A Plant-Based Diet To Support Your Immune System, Part 1


By St. Luke’s Clinic – Lifestyle Medicine

It may seem like a great many things are not in our control as much as they used to be, particularly when it comes to our health. Tiny invisible particles are trying to attack us, seemingly in more ways than one. So, what can we do?

Healthy eating can be one of our best defenses against all kinds of ailments and it can help our mood, too.

Lifestyle factors that negatively impact our immune system include lack of sleep, tobacco use, excessive alcohol, lack of exposure to nature, lack of exercise, chronic stress and a poor diet that is low in fiber, high in sugar, salt, saturated fats, animal products, and processed foods. This all leads to an excess amount of unhealthy bacteria, resulting in the loss of harmony and balance within the gut, called dysbiosis. This dysbiosis, or imbalance, promotes chronic inflammation, disease, weakened immune function, and obesity. Probiotics and prebiotics can lead to a better balance.

Probiotics are living bacteria (microbes) that have been proven beneficial to humans. Probiotics can be from food, such as plain unsweetened yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh, or from supplements.

Consuming probiotics alone will not help support your immune system unless they are able to survive in your gut.

Prebiotics and high-fiber foods can help bacteria do just that. Prebiotics are the food for your gut bacteria, which tend to be high in fiber. Examples of prebiotics include green bananas, asparagus, beans, garlic, artichoke, onions and more. Many high-fiber foods can be considered prebiotics but high-fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, do not have the same beneficial effect on your gut bacteria as whole foods.

The best way to get fiber—eat plants! Each type of fiber produces a different mix of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) when processed by the probiotics. SCFA help strengthen immune cells, suppress an overactive immune system, repair the gut lining, and create protective bacteria that keep the gut healthy. SCFA correct dysbiosis.

Our recommendation is to prioritize:


Stay tuned for additional tips on plant-based diets in future columns.

It is recommended to check with your medical provider before beginning a new exercise or dietary routine. To find a doctor or to learn more about our dietitians and clinical nutritional services, contact the St. Luke’s Center for Community Health at (208) 727-8733 or visit stlukesonline.org.

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