Beat The Winter Chill - Boost Your Immune System Now!

 

We can all agree that prevention is better than cure. Why wait until you’re struck down with a cold or the flu to support your immune system to fight any of those nasty bugs floating around? Here are some do’s and don’ts for keeping the dreaded winter lurgy at bay this year.

 

Foods to include:

 

Kombucha – This is a traditionally fermented drink usually made with a tea variety but is now readily available with lots of fruity additions. Due to the fermentation process Kombucha supports our immune system via the beneficial bacteria found in the gut. Regular consumption of this traditional drink can help stave of bugs by keeping our digestive systems in tip top shape.

 

Mushrooms – Let go of the good old button mushroom and look towards varieties such as reishi, shiitake, enoki and oyster instead. All are readily available these days and have been found to be rich in beta-glucan which is responsible for their antibacterial and antiviral activity. Add to soups, casseroles, salads or simply cook up with some garlic and butter and top your toast in the morning.

 

Garlic – Best eaten raw for its antimicrobial activity during cold and flu season but can also be included in cooked meals to add an anti-inflammatory boost. Pesto, bruschetta and hummus are some examples of how you can work raw garlic into your diet and don’t forget to team it with some parsley to minimise that garlic breath!

 

Pumpkin Seeds – Naturally high in zinc pumpkin seeds are a great inclusion to your diet to help the production of white blood cells – the part of our blood responsible for fighting off infections. They have also been traditionally used to help eradicated nasty parasites such as worms.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar – This is probably one of those remedies your grandmother would always reach for but it’s health benefits are wide reaching. It is traditionally fermented and has been used for eons for its antibacterial and antifungal activity whilst still supporting the beneficial bacterial of the digestive system due to the production process. Always opt for an unpasteurised version with the “mother” remaining in the bottle to maximise the health benefits. You can use in dressings and marinades or simply add 5-10mL (1-2 teaspoons) to a glass of warm water and drink each morning – your digestive system will thank you!

 

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables – Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are rich in a range of vitamins including vitamin C, E, K and beta-carotene (the water-soluble precursor to vitamin A) all essential for good immune health. Cook them lightly to break down the oxalates and maximise their nutrient absorption.

 

Things to Avoid:

 

Alcohol – Alcohol suppresses the immune system and increases the excretion of many nutrients including vitamin C and zinc. It is also high in sugar and produces an inflammatory response in the body. When we weaken the body’s defences we make it easier for bugs to take hold.

 

Refined Sugar – Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods place a great demand on our digestive system and pancreas to balance our blood sugar and in doing so result in an inflammatory response in the body. These foods are also often low in essential nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and magnesium. Such as with alcohol reducing the body’s ability to fight off bugs can result in frequent colds and flu. Opt instead for lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein, whole fruit and starchy vegetables to keep you powering through the winter months.

 

Stress – This is a key factor to supporting your immune system. I think we can all relate at one time or another – you’re going through a stressful time at work, or study or with the kids and then bam to top it all off you get sick. Apart from inducing an inflammatory response the adrenal glands are the main site for storage of vitamin C in the body so when under stress the adrenal glands burn through vitamin C to keep us functioning but once it levels start to diminish we open ourselves for infection. Making sure you have a balance between the demands of others and time for yourself doing things that make you happy can help reduce your stress levels. Mindfulness or meditation activities have been found to calm the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the body responsible for the stress response) and in doing so reduce blood pressure, calm anxiety, reduce inflammation and improve the immune system. There are a variety of herbs and nutrients that can help support the adrenal glands and stress response but are best professionally prescribed for your individual needs.