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How Nutrients Defend Your Body

  • 16 min read

Every minute of every day your body is fighting a battle to keep your healthy cells safe from substances that want to weaken it. In order for your body to continue to defend itself, it needs a nutritious diet, but unfortunately, most of us forget about this or simply ignore it. 

Simple actions like breathing and walking produce substances known as free radicals that attempt to attack healthy cells. When these healthy cells become weakened, they are increasingly susceptible to cardiovascular disease and particular types of cancers. Antioxidants, such as Vitamins C and E, which also includes beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, are capable of defending these cells from damage caused by the free radicals. 

Learning how your cells respond when they are empowered by the nutrients you consume will help you stay on top of your health.

First Responder

Think of this as an emergency response team arriving to save people, the cells that combat the various diseases and viruses that have managed to reach the location of infection promptly and begin to mount a protective response. Within the cells of the immune system, inflammatory stimulation will lead to the trigger of a highly coordinated march of activation that will react appropriately to the nature and power of the bacterial attack. 

The human body has two crucial defensive strategies that it employs when it needs to deal with any invading bacteria. The first will be your skin and the epithelial tissues, which lines the gastrointestinal, genitourinary tracts, and respiratory and acts as a passive barrier. The second line of defense would be the immune system, which is mostly made up of a variety of cells and proteins that work in tandem with one another to identify and destroy the invading bacteria. 

One thing you should be aware of is that the immune system can be divided into two different categories. One is the innate immune system, which is something all of us are born with, and the other is the adaptive immune system, which will develop over time as your body becomes exposed to the environment around you. Each of these systems contains a unique set of cells and proteins, which are required for the human body to protect itself against microbial invasion. 

Now, let’s go over how first responders help your body remain alive and healthy.

Similar to back in the days, the first responders for a walled town protecting itself from potential invaders, are placed on sentry. They had four jobs to perform: identify the enemy, sound the alarm to alert the soldiers to battle, provide strategic information about the invading force, and repel or kill these intruders. By working together, the first responders of the innate immune system will perform the same four vital functions. The sentries had to be capable of hearing and seeing the intruders enough to accurately identify them as the enemy. Furthermore, their fellow defenders had to be capable of hearing the alarm bells and see where they needed to be to engage the invaders. Moreover, the defenders of the city would ultimately require the use of every one of their skills to endure and ensure their home didn't fall to the invading forces. 

Instead of using eyes and ears to spot the enemy, the cells of the body will interact with chemicals and other cells, both domestic and foreign., through the plasma membrane. The surface of this plasma membrane holds thousands of various molecules that connect to its structure and function. Furthermore, to detect a specific set of chemicals on the surface of another cell, the plasma membrane will need a particular type of receptor. These receptors are made up of protein molecules that contain a specific grouping of chemicals, following in a specific three-dimensional shape that allows them to connect, to the molecule being detected.  

Disease-causing microbes all have a specific chemical on their structure that relate to their structure and function. The first responder's cells have their particular structure on the plasma membrane that can detect them. It's been said that the immune cells of the system are capable of identifying over one thousand different diseases. That’s why ensuring your daily intake of nutrition is crucial to ensure these first responders are alert in their actions. 

Build Immunity Defense

Consider this, during the flu or cold season, many of your friends and family may get sick, but some of them will remain standing when everyone around them is ill with the flu. This is because they have a robust immune system built from the nutrients that they consume. 

Nutrients strengthen your microbiome, are full of antioxidants, and are anti-inflammatory, all of which promote healthy cells that protect us throughout our lives. 

The immune system is the first line of defense for the body against foreign microorganisms entering the body. The stronger your immune system, the less of a chance you’ll have in getting ill from the flu. However, keep in mind that just because you have a robust immune system, doesn’t mean you are invincible. 

By making some adjustments to your diet and daily routine, you can ensure your immune system manages to become strong enough to defend you against all sorts of microbes. From getting enough sunlight to soak up Vitamin D, to eating a balanced meal, the ways are quite simple, but really helpful if you manage to keep following them. 

Here are several things you can do to ensure your immune system is built up:

  • Reduce Your Stress Levels
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Moderate your alcohol consumption
  • Get eight hours of sleep each night
  • Exercise daily 
  • Make sure you getting enough vitamin and minerals
  • Try supplements
  • Wash your hands more often

While many of those things may seem easy, most people tend to forget to do most of them. It can be especially challenging if something happens in your life to throw you out of your daily routine. 

Keep in mind that living an unhealthy lifestyle can negatively impact your immune system, making you sluggish and ill-equipped to deal with any more serious invading pathogens. Even so, making sure you can maintain some semblance of an order, will make it easier to get back on track and ensure your immune system continues to develop and remain robust. 

Fight Free Radicals

Your body is under constant attack by free radicals, which can lead towards oxidative stress. Nutrients have proven to be effective against defending your body from these attacks. If you’ve ever gone down an aisle filled with vitamin and mineral supplements, or the cereal aisle, you’ll start to notice that these products are promoting antioxidants as something that is required to ensure you have a healthy body. Some of these products may even have comments on them that state they are “high in antioxidants.”

Antioxidants have become highly promoted by several physicians, dietitians, and nutritional industries for several reasons. They’ve been said to slow down the process of aging and help prevent other deficiencies, such as cancer, vision loss, heart disease, strokes, and other potential chronic diseases. 

What Are Free Radicals? 

The body is capable of generating hundreds of substances known as free radicals when converting foods into energy. Other free radicals can be gained from breathing in the air around you, and some are acquired by the sunlight's action on the eyes and skin. Once they’ve been formed, these troublesome compounds can ignite a chain reaction that will cause problems. Cells will start to not only function poorly but die off as well. This will result in what's known as oxidative stress, which has been connected with more than 200 diseases. 

These free radical molecules have been seen to be missing an electron within their outer shells and do everything in their capabilities to fill them up, including stealing these electrons from your body’s cellular structures. This cellular hijacking can damage your DNA, proteins (enzymes), and cell membranes. When these cells become damaged, your body also receives damage, developing a foundation for diseases and accelerating aging. 

The studies conducted by research have connected oxidative stress due to free radicals to:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, such as age-related decline, arthritis and cancer.
  • Central nervous system, such as Alzheimers and dementia related symptoms
  • Changes in appearance due to age, such as the decrease in skin elasticity, wrinkles, hair loss, and change in hair texture. 
  • diabetes

Causes

The idea of free radicals causing aging and disease may be one of the reasons why some people age more slowly compared to others. While free radicals are known to produce naturally inside the body, lifestyle factors can speed up their production. This can include: 

  • Eating fried foods
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as air pollution

These types of lifestyle choices have been connected to diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular disease. Meaning, oxidative stress can be a crucial reason why exposure to these types of substances can lead to disease. 

Boost Muscle Over Fat 

Most people these days do not get enough exercise for a variety of reasons. Either their schedule is too busy due to the daily grind, they don’t know how to or try to but then start making excuses instead of putting the effort in. 

Regardless of the reason, most people will begin to acquire body fat, and this can lead to a massive health problem in the long run. Consuming high calorie, nutrient-depleted foods has led to promote a person's fat even more so than their muscles. 

By not ensuring you maintain a healthy diet daily, and simply consuming unhealthy foods, you are depleting your body of the food it requires to generate the appropriate amount of energy you’ll need each day which weakens your body as well. 

As mentioned before, the immune system plays an essential role in protecting your body, and by not getting enough nutrients, you’ll weaken your immune system and invite all sorts of nasty pathogens. It also affects the way your muscle tissues recover from not only the daily wear and tears of time but any potential injuries and wounds you receive. 

As you manage to burn fat, it’s crucial to replace them with muscles. Not only will this help you look more in shape, but it will increase your metabolism. This is due to lean muscle mass being more metabolically active than fat, accounting for around 20% of your total daily energy expenditures compared to 5% for fat. 

Doing at least two to three total-body strength workouts that hit every major muscle group for each week should suffice. Concentrate on compound exercises that use more than one muscle group at a time, such as pull-ups, squats, and lunges. This will make sure your workouts are more metabolically taxing. It's also possible to increase your metabolic effects by taking short breaks between each set. 

While it’s possible to do countless hours of exercise, you’ll need to make sure you're also controlling your diet and eating healthy foods to support your habits, if not, you won’t be successfully burning any fat or converting them to muscles. To get rid of excessive fat covering your muscles, you’ll want to maintain a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn each day. To pull this off, you’ll need to figure out how many calories you need daily to support your processes, tasks of daily living and exercise, and then keep your calorie intake below this margin.

While choosing a specific diet may seem crucial, that is not really the case. Studies have shown that what’s truly important is that you consume nutritious foods that support energy production so you can ensure you can hit it hard on a daily basis. Considering passing up over processed refined foods, fast foods, sugary treats, and drinks. Instead, you should be eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and lean protein. 

Optimize Energy

As you may have already known, the body is designed to provide sustained natural energy with nutrients. Empty calories with artificial ingredients trigger a quick energy jolt, but the after-crash kills your performance. Learning how to optimize your energy is crucial for your nutrition and to improve overall performance. Knowing about your body’s main energy system and the role it plays with your performance levers is vital, so let’s walk through it!

Energy is required for every cell in the body to function, whether that be muscle contractions of movement or exercise, regulation of body temperature, breathing, sleeping, or any other bodily function you can think of. Every unit of energy is produced from the breakdown of a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP can be found in every cell of the body, but because it’s such a large molecule, there are limited numbers of ATP in cells. Meaning, when it comes down to physical activity, the ATP gets used up quite rapidly and needs to be replenished to continue with your daily exercise. 

Everyone has three major energy systems that are capable of restoring the ATP: ATP-PC System (Alactic System), Glycolytic System (Lactate System), and Oxidate System (Aerobic system). The ATP-PC and the Glycolytic System are anaerobic, meaning they won’t require oxygen to generate ATP. On the other hand, the oxidative system is aerobic due to its need for oxygen to generate ATP. 

Now, let’s go over how each of these energy systems work to provide energy for the body. 

ATP-PC System

The ATP-PC System can last around 6-10 seconds and is used during maximum output exercises such as: jumping, all-sprints, and so on. It’s one of the simplest energy-generating processes, as it allows a fast muscle contraction. No traces of acidic by-products can be found in this, which is usually the main cause of fatigue. 

Although this energy system is only plentiful for the first 6-10 seconds before it starts to move towards the deceleration zone, it will rebound to over 85% in about 3 minutes and become fully replenished after 10 minutes. That is why it’s considered vital to take rest periods of at least 5 minutes in between intense exercises. 

Glycolytic System

The Glycolytic System will rely largely on the rapid breakdown of carbs in the form of glucose that is repeatedly circulating in the bloodstream, and along with this, glucose is stored in the muscles and liver by taking the form of glycogen. 

When exercising at maximum output for 10-90 seconds, the glucose and glycogen quickly go through the processes that have been called glycolysis to produce ATP. That is why it’s crucial to make sure you consume enough carbs before and after exercising. While this process is going on, hydrogen ios and lactate are being produced. 

Oxidative System

In the final energy system, the Oxidative system makes the usage of oxygen to generate ATP during this system, two processes are being utilized. The Krebs Cycle and the Electron Transport Chain. If these two processes are incapable of generating ATP as rapidly as the first two energy systems, but it’s capable of producing ATP continually for a much longer time. 

This system can use carbs, proteins, and fats to fuel the energy system. However, fats and proteins will take a much longer time to break down to generate ATP. 

Nutrition effect on the energy system

Now that you understand the role these three energy systems play, you can start understanding why nutrition has such a massive part behind this process. If you want to be a great athlete or just more active, you need to include three main macronutrients in your diet, those being carbs, fats, and proteins. 

If you are on a low carb diet, then you're restricting your body’s capability to completely utilizing the Glycolytic and Oxidative systems. It's also essential to understand that, at times, your body uses all three energy sources simultaneously. While that's going on, your body will draw energy from all three macronutrients, however more often than now, there will be predominant energy systems chugging along.

Sharpen Focus, Reduce Stress. 

Most people may not be aware of this, but your brain is your body’s largest user of the nutrients you consume. Eating nutrient-dense foods will dramatically increase your mental well-being, happiness, and sleep. This will lead to an improvement in your focus and reduce the amount of stress and anxiety you gather. 

While the brain may only compromise over 2% of your body’s weight, the brain vastly drains up over more than 20% of your body's daily energy intake. Due to the brain demanding such massive amounts of energy, the foods we eat daily affects our brain functions, including everything from the learning and memory processes to emotions. Similar to any other cells inside your body, brain cells use a form of sugar known as glucose to fuel cellular activities. This energy is acquired from the foods we eat daily and is constantly delivered to brain cells (otherwise known as neurons) through the bloodstream. 

Research has even suggested that the quality of the food we eat over our lifetimes will have an impact on the structure and function of the brain. For example, the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids that are found within fish can provide structural material to maintain neurons. 

It’s also been found out that omega-3 fatty acids are cruel for the transmission of information between brain cells. In comparison, foods that are rich in sugars and saturated in fats have been discovered to promote oxidative stress, which can cause damage to cell membranes. 

The type of food you consume will also have an impact on the molecules inside the brain that support cognition. Certain foods, such as those containing turmeric, can support cognition by assisting with maintaining molecular events related to energy metabolism. Your lifestyle decision will have an impact on the metabolism of your nerve cells, such as diet and exercise, and can lead to some cases that can lead to a noninvasive and effective strategy to combat neurological and cognitive disorders. 

Defend Against Disease

Defending yourself against various diseases is crucial to your overall health. The recent Coronavirus highlights what we’ve known throughout history, that sickness and disease attack those with compromised immune systems and weakened bodies. That’s why it’s more important than ever to defend yourself with the best power you’ll have at your side, nutrients. 

Social distancing and regularly washing our hands have been efficient and proven methods to lower the risk and spread of COVID-19. Many people are not entirely aware of the importance nutrients hold when it comes to defending your body from disease and bolstering your immune systems. People who have deficiencies in nutrients are at a higher risk of catching all sorts of diseases. Moreover, chronic and severe infections lead to nutritional disorders, or worse, the nutritional integrity of the afflicted person. 

This is why it's crucial for everyone to closely monitor their diet and nutritional status during an ongoing pandemic like COVID-19. Furthermore, the clinical courses have shown that this virus tends to be much more severe towards older people and among those with chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertension, which are affected by nutrition. 

Eating a good quality diet will always be the best choice, and this is especially crucial during this current epidemic on our hands. A healthy diet will typically contain an assortment of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, decent amounts of fish, dairy foods, and chicken, and some certain amount of red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sugar. Fats will be primarily from liquid oils such as canola, olive, or soybean oil. This kind of diet will ensure you get a healthy amount of macronutrients and essential minerals and vitamins. 

Consuming high-quality sources of carbs, fats, and protein can help maintain a healthy weight and great metabolic state, meaning this isn’t a time for you to start a restrictive diet. Receiving a healthy dosage of minerals and vitamins will be gained from a healthy diet will help make sure you generate a decent amount of immune cells and antibodies, which are crucial as the body starts to respond to any potential infection. 

Thrive & Live Long

We all dream about living a long and healthy life, but unfortunately for most, that's not possible due to various health issues. As we age, our body becomes more susceptible to all sorts of deadly diseases, and it gets harder to handle them. Some of these diseases are fully incurable with current modern medicine, so acquiring one will shorten those expectations of being around for a longer period. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t possibly live for quite a long time, it just requires you to make sure you get enough nutrients into your body. As we’ve been touching up throughout this article, a nutrient dense diet will ensure you can resist all sorts of diseases, if you properly nurture it throughout life. Consider this, 8 of the top 10 deaths are caused by chronic disease, and 80% of those are avoidable if we defend our bodies with nutrients. 

Heart disease

Heart disease has become the leading cause of death for both men and women. This is a case that affects the entire world. More than half of the individuals who die from heart disease are mostly men.

Cancer

Cancer happens when the cells do not diet at their usual point in the life cycle. If the person’s body is incapable of controlling the spread of these cells, they will interfere with crucial, life-sustaining systems, and potentially die from them. Everyone will have a certain degree of risk from acquiring cancers, but for most people, the risk will come from aging.

Chronic lower respiratory disease

Chronic lower respiratory disease is referring to a group of lung conditions that will block the airflow and cause breathing-related problems. The diseases you can expect under this include: 

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • bronchitis
  • emphysema
  • asthma

Smoking has been known to be one of the major increases in a person risking the development of one of these conditions. 

Stroke and cerebrovascular diseases

The cerebrovascular disease will occur due to an issue with the blood vessels that supply the brain. Four of the most common disease you can expect to see are: 

  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack, or mini stroke
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Vascular dementia

Each year, over more than 790,000 people within the U.S. will have a stroke. This risk will vary depending on the person's race, ethnicity, and age. 

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is just a single type of dementia. Another one would be known as vascular dementia, which can cause similar symptoms, but instead results due to changes from the blood flow to the brain. For those who have been affected by Alzheimer's disease, neuron damage and death will eventually impair their capability to perform vital actions, like walking or swallowing foods. When a person is in the final stages of this condition, they’ll be incapable of leaving their beds and may require around the clock assistance. Alzheimer's is considered fatal. 

Alzheimer's has become the only cause of death in the top 10 that medical experts are currently not able to cure, prevent, or even slow down. 

Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which the body is no longer able to control blood glucose, which leads to highly dangerous levels of blood glucose. This has become known as hyperglycemia. Lasting hyperglycemia can damage the body’s tissues, including the nerves, blood vessels, and eyes. 

The body will convert most of the food a person eats into glucose, a sugar, which will then be used for energy. The pancreas, which is an organ near the stomach, will make a hormone known as insulin to move the glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells. 

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

The individuals who have type 1 diabetes will not produce insulin at all, so they will need to supplement their supply. The ones with type 2 diabetes will not be capable of using insulin efficiently. Although, the person with type 2 diabetes can control it with a carefully managed diet and regular exercise. Diabetes will eventually lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and potentially needing to amputate the lower extremities.

Influenza 

Influenza or flu, as it’s better known, is a highly contagious viral infection. It’s become one of the most severe illnesses to impact people during the winter season. Flu can seamlessly spread from one person to another, usually when someone who is a carrier of this virus either coughs or sneezes.

Kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the leading cause of kidney damage. Damaged kidneys won’t be capable of filtering blood as well as a healthy pair would be able to. Because of this, waste from the blood will linger in the body and can lead to other potential health problems. 

Somewhere around 30 million people within the U.S have potentially acquired CKD to a certain degree. People who are over the age of 60 have an increased chance of having CKD, as does having family history for it. High blood pressure and diabetes are another leading cause behind CKD. 

Suicide

When someone commits suicide, they may have lived with some mental health conditions including, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression, for a long time. Although not every one of these people who attempted suicide or died from it has those conditions. Having a powerful support system, taking appropriate medication, and going to therapy can reduce the chances of suicide. 

Conclusion

As you can see, nutrition plays a huge role in ensuring your body is defended from potential threats. Ensuring you are capable of maintaining a healthy diet, filled with your nutrient needs, will leave you with the energy you require to make it past each day. Only then will you learn the real limits of human longevity!

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