We all know how important a strong immune is. When your immune system is working well, you don’t even notice it working to protect you around the clock. Without it, viruses and bacteria would have free reign and you’d be constantly falling ill.
How would you feel to know that a ketogenic lifestyle improves your immune system, making you stronger to fight off anything that comes your way? Keto improves your immune by reprogramming your body with some profound beneftis!
How often are you cold?
Are you one of those people that you get sick often? That you get the flu all the time, feel fragile and susceptible to viruses?
I have not had a cold, flu or anything similar since I started with keto and I am not a super-human by any means. It is probably the opposite. As a kid I was super-fragile. I had asthma, frequent colds, rashes and more. Visiting a doctor was in the weekly schedule. Even as an adult I still remember getting colds and sore throat which lasted for weeks. But all these are now fading memories. Memories of the past, that act though as a reminder of how important proper nutrition is. Proper nutrition is the foundation of strong immune system and I have keto to thank for this.
The killer T-cells
Just this month (June 2021) there was a very important paper published about how low-carb diets enhance human T-cells immunity. You probably have heard T-cells before since they had a lot of publicity recently around their involvement in fighting cancer.
T-cells are a type of white blood cell which are like a special forces unit that fights only one kind of virus that might be attacking our body. There are two types of T-cells in our body: Helper T-cells and Killer T-cells. Killer T-cells do the work of destroying the infected cells. The Helper T-cells coordinate the attack.
Killer T-cells find and destroy infected cells that have been turned into viruses. To do this they need to tell the difference between the infected cells and healthy cells with the help of special molecules called antigens. Antigens work like identification tags that give your immune system information about your cells and any intruders. Healthy cells have ‘self-antigens’ on the surface of their membranes. They let T-cells know that they are not intruders. If a cell is infected with a virus, it has pieces of virus antigens on its surface. This is a signal for the Killer T-cell that lets it know this is a cell that must be destroyed.
- There are 25 million to a billion different T-cells in your body.
- Most white blood cells are stored in the lymph system until they are needed to fight an infection.
- When a virus attacks, they can transfer into the blood vessels so they can quickly attack the viruses.
- Each cell has a unique T-cell receptor that can fit with only one kind of antigen.
- The T-cell release perforin and cytotoxins. Perforin first makes a hole, in the membrane of the infected cell. Cytotoxins go directly inside the cell through this hole, destroying it and any viruses inside.
- The pieces of destroyed cells and viruses are then cleaned up by macrophages.
- T-Cells are the body’s special forces when it comes to your immune system. They are responsible for hunting down and killing viruses and bacteria.
Keto and the T-Cells
We unfortunately know that the current Western diet in insufficient. It impairs cellular immunity, evokes low-grade inflammation not only causing obesity but also by direct reprogramming of immune cells toward a pro-inflammatory state.
On the other hand we know, that in the absense of carbs in our diet, which triggers the production of ketones, there is a reduction in inflammation and associated diseases. It is now also proven that ketones have a profoundly impact on human T-cell and our immune system
Reasearch has now shown that during a ketogenic diet
- T-cell capacity will be markedly enhanced,
- T-cell memory formation will be increased.
- Mitochondrial oxidative metabolism will be improved..
- Overall immune is better.
“Our data suggest a very-low-carbohydrate diet as a clinical tool to improve human T-cell immunity. Rethinking the value of nutrition and dietary interventions in modern medicine is required.”
Keto helps in so many ways
If you are still not convinced by being in ketosis (most of the time) is a good thing, let me keep going-on! Implementing a proper and healthy ketogenic lifestyle means that you are eating nutritionally dense food, you are getting all the nutrients you need to function optimally, while at the same time you are not overeating. At the same time,
- keto decreases cellular damage from outside invaders by helping to maintain a healthy inflammatory status.
- A keto diet can help decrease instances of leaky gut and balancing gut flora. A well-functioning gut microbiome is key to a well-functioning immune system, so the keto diet impacts immune function in this way as well.
- We have discussed many time that high blood sugar levels and poor insulin sensitivity will also increase the risk for many health issues. A keto diet can improve insulin sensitivity, thereby supporting the immune system as well.
- Autophagy is another factor at play. We could think of autophagy as the body’s innate cellular clean-up crew, wiping out waste and toxins the body no longer needs. If waste and toxins build up over time, cell function degrades and declines, potentially leading to weight gain, low energy, increased inflammation, and other health challenges. The keto diet activates some of the same pathways in the body that fasting does.
The keto immune power house
Let’s have a look at some of the main keto food which we can consider as immune power houses.
Fish, oysters and omega-3
Fatty fresh fish are loaded omega-3 (DHA, EPA) and all the rest of the fat soluble vitamins. Omega-3 fatty-acids are anti-inflammatory and will help the body mount a powerful immune response against invading pathogens.
- Include on a weekly basis wild caught, preferebly small fish. I personally love sardines.
- Include some mussels or other oysters on a weekly basis.
- You can also supplement with a good cod liver oil which include Vitamin A,D.
Liver and heart are truly immune boosting super food. They most of the nutrition we need. Vitamin-A, all B-Vitamin, iron, Selenium.
- Include on a weekly basis liver and heart. You can find a perfect soup in our recipes here
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients, including several carotenoids, vitamins C, E, and K; folate; and minerals. Cruciferous help with inflammation since they contain anti-inflammatory nutrients such as sulforaphane.
In addition, cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables. During food preparation, chewing, and digestion, the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables are broken down to form biologically active compounds that have been most frequently examined for their anticancer effects.
- Include some vegetables as a salad or side-dish in every meal according to your digestion.
- You can steam them, stir fry them or boil them. You can find here a very easy cauliflower recipe
There are many ways to boost your immune. Exercising regularly and getting plenty of sun will help you stay healthy and with a strong immune. However, proper nutrition is the foundation here. Eating too much refined foods, will deplete key nutrients and vitamins which we need to fight-off disease. In addition to nutrition we now know that the type of energy we feed our body is very important. Ketones produced during periods of a ketogenic diet (or fasting) will our T-cells function better, like a super unit if you like. And this makes sense. Following a ketogenic lifestyle is how we have evolved as a species and how our ancestors thrived in very difficult conditions.
Stay healthy, stay keto.