Simple, effective tips to help you to support your immune system
Your immune system protects you from all sorts of infections, pathogens, viruses, and toxins. The state of your immune system is directly impacted by not just diet but also emotions, stress, quality of sleep, exercise and lifestyle.
5 Simple tips to support you to support your immune system through nutrition:
* Eating a healthy diet in whole, natural foods with plenty of vegetables, some fruit, varied whole-grains, seeds and nuts, legumes and pulses such as beans and lentils.
* Eating healthy fats, avoiding foods made with refined vegetable oils.
* Avoiding foods high in sugar and anything with synthetic sweeteners.
* Including the right amount of protein for you from a variety of sources be it meat, fish, seeds and nuts, tofu, pulses, legumes, dairy produce.
* Keeping properly hydrated with either water or herbal teas and a limited amount of caffeinated drinks.
5 Simple tips to support your immune system through lifestyle:
* Getting outside daily especially earlier in the day not just for fresh air but also to help support your circadian rhythm and to get away from screens and away from EMF exposure (although this may be very difficult to do if 5G is rolled out throughout your city!).
* Make time to connect with nature – there is plenty of research to show it benefits our mental health (yes, even in the rain! Adopt the attitude that there is no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothes!)
* Exercise and deep breathing which in turn helps you to relax is also incredibly important. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking, riding a bike, dancing, or vigorous house-work. Or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week anything (really anything!) that makes you breathe hard and fast to such a level that you can’t chat at the same time! The NHS has some excellent videos on all sorts of different exercises from belly dancing to pilates to strength building to yoga.
* Sleep is critical to health. Lack of sleep can weaken our immune system. When you are tiered you are also more likely to go for caffeine, sugar or high carb foods to keep yourself going.
* Reduce your exposure to negative news and social media feeds especially later in the day as this can impact your quality of sleep and therefore immune system. Listen to music or a good play on the radio, do an activity you enjoy or chat to someone (preferably a positive person!). Have a relaxing bath, turn the Wi-Fi off and take yourself off to bed with a good book.
What specific nutrients and foods support your health and immune system?
Known to be antiviral and antibacterial and to support immunity. But did you know Vitamin C is destroyed by light and heat and lost in water? Hence why its’ good to eat raw veg and fruit on a daily basis.
* Citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, berries, papaya, pineapple are all a good source of vitamin C and flavonoids. When not in season I recommend buying bags of frozen which you could add to smoothies or stir into your granola or porridge.
* Apples – an apple a day keeps the doctor away! They contain vitamin C, potassium and flavonoids such as quercetin. They also help your gut bacteria (which play a role in your immune function too) as they are rich in the fibre pectin. They are best raw with the skin. The more sour the variety, the more likely it is to have more health supporting flavonoids as opposed to the modern sweet varieties.
* Broccoli and Cabbage-family vegetables contain vitamin C and so that is why you should only lightly steam them or try and have some raw in coleslaw.Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens and peppers also have good levels.
Helps to defend our mucosal surfaces and their secretions, so is very important for our gut health and lung health and the health of our eyes and nose. Vitamin A stimulates and enhances numerous immune processes, including our antibody response.
* Vitamin A rich foods include organic full fat dairy, liver and eggs. Carotine (which our body converts to vitamin A) is from orange coloured foods, so carrots, tomatoes, mango, apricot, pumpkin, melon, sweet potato and squash.
Carotene rich vegetables enhance immune function as they enhance the function of our white blood cells. Rich sources of carotene include highly coloured vegetables such as dark greens, yellow and orange coloured peppers, tomatoes, squash and pumpkin and of course carrots.
The sunshine vitamin that keeps our immune system in check. Deficiency has been associated with all sorts of health issues from poor immunity to cardio vascular disease to poor bone health and mental health issues. Plant based foods provide us with vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) but the active for in vitamin D3 (calcitriol) which is the form in which most of us should supplement between September and March when the suns’ rays aren’t strong enough to support skin production. There is vit D in some foods but this is not a significant amount and these sources include:
* Dairy products (full fat or fortified) and eggs, fish, liver. Also mushrooms, when exposed to light, can provide a source of D2 but this is only 30% as effective as D3.
* Fortified foods such as non-dairy milk alternatives
* Your best source of vitamin D is from the sun but this is only available between April to October and only if we are lucky and only if we are exposed to it! Sitting behind glass in the sun doesn’t increase vitamin D levels! How long you need to be exposed to the sun depends on a number of factors including strength of the sun-rays, your skin tone, whether you are obese and how much of you is actually exposed!
Low levels of Zinc in the diet may decrease resistance to infections. Zinc has been found in studies to inhibit the replication of some viruses and to reduce the risk and severity of common infections such as the common cold.
* Zinc is extremely rich in oysters.
* It is also rich in pumpkin seeds, ginger root and pecans – generally seeds, nuts, legumes and whole-grains contain zinc in good amounts.
* Using ginger root is easy – peel and slice thinly then add to stir fried veg, soups, curries, or grate it into a cup of hot water adding some lemon juice for a delicious lemon and ginger tea (remember not to use boiling water so as not to decrease the Vitamin C from the lemon juice!).
Selenium is essential for many aspects of the immune system – it protects our immune cells (neutrophils) and allows other immune cells (lymphocytes) to proliferate.
* Sources of selenium include whole-grains such brown rice, oats, wheat germ/bran, and barley), fish and shellfish, poultry, tofu and eggs are the richest sources of selenium.
* Eating just two Brazil nuts will provide a good source of selenium a day.
* Garlic and Swiss chard are also relatively high in selenium.
So just by eating a couple of Brazil nuts a day and eating a varied diet of whole-grains, fish, turkey, eggs and occasional red meat you are on the road to ensuring adequate levels.
As a nutritional therapists, I can offer you dietary and supplement advice along with appropriate testing if needed to identify what your body needs and help you support your immune system.