What is the Immune System?
The immune system is the bodies defence mechanism to fight off invaders that may try and take hold. It is a diverse and multi-faceted system which depends on our overall health to provide optimum protection against viruses.
Where is the Immune system?
It is throughout our body with the GUT playing a major role with 70% of our immune cells located there. The gut is the ‘powerhouse’ of our immunity. Our gut immune cells interblend with the healthy bacteria that live in our gut. It is important to strengthen our gut bacteria and therefore immune cells by eating prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, oats, chicory and asparagus. Eating probiotic foods (healthy bacteria) will also feed our gut-based immunity (sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso and kimchi).
How to support the Immune System?
The below health and lifestyle techniques are beneficial for boosting the Immune system and promoting wellness;
-Drink filtered water every 20 minutes (6-8 glasses per day) to move immune cells around the body. Include herbal tea but avoid normal tea and coffee as they dehydrate the body.
-Reduce intake of cold drinks especially those that are freezing cold / with ice as it can interfere with re-hydration.
-Eat 3 good meals a day
-Minimise drinking liquids with meals as it can dilute digestive juices that are needed for digestion and absorption of nutrients.
-Where possible choose light, easy to digest foods such as soups and salads.
-Give your body a ‘fasting window’ of 12 hours over night. Eat earlier in the evening and delay breakfast.
Immune boosting foods
-Fruit and vegetables contain phytonutrients (‘plant chemicals’) - a potent source of vitamins and minerals that have an integral role in fighting infections. The different colours in the fruit and vegetables reflect the different types of antioxidants they contain. Having a rainbow of colour on your plate ensures a full array of immune defences. Organic products will best support immunity to limit pesticides exposure.
-Fibre is only found in plant foods (vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes). Fibre helps bulk out your stool to support the body to eliminate wastes. It is essential to remove waste effectively to prevent toxic waste building up so as to prevent virus’s from taking hold. Include flaxseeds in your porridge to enhance elimination. Adequate fibre, vitamins and minerals requires 8 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit daily.
-Vitamin C rich foods increase our bodies immune cells and is anti-viral. Good sources are sauerkraut, kiwis, red peppers, broccoli and oranges.
-Vitamin D is crucial for warding off infections and destroying viral invaders. Increase Vitamin D with 10-20 minutes daily sun exposure in the middle of the day. Also eat foods such as wild salmon, shitake mushrooms and chlorella.
-Zinc and Selenium foods for immune system function and antioxidant support, food sources include nuts, seeds (pumpkin seeds a great source), also pulses like lentils, grains and oysters and brazil nuts. Consider adding nuts and seeds into your porridge.
-Magnesium rich foods to relax and combat stress hormones: Spinach, almonds, avocados, black beans.
-Superfoods are particularly powerful for boosting the immune system and supply high levels of antioxidants.
-Garlic (particularly raw or added at end of cooking).
-Turmeric ( 2 x tsp ground turmeric added to smoothies or to make a turmeric latte, add a little pepper for absorption).
-Mushrooms are good to add to diet as they contain anti-viral soldiers called beta glucans.
If affected with a viral infection try one of the below teas to support symptoms and break down mucus:
- Fresh Thyme Tea - make the tea using 1-2 sprigs of thyme, rubbed between fingers to release the oils and then placed in cup or pot, pour boiling water over, leave for 5-10 mins and drink.
- Ginger Tea - make tea by grating thumb sized portion of fresh ginger into a cup with hot water, add freshly squeezed lemon juice, leave for 5 mins and then drink (2-3 cups per day).
-Reduce stress - Using meditation, talking to friends & relatives, listening or playing music, jigsaws, writing in a journal, painting, puzzles. Connect with your feelings and emotions and allow them to be expressed.
-Exercise - Supports the immune function especially in the fresh air. 20 minutes each day highly is recommended.
-Meditation - Sitting in quiet reflection for 20 minutes each day (away from any devices) is a powerful immune support. Youtube is a good place to find some lovely guided meditations or download the calm or headspace app.
-Yoga - Yoga promotes clarity and calm which supports immunity and provides exercise. Try an online yoga class at least once a week.
-Sleep - Sleep increases immune cells. 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night. Promote good sleep with Chamomile tea with a little coconut oil added, no screens for at least one hour before bed, warm baths, reading, gentle yoga poses. Bedroom to be a tranquil, welcoming space with minimal clutter and no electronics.
-Hydrotherapy technique - Warm to cold showering to boost immune system. 20 -30 seconds of each alternating 5-6 times during your shower.
-Hot water bottle - This traditional support is fantastic particularly if feeling chilly/sore.
-Dry skin brushing - Eliminates toxins, improves circulation and stimulates lymphatic clearance.
-Humidifier - can be used with aromatherapy essential oils (tea tree, rosemary, cinnamon, eucalyptus, clove, orange).
Supplement suggestions (for Immune support):
-Vitamin C; 2,000 (2g) daily, in two split doses for support. If viral symptoms start a third dose of 1000mg (1g) daily may be added.
-Vitamin D3; 2000IU daily. Normally you could ask your doctor for this to be measured with a blood test, but it is safe to supplement in the interim.
-Magnesium – 400mg daily of Magnesium Glycinate. Also Epsom salt baths / foot baths or magnesium oil spray on the base of the feet before bed. Place 1-2 cups of Epsom salt in a warm bath/bowl and have a 20-minute soak. This supports the nervous system and promotes good sleep and a relaxed state.
-Zinc – 30-90 mg daily for immune support.
-Probiotic – Take a good quality probiotic supplement or the probiotic foods mentioned earlier.
-Echinacea – A very useful tincture to take to increase white blood cells to support your body to fight off infections (15 drops 3 times a day).
What weakens the immune system?
-Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners - sweets, sugary drinks, fizzy & energy drinks/ sodas, chocolate, cakes, biscuits.
-Cigarettes and alcohol have a negative effect on your immune system as they are toxins.
-Coffee - interferes with absorption of nutrients leading to immune system impairment.
-Dairy produce - cow’s milk can produce a sticky mucus which virus are more likely to get caught in.
-Junk food and convenience foods are depleting to the immune system with high sugar and processed fats.
-Processed meats - bacon, ham, sliced chicken, hot dogs
-Microwaved meals which destroy nutrients from our foods.
-Alcohol- based mouthwashes - remove the protective antibodies in saliva.