In my practice, questions about the relationship between the immune system and food are commonly asked. I see in the news, grocery stores, and advertisements words like pre-biotic, pro-biotic, and vitamins and claims for improved immune function. Patients complain about digestive issues, abdominal pain, bloating and possible allergies. Many are concerned about gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and foods to increase their immune system. This month's Nature Reviews in Immunology is dedicated to research talking about "how dietary choices affect immune cells". More and more research is being done in this area and thought with the eating season of the holidays rapidly approaching it was worth spending a few posts on this fascinating area of research.
I couldn’t start this topic without a bit of a tribute to Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin – a French lawyer, author, and one of the first foodies. More than any individual, Brillat-Savarin was a proponent in the role of food, digestion, and health. He had so many wonderful quotes about food, life, and eating, but his adage “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who your are.” illustrates the important relationship between food and our immune system. I might modify it to say, tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what kind of bacteria live within your intestines and how they impact your immune system.
The movement of local farming and farm to table dining illustrates the interest that our society has in the relationship with food and their bodies. There's an abundance of information out on the Internet and in grocery stores about ways to increase your immune system through food products and improve the health of your intestines. It's difficult to tell how to navigate the system and what's true. Over the next few weeks we'll start with the basics and move gradually through the topic in the hopes of helping you navigate the system, keep a healthy immune system, and survive the holiday eating push.
I hope you enjoy!