Our immune system is working all the time to protect us. Day in, day out our bodies are faced with challenges like germs and toxins that we don’t think about day-to-day. However, when cold and flu season is in full swing and in unprecedented times like now, we all want to do our best to support our bodies.
The immune system is a complex system of the body. When not working optimally, we are susceptible to picking up coughs, colds, infections and viruses quicker than other people, but when working overtime can become compromised displaying as autoimmune disease such as Coeliac Disease or Rheumatoid Arthritis. With this in mind, I wanted to share some simple tips and tricks that you can implement into your routine to support your body to be the best it can and aid overall wellness and longevity rather than a quick fix during this pandemic.
GO WITH YOUR GUT
Maintaining good gut health is at the heart of every system in the body and we want to minimise the pressure on our systems to as little as possible! Giving our gut time to digest foods by eating 3 main meals a day and trying to steer clear from snacking (I know, easier said than done while we’re all working from home). Ensuring we are eliminating toxins everyday to prevent a build up of waste, that can create an environment for viruses to grow, is the first step to our bodies are working at their best.
How can we do this?
- Increased fibre foods – bulking up our stools to eliminate toxic waste from the body. Adding more fruits, vegetables, water and getting our circulation moving are a great start. Why not try adding some flaxseeds to your morning porridge too?
- Limiting ‘junk food’ (like highly processed sugars and alcohol) – all of which add stress on our bodies that are harder to detoxify.
- Keep hydrated by aiming to drink 1-2l of water through the day (but don’t forget tea and coffee don’t count here as they are diuretics which means it will dehydrate you)
VITAMINS AND MINERALS:
Our immune system depends on nutrients to function which we can obtain naturally from foods! Adding colour to your diet will ensure you are consuming all the phytonutrients that each have a different use in the body! Aim for a variety of fruits and veg, you’ll be getting diversity of those crucial phytonutrients! Here are a few you can add for immune support;
A key compound for immunity!
When we contract a virus, our body has an automatic increased need for Vitamin C, which explains why the anti-viral vitamin is being used in the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitals worldwide.
Where can we get it from? Try and add foods daily such as Oranges, kiwi, red peppers, broccoli and sauerkraut too!
I like to refer to Vitamin D as the soldiers of the immune system. When faced with a virus it calls for back up from white blood cells to come and help battle the virus!
The optimal way to get your vitamin D is through sun exposure – 15 minutes on your inner arms and legs will do the trick! Vitamin D is in an abundant of foods such as Shiitake mushrooms and Chlorella but my personal favourite is from Wild Oily Fish such as Salmon! Why? Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin it is optimally absorbed with fat which occurs naturally in oily fish!
Fun fact of the day – did you know zinc is responsible for over 250 different processes in the body especially wound healing! No wonder deficiency can show as compromised immunity! Adding a handful of nuts and seeds to your diet such as pumpkin seeds and lentils, grains and oysters too is a perfect way to start!
Selenium is a powerhouse antioxidant that works against inflammation in the body! Think of it as the water hose at the fire. We want to minimise the fire and stop it spreading to other areas of the body.
Top tip – consuming 2-3 brazil nuts each day is an easy way to reach you target intake for selenium. Not only will it ‘boost’ your immune system it will also support your thyroid and metabolism too.
STRESS AND ANXIETY:
Managing that stress response and anxiety is so important to help support our immune system. Why? Prolonged stress releases immune-supressing hormones like cortisol that increase our susceptibility to infection and viruses too.
How can we manage this in an overwhelmingly uncertain time?
- Acknowledge it is totally normal to have days where you feel overwhelmed with everything that is going on in the world right now. It’s important to accept that it is totally normal and we are all having those days!
- Eating nourishing foods and foods that are warming and comforting
- Increasing your Magnesium intake – this can be by eating more magnesium rich foods like spinach, avocados or dark chocolate or having a relaxing soak in an Epsom salt bath. The Magnesium will enter your blood stream by absorbing through the skin!
- Diaphragmatic breathing – taking time each day to just breathe deeply into your belly rather than short breaths in the lungs.
- Sleep – aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep each night regulates hormones like melatonin and cortisol that make up our circadian rhythm (the rhythm of sleep)
- Get active and outside! Even if that is a 10 minute walk round the block, intense exercise can sometimes put stress on the body, therefore adding more stress to the immune system – so bare this in mind when choosing your daily movement!
GET THAT BLOOD AND LYMPH MOVING:
It’s so easy to find you’ve been sat down all day when you’re working from home, but low and moderate exercise boosts immune activity and strengthens our resistance to infection. Immune cells are stored in our lymph nodes that are deposited all around the body so it’s important to get that lymph tissue moving around the body! Try adding ‘Dry Brushing’ to your morning shower routine, doing a minute of jumping jacks when you get out of bed in the morning. Or, if you really fancy it try and create your own Hydrotherapy experience in your shower; by switching water hot and cold for 30 seconds each time!
Getting our blood moving by going for a walk, jog or run in the fresh air each day ensures we’re getting oxygen, vitamin D and movement all in one! How about trying some YouTube Yoga and Pilates or joining into Live Workouts on social media?
'LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE...'
Although there are many measures we can put in place to support our bodies against infection and viruses, sometimes we can run into them from time to time and here are a few nutrients and herbs we can incorporate (with particular focus on respiratory systems):
(These are to be used with caution and discussed with medical professional if medicating)
- Sprouts – Especially broccoli sprouts have 10x the amount of enzymes in than ordinary broccoli which are cleaning agents to support liver detoxification
- Chlorophyll – supports the body to detoxify waste and support the liver
Barley Grass, Wheatgrass and Algae – start small here and juice if you’ve never tried them before!
- Garlic – the anti-viral / anti-inflammatory food we all know and love to cook with! Optimally eaten raw for its immune properties or added into cooking crushed at the end of the cooking
- Turmeric – Used for centuries for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis for its benefits for inflammation this superfood will support the detoxification of the liver.
Why not swap your morning latte for a turmeric latte – they’re super simple to make and have amazing therapeutic properties?
Add black pepper when using turmeric to increase the uptake and if you’re supplementing make sure your supplement contains black pepper too!
- Mushrooms – contain beta glucans that help to support those anti-viral soldiers that we depend on from Vitamin D.
- Echinacea – increases white blood cell activation for if you “don’t feel 100%”
- Thyme – a culinary herb with amazing anti-microbial properties that soothes sore throats and penetrates through building mucous.
- Elderberry – Anti-viral properties to tackle viruses growing in the body
- Ginger – a culinary spice for flavouring that is hot and spicy – this helps to break through mucous and free airways.
Together we will get through this scary and uncertain time. Keep safe, stay healthy!