It’s officially the end of the summer and we can all feel the temperature starting to drop. So, with winter fast approaching it’s important to keep our immune system healthy, and even more so this year with the arrival of COVID 19. Feeding your body certain foods can help keep your immune system strong as it can be compromised during the winter months and stressful periods making you more susceptible to coughs, colds and infections. The immune system is a complex network of cells, proteins, tissues and organs that work together to fight off foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. The healthier your immune system, the faster it triggers an immune response and releases powerful antibodies and white blood cells that kill off these harmful pathogens.
So what should we eat?
Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to help fighting infections (1). Vitamin C is part of your external defence system as well, as it plays a primary role in the health and integrity of your skin and therefore potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress (2).
Foods high in Vitamin C include:- citrus fruits; oranges, tangerines, clementines, red bell peppers and broccoli
Zinc is an essential mineral that’s found in almost every cell and plays a multitude of roles in the body. Zinc improves the ability of special immune cells to help fight off invading bacteria and viruses (3).
Foods high in zinc include:- oysters, chicken leg, lean pork chops, firm tofu, hemp seeds, lentils
Recipe idea: Amelia Freer Simply Lazy Dahl https://ameliafreer.com/portfolio/lazy-dahl/
Vitamin D helps activate T cells – our immune systems “fighter cells” which help identify and fend off infectious pathogens. Vitamin D is vital to both the defence and regulatory functions of the immune system. Most of our Vitamin D comes from sunlight so there is a marked seasonal variation with lower levels during winter, which is spectacularly thought to contribute to the increased risk of colds and flu during the winter months (4).
Vitamin D can be made by our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. The amount of vitamin D we make depends on our age, how much skin is uncovered, the length of sun exposure, our skin tone and whether or not we are using sunblock. Living in the UK we may only get enough radiation from the sun for vitamin D production between May and October.
We can obtain some Vitamin D from our diet, but it is only present in any significant amounts in oily fish, cod liver oil, mushrooms and eggs. This is why testing and supplementation (if required) is so important. Your GP may be able to arrange vitamin D testing free of charge in certain circumstances. For example, if you are suffering from osteoporosis, autoimmune disease or depression.
Alternatively, testing is available for £29.00 from City Assays. This is a simple blood spot test which can be carried out at home. You then post the test sample back to the laboratory and your results are emailed to you. For more information or to request a test: http://www.cityassays.org.uk/Vitamin%20D%20Blood%20Spot.html
Once test results are received you should seek advice from a qualified Nutritional Therapist who can advise on the correct dosage.
Selenium is a key nutrient for immune function as it acts as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are compounds in foods that prevent cell damage caused by free radicals (5).
Foods high in Selenium include:- brazil nuts, seafood, meat and eggs
Diet suggestion:- Consume 2 brazil nuts per day (6).
Turmeric Studies suggest that turmeric can help provide a boost to the white blood cells that help your immune system fight off bacteria, viruses and other ailments (7).
Diet suggestion: Turmeric latte; https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/turmeric-latte
Or try a ginger and turmeric shot – https://www.instagram.com/p/CG40xM5HoXE/
Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce a sore throat and inflammatory illnesses (8).
Diet suggestions:- Beetroot and Ginger soup https://www.instagram.com/p/CGh4-5VFGKd/
Or try ginger Tea – Just put a couple of slices of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water.
Or try a ginger shot – https://www.instagram.com/p/CG40xM5HoXE/
Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Allicin as well as other compounds in Garlic act as antifungal and antiviral which helps to fight off infections (9).
Different ways of using garlic can be seen here:- https://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/fight-colds-and-flu-with-garlic/