A healthy immune system is our key to keeping disease at bay. We need to look after it as best we can with food and supplements, especially at the change of seasons. Here are my ten foods you should know, and how they can make sure you get the most joys this spring!
1. Sauerkraut and other Fermenting Foods
Probiotics are live bacteria naturally found in our bodies and in food we need for good health, particular digestion. Your gut should have lots of lovely friendly bacteria for a strong immune system!
Don’t be fooled by brand yoghurts that promise to contain friendly bacteria, they’re mostly full of sugar! If you don’t want to take supplements, foods such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut all of which ferment to produce beneficial bacteria, and can be delicious!
Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and paracetamol and indigestion tablets can destroy this good bacteria so watch how much of these you take
Having a good old chuckle can decrease stress and improve the body's infection-fighting abilities
2. Oats, Barley and Mushrooms
Beta-glucans are naturally occurring sugars produced by bacteria, yeast, fungi and many plants and found in foods like oats, barley and mushrooms.
It’s thought beta-glucans can help reduce cholesterol and kick start the immune system by increasing bodily chemicals which prevent infections. Immune systems weakened by chronic fatigue syndrome, physical and emotional stress, and cancer benefit from beta-glucans.
Reishi, Shitaki and Maitake are the best performing mushrooms to regulate the immune system. But even the common button mushroom eaten regularly are beneficial
3. Oily Fish, and Flax and Chia Seeds
We need omega fatty acids for a healthy body, not just our immune system. Found in oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring. Vegetarians can get omega fatty acids from flax and chia seeds. Aim to eat 3-4 portions of fish a week and/or a tbsp of ground flaxseed and chia seed a day.
4. Red, Green and Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Unfortunately, as you age, there is a noticeable drop in your immune function, especially by your 70s and 80s. You actually produce as many immune cells as you always have, they just don’t work as well. As we age increasing the red, green and orange fruits and vegetables will increase your disease fighting skills.
During the First World War raw garlic juice was used as an antiseptic to bath wounds and helped to save thousands of lives. It’s antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties have been known to be a great preventer of coughs, cold and chest infections.
Garlic works by making the cells of the immune system more active, contributing to the ability of the body to fight infections. It is also a prebiotic which encourages your gut to produce extra friendly bacteria.
A strong antioxidant, ginger is also anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and can be used externally for an antiseptic and pain. Ginger is often taken to combat chills and fevers, and ginger extract has been known to kill cancer cells!
From turmeric, this yellow substance is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. As a natural anti-inflammatory it can lower redness and other skin irritations. Curcumin can lower blood glucose levels and reverse insulin resistance therefore beneficial to celiac suffers.
This herb was used in traditional herbal remedies by the Great Plains Indian tribes in the US. Used mainly as an antibiotic until the western antibiotics were invented, Echinacea had been forgotten until recently.
Echinacea is now widely used to fight infections, especially the common cold, the flu, and other upper respiratory infections. Take echinacea in supplement form to prevent a cold from developing or to reduce a cold’s symptoms.
9. Boswellic acid
This Ayurvedic herb has been proven to be anti-inflammatory. It is a gum resin extracted from a tree, which is sometimes burnt as an aromatic, or otherwise administered as medicine.
10. My Immune Boosting Juice!
For an immune boosting kick, whisk together this delicious juice:
1 Lemon (whole lemon juiced if possible or the juice)
5cm piece of root ginger (grated)
1 Clove garlic (crushed)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp raw honey
Having a good old chuckle can decrease stress and improve the body’s infection-fighting abilities and overall resistance to disease, so time with friends is not only good for the mind but the body too!
Jayne Hopper works from her clinic in Brighton and offers consultations via skype.