I have listed below my top 10 immune supporting tips to keep you well this winter. These include:
Let food be thy medicine
Maintaining optimal nutrition is extremely important in maintaining health, wellbeing and a balanced immune system. To give your body a fighting chance against the common cold, follow these tips for a healthy immune system: Eat a balanced diet high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats such as avocado and oily fish, with moderate amounts of protein. Eat fresh, wholesome, unprocessed foods.
One easy and tasty way to support your immune system is to include a nutritious smoothie in your daily diet. Packed with an array of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, smoothies are an excellent way of ensuring optimal nutrient intake and perfect for those times such as the winter months, when your needs are increased.
Eat in season
In Chinese medicine, food therapy is a way to remain in harmony with nature. By eating according to the natural cycle of the seasons, we are better able to nourish our body and improve immunity. In autumn and winter, most of our diet should be in the form of warming soups, broths, and stews, which warm us from the inside-out. Garlic, ginger and peppercorns all reduce inflammation and boost circulation, which in turn stimulates immune function; garlic is also antibacterial. I recommend grated ginger in hot water with lemon as an excellent way to avert colds at their onset, or if you are up to it, ask me for the ‘Hooch’ recipe – a sure fire way to bring some warmth and increase circulation!
Add these Superfoods
Berries and baobab powder are rich in immune-boosting vitamin C. All bee products – honey, propolis and royal jelly as well as pollen – have immune-boosting properties. Raw, unprocessed honey – that is, straight from the hive – has been shown to increase activity of lymphocytes and neutrophils, which are the body’s immune cells. Bee pollen is antibacterial and antiviral, while royal jelly is incredibly nutritive as well as immune-enhancing. Naturally, if you are allergic to bee products, this option isn’t for you
Make an immune-boosting smoothie by whizzing together ½ cup frozen berries, a teaspoon each of baobab powder, bee pollen, and raw honey, a tablespoon of natural rice or pea protein powder and 1 cup of rice of almond milk – delicious!
The Gut link to immune health
Your immune system is largely related to your gut health and a healthy gut microbiota. Since up to 80 percent of your immune cells reside in your gut wall, so a healthy gut equals a robust immune system. Increasing foods that contain live probiotic bacteria will aid digestion and promote healthy gut flora, so eat more fermented foods, turmeric, ginger, garlic, manuka honey, and especially cruciferous vegetables – kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – as they all support liver detoxification.
Aim for eight hours of sleep
Poor quality or inadequate sleep reduces your body’s levels of T-cells and impacts levels of proteins called cytokines. Research proves that if you sleep for less than eight hours a night, you are more at risk of a weakened immune system. Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol also compromise sleep quality and duration, plus the less you sleep, the less of the hormone melatonin you produce, which is another way your sleeping habits harm your immunity. Try to keep your bedroom very dark, and free from electronic devices as exposure to light and Wi-Fi from mobile phones within a metre of your head interferes with melatonin production.
Immune boosting and infection fighting herbs
Echinacea root has been used for centuries to boost immunity, an effect which has been backed by modern research. It is a very effective herb for the maintenance of your immune system and can be safely taken as a preventative all year round (it will not ‘wear out’ your immune system!) Quality and dose of Echinacea is important. Ensure the Echinacea you take is from the root of the plant. This is where the active constituents, known as aklylamides, are concentrated. Check the label of your product or, better yet, see a naturopath and get a professional-strength prescription. You need to take either two 1200mg tablets daily or 5mls of a 1:2 liquid extract daily as maintenance for immune health.
Other immune booster and infection fighting herbs include: Andrographis, Astragalus, Cats Claw, Echinacea, Sage, Thyme, Mullein, Horehound, Grindelia, Euphorbia, Eyebright, Elderflower, Elderberry, Golden rod, Olive leaf, Poke root, Licorice, Rhodiola. Ribwort, Pelargonium etc.
Shiitake, Coriolus, and Reishi mushrooms are powerful immune boosting medicinal mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms have traditionally been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to reduce fatigue, strengthen and support gastrointestinal function, and reduce mucous congestion and respiratory wheeze.
Immune boosting nutrients
- Zinc may be the most important mineral for your immune system. Zinc deficiency may cause a weaker immune response, predisposing you to a more lengthy or severe cold. In fact, optimal zinc levels have been found to inhibit the common cold virus.
- Vitamin A: along with its metabolites, has a powerful impact on the immune system. It is important in maintaining strong mucosal barriers, for example the eyes, respiratory, gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts, so that they can keep out infection. Vitamin A is also important for the proper functioning of many kind of immune cells and is necessary for the generation of antibody responses to specific antigens. When it comes to getting vitamin A through food, there are different kinds of compounds to consider: you can get vitamin A from animal sources like meat, eggs, fish, and organs like liver that contain preformed vitamin A (retinol or retinyl ester); also plant-based sources like vegetables, especially those that are deep green, yellow, or orange g. kale, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes. These plant-based sources contain provitamin A carotenoids (including beta-carotene).
- Vitamin C is also important as it increases the activity of infection fighting white blood cells. Vitamin C may prevent the common cold as well as shorten the duration of the symptoms
- Vitamin D is necessary for healthy immune function. If your levels are low, supplement with vitamin D – at least 2000iu per day.
- Pre and probiotics together work to enhance our microbiome and macrobiome – essential for immune health
- Beta-glucan, a powerful immune-priming natural compound primes the innate immune system to help the body defend itself against viral and bacterial invaders. Beta-glucan helps heal wounds and has anti-inflammatory activity.
- Wash your hands: Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact. Someone who has the flu sneezes onto their hand and then touches the telephone, the keyboard or a kitchen glass.
- Get fresh air: A regular dose of fresh air is important.
- Don’t smoke: statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones.
- Always wear warm clothing when moving from a warm to a cold environment, as inadequate protection from these sudden changes in temperature can lower resistance to infection.
- Rest is very important throughout the time you are ill. The time you are ill may be longer if you do not allow yourself time to recuperate and recover completely.
- Think positively – your mind is very powerful.
- Relax: keep in mind that relaxation is a learnable skill. Just 15 minutes a day of relaxation will keep nasties at bay.
- Keep your thymus gland covered – wear a scarf!
So even if it is cold and flu season again, it doesn’t mean that you need to walk around with a throat that is on fire, a stuffy head and a raging temperature. There are many natural supplements available to help support your immune system, and prevention is much better than cure. Book a consultation to find out how you can get through the winter months fit and healthy.