In partnership with OSF Little Co. of Mary Hospital (recipes below)
Chef Ryan facilitated a cooking webinar on the topic of using Summer Produce to “Boost Immunity” as part of the Integrative Therapy Department’s programming at Little Company of Mary Hospital. Ryan was joined by his intern, Rebecca Housh, M. S. Candidate, Nutrition Coordinated Program at University of Illinois at Chicago to help moderate and facilitate.
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that help the body fight infection and disease. The immune system includes white blood cells, lymph nodes and vessels, bone marrow, the spleen, and tonsils. You can also consider your skin and the mucus that lines your GI tract and airways to be part of the immune system because they both help protect your body from foreign invaders! Immunity is defined as achieving a balanced state in which the body is equipped with adequate defenses needed to fight and protect against unwanted pathogens (including infections, viruses, and bacteria).
In simple terms, a pathogen (or foreign invader; think COVID 19, for example) enters the body through the mouth, nose, eyes, or a cut on the skin. The body senses the pathogen as a threat and activates the immune system to fight and remove the toxin. Inflammation occurs as a protective response. White blood cells are recruited by the immune system to help destroy the pathogen. White blood cells release free radicals, unstable molecules whose instability causes damage to surrounding cells. These free radicals damage and destroy pathogens in efforts to protect the body. Free radicals are beneficial when it comes to fighting pathogens, but can be detrimental in excess.
Free radicals are not just formed by our immune system; increased stress, poor diet, infection, and aging also contribute to the production of free radicals. If and when the body is plagued with an abundance of free radicals, otherwise healthy cells are attacked. This causes a phenomenon called oxidative stress, which leads to cell damage, inflammation, and eventually hinders the immune system.