Staying at home day in and day out, is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, there have been some benefits. It’s a time to go slow, reflect on what is truly important in life, learn new ways of being, new ways of doing and new ways of cooking. Before we all emerge from our homes, we may need to think of how we can boost our immune systems and better equip our “temples” to deal with exposure to viruses and bacteria. We also need consider how we can prevent lifestyle diseases which would leave us more exposed with a compromised immune system. I haven’t quite figured out the magic pill for anti-aging, but there are ways to stay youthful and thrive as we grow older. COVID19 has definitely created a certain level of fear within each and every one of us and our zest for health and life has become apparent. Now is the time to take action and make positive lifestyle changes.
Food for immunity
“Let food be thy medicine” Hippocrates
Food can provide us with the critical building blocks to health and vitality and more importantly, keep our immune system in tip top shape.
Our gut health is a critical component of overall health and a marker for the state of the immune system. The gut essentially performs the task of separating the inside of our body to the outside world. It acts as a filter by removing toxins and waste from the body and allowing nutrients through. The highest and densest microbe population in your body can be found in your gut, where they play a critical role in digestion, weight regulation and immune system function. Building a healthy gut bacterium and avoiding foods that could damage the gut are just some ways you can support your immune system function. If the gut is damaged in any way (for example leaky gut syndrome), your immune system spends much of its time and energy fighting the toxins that leak through your gut into your bloodstream.
So how do you support your gut?
- Eat fermented foods in order to get a good variety of probiotics – Kombucha, Kimchi and sauerkraut provide an array of good bacteria to populate your gut
- Take a prebiotic supplement or find foods that contain prebiotics which support the good bacteria – they are the precursor for good bacteria
- Eat lots of fibre – animal-based foods contain no fibre, but plant-based foods are loaded with fibre. Make sure you are getting a wide variety of plant-based foods, including whole grains, a wide range of fruit and vegetables, plant-based meats (like Fry Family Foods range) are usually very high in fibre and are pesticide free.
- Avoid fruit and vegetables which have been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals. One of the herbicides sprayed on most crops contains the chemical, Glyphosate, which disrupts the gut wall which allows bacteria to pass through the gut lining. This affects the functioning of the immune system. Try to buy organic wherever possible.
- Limit intake of highly processed foods and animal products. Animals reared for human consumption contain the very chemicals that damage the gut lining. The primary food source for these animals is genetically modified corn and soy which has been sprayed with herbicides containing glyphosate. The glyphosate accumulates in the animal’s body, which we then consume.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, adults between the ages of 65 and 79 who followed a Mediterranean diet, along with taking a daily vitamin D supplement for a year, showed significant increases in disease-fighting cells.
Supplements can certainly help when trying to build a powerhouse of an immune system.
There are literally hundreds or natural herbs and vitamin supplements on the market and it can be confusing to decide which ones to buy. There are, however, no magic pills you can take to prevent a virus or a cold, but there are some simple ones you can add to your everyday diet to give you a fighting chance.
Vitamin C – can be taken as a supplement, or found in high levels in peppers, guavas, oranges, strawberries and broccoli.
Vitamin D – A few minutes in the sunshine can boost your Vitamin D levels or take a supplement. You can test your Vitamin D levels by having a blood test.
Zinc, Echinacea and Ashwagandha all support immune system function and are my go-to’s when I am feeling a little run down. Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen which enhances the body’s resilience to stress. It can improve the body’s defence against disease by improving cell-mediated immunity.
Add garlic, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon and turmeric to your cooking to boost immunity and reduce inflammation in the body.
Cut out alcohol
Although you may be tempted to turn to alcohol out of boredom, stress or even to celebrate being at home with your family or partner, try and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. I propose cutting it out altogether. Alcohol disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood and reduces the number and function of macrophages, T and C cells – all crucial to a well-functioning immune system.
Stay calm and elevate your emotional state
When “stressed out” or anxious, your body produces stress hormones, which can suppress your immune system. So, in this incredibly challenging time for the human race, make sure you spend some time on some activities to minimise stress – doing a puzzle, colouring in, mindfulness and breathing exercises, give meditation a go, do yoga in your bedroom (there are plenty of free yoga classes on You Tube – I personally love Yoga with Adriene), take an exercise class (I am following CrossFit4566 free program on You Tube – the daily workouts are super fun and varied and can be done in your home), get into your garden or start cooking. I also recommend using essential oils in a diffuser and playing calming music in your home. Whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy – do more of that!
In a study conducted by Joe Dispenza and his team, average IgA levels (an antibody protein that forms part of your immune system), went up by 49.5% on average when study participants elevated their emotional state by practising love, joy, gratitude and inspiration for 10min, 3 x per day.
Sleep is a wonderful immune booster, so now that there are no late-night parties, dinner with friends, or drinks at the pub, make sure you get your 8 hours! Studies have shown huge benefits to the immune system and increased number of T cells (immune cells which protect the body from cancer cells and other pathogens), when getting your full sleep quota.
Stay safe…stay strong…and keep your family healthy by sharing this article with them.