Micronutrient Resilience, the Immune System, and the Gut Microbiome
Nutrition for Resilience White Paper #3
The immune system is a complex network that protects the body from pathogens and reduces the risk of diseases for which nutrition plays a crucial role. Micronutrients such as vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and E, folate, zinc, copper, iron, and selenium are essential for optimal immune function. Deficiencies in individual or a combination of micronutrients, reduce the ability of the immune systems to fight off pathogens. The human gut is a major site of micronutrient absorption and immune activity. And the microbiome, the complex ecosystem of microbes residing in the gut, helps “train” the immune system, and is a key determinant of immune development and function. In many places and situations people’s diets are not adequate in micronutrients to assure adequate immune response, which leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of infection, gut dysfunction, and worsening of nutrition and immunity. Research points to some specific benefits from specific micronutrients and other interventions.