Foods and Immunity
Are there certain foods that improve immune function?
Good nutrition plays an important part in adequate immune function. Insufficiency of one or more essential nutrients may cause the immune system to not develop sufficiently, or maintain normal responses to infection. Individuals with HIV or AIDS have increased metabolic requirements just because they have chronic illness. In addition, many nutrients are malabsorbed in patients with AIDS-related gastrointestinal disease. These nutrients include vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, folic acid, thiamine, zinc, selenium, calcium, and magnesium.
For example, zinc deficiency impairs antibody production, cellular immune processes, and phagocytic activity. Zinc is found in the highest quantity in seafood, liver and meat. Vitamin A deficiency is seen primarily in developing countries where the diet consists primarily of grain or grain products. Vitamin A is found in eggs, liver and cheese. Folic acid is essential in the process of DNA and RNA synthesis, and its deficiency reduces proliferation of immune proteins. Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables, liver, yeast, and oranges.
A well-balanced diet is the best way to encourage adequate immune function, and inclusion of particular nutrients (e.g., zinc, vitamin A, and folic acid) may serve to improve immune function.