This is blog 2 of a 6-part blog series. My aim is to cut through the media-driven hysteria and hyperbole to bring you concrete immune and health boosting tips to follow. Every. Single. Day.
I know I am repeating myself here, but heading to the supermarket for processed food to go on comfort food-binges because the prospect of self-isolation for a lengthy period of time is making you anxious is not the way to beat this virus. With many people still having to go on supermarket runs, head to work after being designated ‘essential workers’, or simply to get some fresh air in order to ease the mental impact of physical isolation, you need your immune system as strong as it can be!
Why? Your HEALTH is king. Viruses make no distinction between the haves and the have-nots, the young or the old, and boosting your immune system to either reduce the risk of contracting it or limit its effects is the best defence we have.
So what vitamins, foods, drinks and herbs are known as powerful immunity boosters?
There is no silver bullet here. Health requires a consistent lifestyle and diet. Boring! Yes, maybe. But, totally true!
The standard advice you should adhere to includes sleeping well in order to enhance immune function and steady blood sugar levels, drinking in moderation to avoid the immunosuppressive effects of alcohol – well-documented in alcoholics, giving up smoking given the respiratory damage it causes and eating at least 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Yes, 10 not 5! We are looking for optimum health here not standard health! Plant-based foods are nutritionally rich and contain powerful antioxidants, gut-friendly fibre and nutrients from real food are more bioavailable!
Over and above this:
- Boost your gut health
How? By consistently following the triple F rule! Gut health has had a bit of a moment over the last 12 months, but there’s never been a more important time to pay heed. Gut microbe activity has an influence over every system in the human body from digestion to immune balance, inflammatory responses and even brain health. Fibre, fermentation and fasting are all key to top gut health. A diet rich in plant-based foods will give you all the fibre you need. Fermented probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, and sauerkraut. You can also consider taking probiotics to bolster the good bacteria in your gut. Finally, fasting can be limited to a 16-hour window of no food just twice a week, which will give your gut the time it needs to rest and renew itself and leaving you feeling reenergised as a result!
Top digestive tip: Give your body time to produce the enzymes needed in your saliva to support your digestive system by chewing your food thoroughly and for longer than you think!
2. Chicken soup really is for the soul!
It appears that chicken soup shouldn’t be dismissed as an old wives’ tale. Inflammation is the body’s typical response to fighting infection and chicken soup has been found to both reduce the likelihood of both contracting symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections and having symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections. Soup provides essential amino acids and minerals plus water for hydration and a magic ingredient carnosine. There is a reason they call this grandma’s penicillin.
3. Don’t forget to add turmeric, ginger and garlic. To everything!
Turmeric has long-featured in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia and been recognised for its medicinal properties in these regions. The spice contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties as powerful as any anti-inflammatory drug, without the negative side effects. Now, before you start sprinkling the powder on all your meals you need to understand what most people don’t. Curcumin is not easily absorbed (bioavailable) when consumed. Consume turmeric with black pepper (bioperine content in black pepper increases bioavailability by up to 2000%!). Curcumin is also fat-soluble and therefore best when consumed with fats and finally, heat it up! The heat increases the solubility. You can read more about turmeric here.
Ginger adds incredible flavour to Asian-inspired dishes, juices and smoothies. As well as being super tasty, this odd-looking knobbly root is also an excellent source of antioxidants and nutrients which support weary bodies riddled with nausea and fever. Further to this, ginger stimulates defensive responses in the upper respiratory and digestive mucosa helping the body to fend off infections, which makes it an excellent defence against bacterial and viral infections.
Garlic is not only a popular addition to meals worldwide, but has been consumed for its health benefits purposes since ancient times. It has been shown to reduce the frequency of catching colds as well as the length of illness and is an easy (plus delicious) way to boost your immunity.
4. Boost your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods
Diets contain naturally-occurring antioxidant compounds that can stabilise highly reactive, potentially harmful molecules called free radicals. Both normal cellular functions and external stressors, such as UV rays, cigarette smoke and environmental pollution, trigger the production of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that wreak havoc on your body, damaging membranes, DNA and enzymes – or, as it’s more scientifically termed, causing ‘oxidative stress’.
The hero of the hour that jumps to your defence? Why, those do-gooders, antioxidants, of course. These little guys neutralise and eliminate free radicals from the bloodstream in a bid to keep your body functioning at an optimal level.
Want to know which antioxidants are best for strengthened immunity? Read on to find out.
Vitamin C, is well known for its immune boosting actions and for good reason. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells known to fight against infection and can help to boost your immunity. Medical trials have evidenced the ability of vitamin C to reduce the incidence of infections affecting the lower respiratory tract, which includes the lungs and those who contract pneumonia have been found to suffer from lower vitamin C levels. Now, the interesting fact with Vitamin C is that we are unable to produce it ourselves; it must come from our diet on a daily basis.
Fun fact of the day: Red bell pepper, kiwi fruit, spinach and strawberries contain more Vitamin C than oranges!
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infection; thus, it makes sense to increase your intake to boost your immunity. Fish like salmon, herring, sardines, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms are great sources of the vitamin or high quality supplements. Above all though, the sun is the best source of vitamin D, so while it is shining get outside!
Zinc is found in every cell of the body and it helps to create and activate white blood cells involved in the immune response. It also assists your immune system with tasks such as healing wounds and can reduce the longevity of colds if you do get infected. Some tasty options to boost zinc in your diet are oysters, beef, chicken, tofu, pork, nuts, seeds, lentils, yogurt, oatmeal and mushrooms.
Other antioxidants that should feature more prominently in your diet at this time are beta-carotene (found in carrots, sweet potato and squash), flavonoids (tea, wine, berries including acai and elderberry are excellent sources of these) and selenium (think brazil nuts, eggs and mushrooms).
5. Consume nutritionally dense ‘superfoods’ daily
Spirulina is one of the oldest life forms on Earth and is making waves amongst the health savvy foodie scene because of the high level of nutrients it contains. It is a powerful antioxidant which has the ability to combat chronic inflammation, contains a whopping 22 essential amino acids, an array of vitamins and minerals, and is a great source of protein. In terms of protecting and fighting against infection, the superfood supports the regulation of blood sugar levels, high levels of which put people at greater risk of contracting infections and experiencing the more severe consequences of the illness.
The leaves of the moringa plant found in the sub-Himalayan region, can be purchased as a dry powder or as a capsule-based supplement. Incredibly, the plant contains more than 50 times the level of vitamin B2 found in bananas, and vitamin B3 found in peanuts, in addition to 7-times more vitamin C content than an orange. There is also a body of evidence demonstrating its ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which, as we have said before, is key in the fight against viruses. For more on these superfoods, check out our article here.
The consumption of Matcha green tea, rising in popularity in coffee shops near you, is a centuries-old tradition in Japan. Not only will it enhance concentration – enabling you to be productive whilst working from home – it also helps to combat a string of health conditions all while helping to defend against viral and bacterial infections such as colds and flu. The tea also contains vitamin A, C, E, K, and vitamin B-complex. It’s no wonder they call it a super tea 😊!
There you have it, several ways that you can take control and boost your immune system with easy to include natural foods. Remember, consistency is key so take consistent, daily action!
Now, it goes without saying that I am not a trained doctor and am simply relaying the key things I have learnt over time. Please consult a medical practitioner before taking any supplements etc.