochrane Database Sys rev, Feb 2015 - Block et al, Interg Cancer Ther, Sep 2003).
Moreover, ginseng is also anti-inflammatory and fights infections (Kang et al, J Ginseng res, Oct 2012).
Shiitake mushrooms, scientific name Lentinula edodes, can be easily found both dried and fresh in the supermarkets. Based on scientific studies (Dai et al, J Am Coll Nutr, Apr 2015), the daily consumption of 5 grams per day of shiitake has determined in a month to a strengthening of the immune system and to a reduction of the state of chronic inflammation of the body. There are not only shiitake however, other mushrooms able to boost the immune system are reishi, or ganoderma, maitake and cordyceps, so powerful that they are also offered as an additional treatment in case of cancer as in this case a good, healthy and responsive immune system means less chance for cancer cells to grow (Guggenheim et al, Integr Med, Feb 2014). You can find these mushrooms in the form of tablets both in chemist’s and herbalist’s shops, also online, but in any case always be sure about the origin, which must be controlled and, if possible, organic.