Simple, effective tips on how 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 not only by diet but also emotions, stress, sleep, exercise and lifestyle. Below you will find some great tips on how to support your immune system through nutrition and lifestyle with advice on specific nutrients to go for.
5 great tips on how to support your immune system through nutrition:
* Eat a healthy diet in whole, natural foods with plenty of vegetables. Include some fruit, varied whole-grains, seeds and nuts, legumes and pulses such as beans and lentils.
* Have healthy fats, avoiding foods made with refined vegetable oils.
* Avoid foods high in sugar and anything with synthetic sweeteners.
* Include the right amount of protein for you from a variety of sources. This might be meat, fish, seeds and nuts, tofu, pulses, legumes, dairy produce.
* Keep properly hydrated with either water or herbal teas and a limited amount of caffeinated drinks.
5 great tips on how to support your immune system through lifestyle:
* Spend time outside daily especially earlier in the day. This is 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. This has been shown to 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, buy bags of frozen fruit which you can add to smoothies or stir into 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 organic and raw with the skin on. 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. Ideally eat them lightly steamed or 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. Vitamin A also supports lung health and the health of our eyes and nose. Vitamin A stimulates and enhances numerous immune processes, including our antibody response.
* Beta-carotene is an oil-soluble nutrient and is converted by our body to vitamin A. Vitamin A rich foods include organic full fat dairy, liver and eggs but also orange, red and green coloured foods. Rich sources are tropical fruits such as mangoes, papaya, passion fruit, also red grapefruits and tangerines, apricots and melons. Other great sources include sweet potatoe, pumpkins, tomatoes, squashes and of course carrots. A lot of leafy dark green veggies such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens are high sources of beta-carotene.
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 is what 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 form is vitamin D3 (calcitriol) which is the form in which most of us should supplement. This is particularly important between September and March when the suns’ rays aren’t strong enough to support skin production. There are small amounts of vit D in some foods but this is not a significant amount. 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. It has also been shown 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 drink it. 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. Selenium is also found at good levels in fish and shellfish, poultry,tofu and eggs.
* 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 occasionally 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.