If there’s but one word that we have used more than ever in the last one year, it is IMMUNITY. “Immunity refers to the resistance exhibited by the host towards injury caused by microorganisms and their products”. Protection against infectious diseases is only one among many functions performed by immune response. In its entirety, it is concerned with the reaction of the body against any foreign antigen.
Immunity can be broadly divided into 2 categories:
- Innate or Native immunity and
- Acquired or adaptive immunity.
Innate immunity provides the first line of defence against infections. This type of resistance is possessed by an individual by virtue of his/her genetic or constitutional make up. It is not affected by prior contact with microorganisms or immunisation. Physical barriers, defence mechanisms and general immune responses together constitute the innate immune system. Innate immunity is largely non-specific in nature.
Acquired immunity is the resistance acquired by an individual during life by recognising and selectively eliminating specific foreign molecules. Innate immune system is engrossed with the special attribute of immunological memory which enables it to learn about the threat and enhance the immune response accordingly. Adaptive immunity is very specific in nature.
An individual’s immunity is affected by many factors. These can be age, stress levels, sleep-wake cycles, living conditions etc. most important of all is “food”. The kind of food we eat plays an important role in building our immune system. Minerals, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, proteins and other important ingredients of food are absorbed by the human body. They result in the creation of many products essential to keep up the most complex system the world “the human body”. One of the products of such creation is the human immune system.
Understanding the role of food
To understand the importance of diet in building our immunity we must understand some geopolitical conditions. Several nations in African continent have been hit by very severe famines, droughts and poverty. Poverty is so high in these nations that people can’t afford basic food because of which they remain malnourished and less immune to diseases. All of these factors ultimately lead to the high death rates with various infections. This particular observation establishes the necessity of a healthy diet in securing our health conditions and protecting ourselves from diseases.
Soon after understanding this point, it is again important for us to understand that sometimes the food we eat may itself be responsible for the deterioration of our health. The food we eat may not be adequate in terms of all the nutrition that we are supposed to get for the proper functioning of our body and its immune system. So, now the question is what is lacking in the diet we take? Is our food playing an important role in building our immune system? Let’s understand these questions and answer them.
It has so far been clear that the nutritional content of our food is responsible for our immunity. Over the last few decades numerous research works have been conducted to compare the nutritional contents of conventional and organic food products. Significant differences have emerged through the studies conducted worldwide.
What does organic’s treasure have for us?
Dry matter contents in organically grown leafy vegetables and tubers have always been found to be higher. Dry matter is an indicator for easy digestibility and better absorption leading to better health of the digestive system. Research also claims that the protein content of organically grown cereals is lesser than those of conventionally grown cereals. But, what needs to be observed is that the quality of proteins and the amino acid scores that were found in organically grown cereals was way better than conventionally grown cereals. The greater content of proteins in conventionally grown cereals is owed to the greater amount of nitrogen-based fertilizers that is applied in the process of cultivation. The better scores of amino acids help in activation of T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes , NK cells and macrophages. Apart of these it also helps in promotion of lymphocytes, cytokines and other cytotoxic materials. All of the above mentioned, molecules are integral parts of the innate and acquired systems explained above.
It has also been found that organically grown plats contain more magnesium, iron and phosphorus. Calcium, sodium and potassium has also been found in major quantities. The above mentioned, elements play an important role in cell organisation and maintenance of cell structure, deficiencies in these elements can cause disorganisation in cell structure. They are also parts of certain immune related molecules that make the first line of defence.
A significant increase has been observed in the percentage of antioxidants. Antioxidants are very important in building our immunity. They play an important role in developing our Immunity against cancer. Cancer in the last few decades has been growing at an unprecedented pace and many have lost to the deadly disease. Antioxidants such as polyphenols and salicylic acid are present in greater percentages in organically grown foods.
When oxidation happens in our body there is production of free radicals. These free radicals are very vigorous in nature. They travel from one cell to another by piercing through the cell walls and also damaging the genetic material of the cell. With the damaged genetic material cell multiplication is uncontrolled leading to development of cancer.
The most discussed vitamin of the year has been vitamin-c. It has been found in the studies conducted worldwide that organically grown citrus fruits have 27% greater content of vitamin-c. imagine if the world consumed organic fruits today what would have been the situation. We would be better equipped to fight the COVID-19 virus and wouldn’t have to rely on tablets for supplementation.
Our final understanding
After studying all the literature and other observations it is clear that organic food develops immunity in an individual and is the need of the hour.