Food For Thought: Immune Function

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By Mandy Welch MDA/ RDN 

Build a Healthy Immune System 

Building a healthy immune system starts with building a healthy lifestyle. The main pillars we discuss in health include nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress.

Nutrition: Work on regular meals with a variety of foods and food groups. Variety helps to ensure a broaden exposure to micronutrients and elements.

Exercise: Equally as important for health as it is for reducing stress, intentional exercise needs to be incorporated most days of the week.

Stress – Cortisol is the hormone our body releases during stressful events. This is our “flight or fight’ response -reserved for emergencies. When our daily lives exhibit a constant feeling of flight or fight our cortisol levels remain elevated causing damage to our bodies.

Sleep: According to the AAP, kids 1-5 require as much as 10-14 hours of daily sleep (naps included) and kids ages 6-18 as much as 8-12 hours daily. 

Vitamin C

Often known as an immune building agent, Vitamin C can help with inflammation and immune agents. The water soluble vitamin helps to absorb the essential mineral Iron from our foods as well as serves as an antioxidant reducing inflammation in our bodies. Sources of Vit C: Citrus fruits, dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, red peppers, tomatoes and melons. Choose fresh sources whenever possible. 

Vitamin D

It is estimated that 30-60% of the Western world is deficient in Vitamin D. During the COVID 19 pandemic a closer look was taken at the connection between immune function and Vit D. Having adequate Vit D levels increases T regular lymphocytes as well as inflammatory cytokines. Both of these have been associated with a decrease in respiratory illness or severity of illness. This would suggest that having a diet high in Vitamin D as well as a potential supplement can help during cold season. 

Chicken Noodle Soup

3 Cups cooked and shredded chicken
5 carrots peeled and diced
1 C diced onion
3 celery stalks diced
2 garlic cloves
3 Tb fresh Dill chopped
1 lemon
4 Cups bowtie pasta
4 Cups Chicken Broth – homemade or store bought
2 Tb olive Oil


  1. place olive oil in a large dutch oven -sauté onion, carrots, celery and minced garlic until softened.
  2. Add chicken, dill and fresh squeezed lemon sauté 2-3 minutes
  3. Add chicken broth and 1 C water bring to a simmer
  4. Add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes 


  • Wier, K et al. Does Vitamin D deficiency increase severity of COVID 19? Clinical Medicine. vol 20(4): 2020, July.
  • Mayo Clinical Staff. Chronic Stress puts your health at risk. . Updated July 8, 2021.