The idea of ‘boosting’ your immune system is, in essence, a bit of a misguided concept..
Annie Gill from Healthsmart Nutrition explains more…
Our incredible immune system comprises of immune cells that all have a job to do and carry out these jobs continuously.
In fact, in these days of Covid-19 and Auto-immune Disease, actively ‘boosting’ our immune system is far from helpful. What we do want to promote, however, is balanced immune functionality.
Underperforming immunity can bring us susceptibility to infection and disease, and over performance can prompt an occurrence of autoimmune disease and immune function dysregulation.
Herbs such as Echinacea are powerful immune system stimulants that can provide significant therapeutic value. Elderberry has been proven to help treat the symptoms of the common cold and flu.
Foods that are proven to support immune function include Ginger, GreenTea and foods rich in vitamin C.
Citrus fruits, including orange, lemon and grapefruit, blackcurrant, green and red bell pepper, pineapple, mango and honeydew.
Beta-Carotene Foods – Beta-carotene has powerful antioxidant activity, allowing it to help reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress. The rich- est sources of beta-carotene are yellow, orange and red fruits and veggies, and leafy greens.
Adding the following foods to your diet can help support your immune system: Carrot juice, pumpkin, sweet potato, red bell peppers, apricot, kale, spinach and collard greens.
Vitamin D – There’s a lot of focus on Vitamin D at present when it comes to the immune system. Vitamin D can modulate immune responses and a Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection so it’s important to get enough daily Vitamin D.
Dietary sources of vitamin D may include (NHS, 2017) • Oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel)
• Egg yolks
• Some fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals and infant formula). Note that Vitamin D is not routinely fortified in dairy products in the UK, as it is elsewhere in the world.
• UV-treated or sunlight-exposed mushrooms
• Red meat / liver
However, only small quantities of vitamin D are found in food, so it is not recommended that we rely on food-forms alone. Sunlight and supplementation are also important.
Incorporating physical activity into your daily and weekly regimen is extremely important to strength- en your immune system. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. – walking, swimming, cycling, working out and gardening for example.
Chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and exacerbate pathological immune responses. Perhaps adopt some yoga practice or some mindfulness and deep, slow breathing into your weekly routine.
Sleep – When you are not getting enough sleep, your immune system won’t be able to function properly. To reduce your chances of catching colds and the flu, make sure you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep every night.
Try to turn your devices off early to prevent sleep disruption.
Limit Alcohol Consumption – Consuming too much alcohol can impact immune function, which is why you should try to cut back on alcohol to fight infections and promote immune system health. Alcohol negatively impacts gut health, decreasing immune function and making you more susceptible to harmful pathogens. Opt for non-alcohol mixers, beers and wines.