Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Immunity 101: How can we optimise our immune systems?
Understandably, everyone has been talking about our immune system and ways to support it these past two years. Supporting immunity is of course important even outside of a pandemic, when there are so many "nasties" out there that have the potential to make us unwell.
Immunity is also particularly important during the winter-time, when we seem to have a tendency to catch things more easily than we do in the summer; perhaps linked to the lack of sunlight and not getting as much opportunity to top up our vitamin D levels naturally.
My clients often ask me how they can boost their immunity through their nutrition, and they are reassured to know that there are many things they can do in their every day lives to help support their immune systems.
Of course, even those with sturdy immune systems can still get unwell, and it's important to do as much as we can to support our health throughout the year. If we have a strong immune system it might also mean that will have a speedier recovery if we do catch something.
Did you know?
That we come into constant contact with bacteria, viruses and other germs that have potential to enter our bodies and cause harm. The body’s immune system provides defence against pathogens (microbes that cause disease). There are many times that we could have become unwell, but your immune system stops something in its tracks before you even notice or feel anything (to be honest that's pretty amazing really isn't it?!).
That aproximately 70% of your immune system is in your gut?! You've probably heard about the focus on gut health these past years, and the importance of supporting the gut environment and the friendly bacteria that reside there (our microbiome). Looking after our microbiome, is one of the many ways to support our immunity and thus our overall health and well-being.
What can impact negatively on our immune system and lower our immune defences?
• Nutrient deficiencies
• Excess consumption of sugar and alcohol
• Consumption of allergenic foods (such as dairy, gluten)
• High cholesterol levels in the blood
• Being overweight or obese
How can nutrition help support the immune system?
Certain nutrients are essential to the good running of your immune system. These can all be found in fresh produce (and supplements) and include: vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin D, vitamin A, folate, iron, selenium and zinc.
Focus on nutrition rather than relying on supplements by aiming to include the following foods in your diet regularly:
Garlic, which has antiseptic and antifungal properties and contains vitamins B1, B6 and C, iron and phosphorus.
Citrus fruits are a great source of many important nutrients such as vitamin C, A, B vitamins, calcium and potassium.
Legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, beans all contain zinc (*Zinc is one of the most essential minerals for the healthy functioning of the body’s immune system).
Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Add fresh ginger to base of curries, stews or stir fires and in hot herbal and fruit teas (You could also try out the simple ginger tea recipe below! ).
Other foods to include: organic poultry, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, almonds, spinach, sweet potato, beans, live yoghurt, bell peppers, and elderberry extract.
As we've learnt that approximately 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, we should incorporate foods that help support our gut microbiome - you could try and include prebiotic (e.g. apples, garlic, oats) and probiotic (e.g. Kimchi, Kombucha) food sources in your diet.
Nutritional Nugget - what's the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?
Probiotics are living strains of bacteria that can help increase the population of good bacteria in your gut
Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut
Now let's learn seven simple ways to support your immune system:
Prioritise a healthy, well-balanced diet which is focussed mainly on whole foods, and is therefore high in vegetables, fruit and wholegrains
Reduce intake of refined sugars, trans fats and alcohol
Drink at least two litres of (preferably filtered) water per day
Aim for 30 minutes of movement/physical activity daily
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and try to stick to a consistent sleep routine
Maintain good personal hygiene by washing hands regularly, with warm water and soap for at least 20-30 seconds
Incorporate stress relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises into your life
Immune Boosting Ginger & Lemon Tea Recipe:
Peel a thumb-sized piece of ginger root and slice it into thin slices, or better yet, grate it!
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, add the ginger, cover the pan, turn off the heat and steep for 10 minutes.
Remove the ginger slices or use a sieve to drain, pour it into a cup, add a slice and squeeze of lemon and a small amount of honey to taste and enjoy!
If you'd like to find out more about supporting your immune system through lifestyle and nutrition changes, please book your complimentary 20 minute call with me, to see how I can help you to feel healthier and stronger.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Please note that Amy Cottrell Nutrition does not claim to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional conditions. These blog articles are written for educational & informational purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice.
Do not stop or start taking medication or supplements without first talking to your primary health care provider.