Whether it’s coming up to winter in your part of the world or you’ve become more conscious about your immune health in recent years, there’s plenty of ways to make sure that you’re giving your body’s natural defence system the best fighting chance.
Nourish your body and immune system with the foods that you eat every day.
The gut is the centre of the immune system. Imbalances in bacteria as well as intestinal permeability caused by pathogens and poor nutrition can allow bacteria and foreign proteins to enter the immune system, causing an inflammatory reaction (Calder & Kew, 2002; Nobs, Zmora & Elinav, 2020).
The first step in improving immunity is gut health. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, kefir, yoghurt and balachan are delicious ways to increase good bacteria in the gut. A tablespoonful of fermented foods in every meal will give your guts a treat.
- Bone broth is a powerhouse of nutrients, minerals and collagen. It contains essential amino acids that assist to rebuild the gut lining such as glutamine.
- Turmeric, garlic, ginger, and echinacea have all been found to help prevent common colds and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These have been used traditionally for centuries.
- Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, red and orange vegetables, pomegranates, and kiwifruit can help the functioning of the immune system. When you are stressed, your body uses up more vitamin C and this contributes to feeling run down.
- Zinc is a key nutrient for wound healing, skin irritations and even viral conditions. If you love them, zinc intake is a great excuse to order the oysters! Red meats, poultry and whole grains are all good sources of zinc.
The Vitamins A, D and E are fat-soluble vitamins, which means they need dietary fats in order to be absorbed and utilised in the body. These nutrients support a lot of the hard work in the immune system, so good fat is where it’s at.
+ Vitamin A is an anti-viral and helps the immune system to recognise and fight infections without getting bored or over-excited (Nobs, Zmora & Elinav, 2020). This incredibly sophisticated action happens in the gut, where else? Orange foods, oily fish and liver are all rich sources of Vitamin A.
+ Vitamin D facilitates immune system function, and the best way to get it is sunlight on skin. If you limit your exposure, consume organ meats, fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms. Pop mushrooms in the sun for 15-120 minutes to make a Vitamin D powerhouse.
+ Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection. This important vitamin is critical in how your immune system functions (Nobs, Zmora & Elinav, 2020). It can be found in nuts and seeds as well as spinach and broccoli.