If you’re able to, and once you've adjusted to this new ‘normal', there has never been a better (or stranger!) time to focus on supporting your immune system.
Despite the advances of modern science and medicine, nutrition and lifestyle interventions are still one of the most powerful ways to ensure the resilience of your immune system.
So I will run you through the best ways to support your immune system.
You can watch the video;
or you can listen to the podcast;
The immune system
Our immune system is incredibly complex. And incredibly busy! On a daily basis it’s dealing with a huge number of microbes that we’re exposed to from the air we breathe, the food we eat and the products we use.
Foods That Support The Immune System
Food has a direct impact on how your whole body works. Our immune system relies on nutrient-dense whole foods to function well.
What we need to be eating is real whole foods – the foods we were designed to thrive on! That means protein, healthy fats, slow burning carbs, phytonutrients (plant foods) and plenty of water.
Protein is critical for immune function and protein malnutrition is a big risk factor for death from infections. Sources of protein include; meat, fish, dairy, oats, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and good quality protein powders.
Healthy fats are critical for every cell in the body to work well, including your immune cells. Foods to include in your diet; meat (skins and stock), oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, cold pressed seed oils.
Slow burning carbohydrates are key to keeping your blood sugar stable (and insulin in check!). This helps to lower inflammation. Foods include; low sugar fruits (berries, citrus), all vegetables, brown/wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats.
Phytonutrients are nutrients found in plants that act as the plant’s immune system, protecting the plant from excess ultraviolet radiation, predator pests, toxins and pollution, all of which can produce dangerous free radicals within their cells.
Why is this important to us? Since we are exposed to the same various environmental elements just like plants, we need phytonutrients to protect us.
How do we get phytonutrients? We get them by eating the plants! Each plant contains tens of thousands of different phytonutrients that can act as antioxidants, hence it’s key to eat high-antioxidant foods in order to fight free radical damage.
Key groups of phytonutrients include; Carotenoids (yellow, red, orange produce), Flavonoids (all colours), Glucosinolates (cruciferous veg), Phytoestrogens (soy, flaxseeds), Ellagic acid (berries, nuts).
Specific foods for immune function;
- Mushrooms (Reishi, Skitake) – beta glucans within these mushroom types has been shown to support white blood cell function
- Garlic, onions, ginger – antimicrobial properties
- Spices (turmeric, rosemary, oregano) – anti inflammatory
- Fermented foods (eg sauerkraut, live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha) – include probiotics for gut support
- Dark Chocolate! – includes magnesium and antioxidants
- Hydration – important to keep your immune cells hydrated. You can include coffee in moderation for the antioxidant content.
Foods to avoid;
It's important to avoid or limit foods that can promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Your immune system can really do without that!
Supplements can be really helpful to boost your immune system. But as always, please check with your Doctor or health practitioner if you are on any medication or have any health conditions.
Immune supporting supplements include;
- Vitamin D – your key immune defender! Make sure you're supplementing at least 2000IU per day during the winter, but get tested if you're unsure
- Vitamin C – immune support and antioxidant
- Vitamin A – immune support
- Zinc – a key mineral for immune function
- Selenium – a major antioxidant (just a few Brazil nuts will give you what you need)
- Magnesium – vital for adrenal health, relaxation and energy production
- Omega 3 fats (EPA/DHA) – anti inflammatory
If you take a good multivitamin like Nutri Advanced Multi Essentials, you'll get your daily dose of Vitamin A, zinc and selenium, plus B vitamins and others. You'll need to take Vitamin D, C, Magnesium and the omega 3 fats as separate supplements.
You can get many of these key supplements in my Collection at Approved Vitamins.
You might also want to consider some other supplements (these are just ideas, do not take them all!);
- Probiotics – for gut support
- Astragalus – a known immune supporting herb
- Beta Glucans – known to support white blood cell function
- Turmeric – a potent anti-inflammatory spice
- Olive leaf extract – antiviral properties
- Garlic – antimicrobial
- Adrenal formulas (rhodiola, ashwaghanda) – to support your stress response
There's never been a better time to manage your stress! It's a very stressful time, and stress has a direct impact on your immune system. Cortisol weakens immune function. Use this time to build in your self care habits and routines. It's more important than ever!
When your body rests and repairs, it releases proteins called cytokines while you’re asleep, which help fight infection and inflammation. Make sure you are prioritising sleep as much as possible.
Laughter & Connection
It's so important to have some light relief, now more than ever! Watch a comedy on TV, listen to a funny podcast or book, and make sure you connect with your friends and family on a daily basis to ensure you don't feel isolated.
I hope that was helpful. Please do get in touch if you need any further help or advice.