Why is our immune system so important?
Think of your immune system like your own army of soldiers, always on guard to fight off any unwanted infections, viruses, disease, pathogens etc.
Your army needs nutritious foods, plenty of rest, low stress, and sunshine to continue to perform their duty in good health. In many ways, they rely on you to feed it the good stuff and provide them with what they need.
Your immune system is made up of many parts – from white blood cells, bone marrow, lymph nodes and organs, like the spleen. All playing their role to recognise invaders (infections, bacteria etc.) and protect our healthy cells from damage.
There really is no single solution, food or herb that will be the ultimate in immune system health. It’s a combination of many factors and emotions in the person. Food, stress, movement, sunlight, sleep, internal organ function, nervous system, adrenal glands, fresh water …. are all things we can check on to help boost our immune strength & put up a good fight!
So – what foods should you consume to help?
‘The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison’ – Ann Wigmore
It’s never been so important to ensure we are consuming fresh, organic wholefoods.
These will help our body perform as best as possible. Feeding it sugar loaded goods, preservatives and synthetic ingredients we don’t even recognise can be detrimental to our overall health. Eating a balanced diet ensures you get all the nutrients you need for your immune system.
- Ensure you’re getting plenty of Vitamin C rich foods:
– Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, kiwifruit, pineapples & strawberries are a fantastic source. Plus, don’t forget the dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower & capsicums.
- Look for foods that are full of Zinc
– such as crunchy pepitas, oily fish & seafood such as tuna & sardines. Cashew nuts and mungbeans are also a good plant based source.
Our gut health can directly influence our immune system as well – so it’s essential we take into consideration food sources we can eat on a daily basis to help boost the good bacteria and ensure everything flows well.
- Incorporate fermented & prebiotic foods
Adding or increasing these into your diet can help to boost your immune system. Include foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, yoghurt, kefir and kombucha to help colonise your gut with good bacteria, preferentially inhibiting pathogenic microbes to set up camp.
While prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, green banana starch and chicory root provide the fuel for your gut microbes to feed and flourish.
We love Peace, Love & Vegetables & Kehoes delicious blends.
- Bone broths – not only delicious and good for our guts, bone broths have a wide array of immune system benefits too. In particular, the amino acids in chicken bone broth such as cysteine and glycine are building blocks for important immunomodulating factors in the body. Check out Gevity RX (previously Meadow & Marrow) concentrates, NutraOrganics or The Stock Merchant broths.
- Medicinal mushrooms – possess antimicrobial and antiviral properties which can enhance the immune system performance, as well as protect organs such as our spleen.
From reishi, chaga, cordyceps, shiitake and tremella – adding some mushrooms into your diet can help support the body build it’s army of immune fighters, help with hormonal adaptability as well as provide beneficial prebiotics to promote greater gut health.
Try Masons Mushroom by Superfeast
Herbs, minerals & vitamins … what about supplementation?
Nature already provides us with a number of herbal medicines & tonics that can help improve our immune defences. Ensuring that we provide our cells with all the essential minerals & vitamins through food options as much as possible – supplementation can also assist when there is limited availability or we need an added boost.
Some of our favourites:
- Echinacea – has numerous medicinal properties as an anti-viral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant source. We also recommend it for its ability to stimulate the immune system to help reduce the severity of common colds & flu’s
- Manuka Honey – much research suggests this food source contains powerful antiviral & antibacterial properties which can work to protect your body from free radicals, the common cold / flu and dis-ease. Eat it straight from the jar or pop in warm water with fresh lemon & ginger. Tip: The higher the UMF or MG number, the stronger antibacterial properties it has.
- Zinc – used for thousands of years to help the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. It is known to play a central role in immune system function.
- Vitamin D – essential for the health of our immune system and its ability to fight off infection. You can absorb Vitamin D from a variety of sources such as: natural sunlight, oily fish & seafood as well as increasing your mushroom intake.
- Olive Leaf extract – a powerful antioxidant source that can help boost our immune system response to fight infection. It also works to fight free radicals
– nasty molecules that can accumulate in the body and can attack the immune system & cause inflammation.
Check out Comvita Olive Leaf Extract, with fresh extract coming straight from olives trees in South East Queensland.
- Elderberry– The antioxidant power of berries is widely known, and Elderberry’s are no exception. Associated with immune support and helping prevent inflammation & common cold symptoms.
- Colloidal silver – many people take this to help fight inflammation, cleanse the blood & boost immune system function. It’s also antibacterial / antimicrobial – meaning it can help kill off harmful microbes and fight infection.
- Vitamin C – we all need vitamin C and some more than others during times of illness or dis-ease. This mineral has an incredible antioxidant ability to protect against free radical damage & to help fight off respiratory infections. It also plays a crucial role in collagen production.
- Other herbs such as Astragalus, Siberian ginseng, Andrographis, Echinacea, Elderflower, Reishi and thyme have all been used for their anti-viral, antibacterial immune boosting properties over centuries. Products such as Fusion Health Activiral and Vitamin C 1000 Advanced can be found in store and are easy to digest. Plus we have plenty of practitioner only products for you to obtain with your prescription. Or our in store naturopaths and herbalists can customise herbal tonics tailored to your individual needs.
What else should I be doing?
- Good Hygiene – as cold and flu viruses are easily spread, prevention begins with washing your hands regularly and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. If you do succumb to a cold or flu, you can help to minimise its spread by sneezing or coughing into something other than your hands. The term ‘social distancing’ is one we will all now remember – so try to keep your distance around people, especially if you are in a public space.
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of good quality water each day and take note of your intake of caffeine (including herbal teas) which, if excessive, can deplete essential hydration your cells require to function at their best.
- Rest – our bodies need rest to repair and rebuild. As well as ensuring you are getting good quality sleep, you can also look at resting your digestive system by practicing intermittent fasting.
- Limit or avoid excess sugar – processed sugary foods can feed dis-ease growth and inhabit our immune response to help fight off infection. Switch your mindset that a ‘treat’ can be a piece of juicy fruit, dark chocolate or a medjool date dunked in peanut butter!
- Look after your stress responses & anxiety levels – maybe now is the time to take up some meditation practices if you don’t have a regular practice. There are some wonderful apps out there .. with many offering free services during this time. Know that this too shall pass and a lot of this is outside of anyone’s control.
If you need to – limit the time you spend around excess media, social channels and even negative people that can start to induce those overwhelming feelings.
Our Naturopaths can also recommend some adrenal fatigue support such as B Vitamins & magnesium to promote overall calm.
- Sunshine & movement – it’s important to access some natural sunlight daily, plus fresh air and movement. Whether it’s a walk outside, a run, yoga practice, weights or Tai-Chi .. movement & exercise can provide an enormous amount of benefit for both the body & the mind.
- Make yourself a tonic – good old lemon, honey & ginger works which wonders on the soul as well as the immune system.
We are lucky to have an abundant number of nourishing food sources to call on in times of stress, dis-ease or states of unwell. Taking care of our emotional wellbeing is also incredibly important to help our immune system army to feel supported during this time.
A few more ideas to look after your health & wellbeing:
- Hilbilby Fire Tonic – Apple cider vinegar on steroids, fire tonic has an array of warming ingredients including cayenne pepper, herbs, vegetables & ACV that’ll be sure to light your inner fire.
- Turmeric Golden Mylk– with a range of anti-inflammatory properties, and warming ingredients this is sure to warm you up.
- Herbal Teas: English Tea Shop and Pukka have a tea for just about everything, including chamomile to help relax plus immune stimulants such as turmeric / lemon / ginger blends.
- Cacao – Natures antioxidant. Grab a bag of our cacao powder and you’re good to go for a delicious hot chocolate, just add hot water and if needed, your choice of sweetener.
- Chicken Soup – Let’s not forget delicious soups – full of antiviral and immune boosting ingredients that can help with symptom relief too.
- Hot lemon & honey – Simple home recipes such as tea made from lemon, manuka honey, garlic and ginger can provide symptomatic relief while delivering antimicrobial / anti-inflammatory benefits
This article is for educational purposes only. Always seek health advice from your healthcare professional before taking any supplements, as it may interfere with medication you are currently taking.
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