Having found ourselves in the middle of an international pandemic over the last 18 months, the old saying of ‘your health is your wealth’ has taken on new significance. A healthy and functioning immune system is a key element to keeping us healthy and safe in today’s environment. The following are ways in which we can support our immune system through our diet and lifestyle:
With regards to food, aim for as varied a diet as possible as the immune system uses a multitude of nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron, selenium, vitamins A, B6, C, D and folic acid. A deficiency in any of these nutrients may reduce immune response.
Include pro-biotic/fermented foods(e.g.live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, etc)regularly to support a healthy colony of bacteria in the gut(gut bacteria constitutes approximately 70-80% of our immune system). A healthy colony of gut bacteria helps keep bacteria and viruses at bay and balance inflammation.
Garlic is a great general immune booster as it has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. For best results it should be eaten raw or added at the very end of the cooking process.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Praised for it’s ability to open nasal passages, clear congestion and ease nausea it is an excellent ally in the battle against colds, flu and viruses.
Omega 3 fats(found in oily fish, nuts and seeds) are anti-inflammatory and increase the activity of white blood cells, thereby increasing resistance to infection.
Vitamin C helps increase production of white blood cells(key to fighting infections). Because it cannot be stored in the body, daily intake of vitamin C is essential to a healthy immune system. Sources include citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi, papaya and green leafy vegetables.
Nuts, particularly almonds are a good source of vitamin E, which is key to a healthy immune system.
Learn to manage stress levels – chronically high stress affects the body physically and weakens the immune system. Identify sources of stress and eliminate as many as possible. Try to counter-act those which cannot be eliminated by regularly participating in activities you enjoy (i.e. yoga, sport, knitting, art or whatever other past-time you relish).
Aim for 7-9 hours sleep at night. Studies have shown that participants who regularly achieved good quality sleep had stronger immune systems and were less susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
Be mindful of your sugar and alcohol intake as both of these stimulants are known to impair the function of white blood cells, thereby suppressing immune function, making the body more vulnerable to infection.