As winter approaches, it's more important than ever to take really good care of your immune system. The more you can avoid those nasty winter colds and flus, the better!
This article was written by Rosie Millen, or Miss Nutritionist; a qualified Nutritional Therapist, Public Speaker, and Author with a huge wealth of knowledge in wellness and health.
In this article, Rosie shares her top tips for boosting your immune system function.
What Is The Immune System?
The immune system resides mostly in our gut. In fact, 70% of our immune system is our digestive tract.
Its primary role is to protect us from bacteria, viruses and fungi that bombard our everyday lives. It helps to fight against disease and infection. It does this by identifying non-self and self. There are many constituents that make up our immune system. They are the bone marrow, spleen, lymph system, thymus and the red and white blood cells.
Sometimes the immune system can overreact and accidentally ‘attack’ the body’s own tissue. This is called an ‘autoimmune response’. Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis are autoimmune diseases. Lowered immune function is also linked to chronic fatigue, allergies, and parasitic infections.
Given that it’s a complex system, it’s no surprise that the immune system is reliant on certain vitamins and minerals to perform optimally. This article outlines some of the best nutrients you can take to support your immune system as a whole.
Vitamins and Minerals That Can Boost Your Immune System
I would say that the single most effective vitamin for supporting the immune system is Vitamin C. After much research, it seems that Vitamin C is essential for various defence mechanisms.
Studies show that Vitamin C helps to prevent infections from getting in because it resists infections from taking place. It also helps to shorten the duration of a cold.
Vitamin C is water soluble making it very safe to take. You can either increase your vitamin C rich foods such as pineapple, mango, spinach and kale OR supplement up to 1-2 grams per day. I like The Good Guru Organic Vitamin C capsules. Just two capsules provide you with 1200mg of vitamin C.
In addition to Vitamin C, Vitamin D is also a good consideration for boosting the immune system. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and every cell in the body has Vitamin D receptors and it’s crucial for immune regulation. For a long time, studies have shown that Vitamin D increases the production of the T helper cells which help to fight against pathogens and parasites but also promote tissue repair.
A recent study concluded that even just a small amount of Vitamin D in the blood helps to reduce the likelihood of death in hospitalised patients with COVID-19. Getting Vitamin D in via the diet is quite tough – it can be found in foods such as fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, egg yolks and beef liver but the best way to get it into the body is to supplement. Make sure you go for quality supplement that contains Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), the active form, and contains at least 2000 iu per serving. The Vitamin D spray by Farmassis is one of my favourites because it’s also contains Vitamin K2 which helps the absorption and distribution of D3. It’s 100% vegan and has a delicious orange flavour!
My final recommendation, which really is another holy grail of immune health, is probiotics. These tiny microorganisms are so mighty. They literally are your first line of defence when it comes to the immune system. They help to engulf pathogens and excrete them from the body.
Probiotics help to strengthen the body against pathogens through improved gut barrier function that stops harmful microorganisms from entering the blood stream.
There are many human studies that show the efficacy of probiotics and immune and digestive health. For example:
- Probiotics have consistently shown to prevent diarrhoea
- The strain Lactobacillus Acidophilus has been particularly effective in reducing Ulcerative Colitis
- Some strains of probiotics have been shown to inhibit the growth of H. Pylori
- Probiotics reduce inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease
- In a double-blind clinical trial, administration of a L plantarum strain decreased pain and flatulence in patients with irritable bowel syndrome
So overall they are pretty powerful things!
When choosing your probiotics make sure you go for a product with multiple strains such as the FARMASSIS+ Billionaires Biotic. It has 15 different strains of live bacteria and provides 30 billion CFU (colony forming unit) per capsule. Wow!
How To Improve Your Diet For a Stronger Immune System
What about the diet? What should I be eating to strengthen my immune system? Here are my top 5 tips:
- Cut back on sugars and refined carbohydrates. They have very little nutrients and cause inflammation in the body and disrupt a healthy immune response. THIS MEANS ALCOHOL TOO!
- Increase your essential fats - microbes cannot live on fat. Enjoy oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados on a daily basis.
- Consume an anti-inflammatory diet! Inflammation up regulates pro inflammatory cytokines and general inflammation in the body. Avoid foods such as sugar, gluten and alcohol.
- Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables to 8 portions per day with the focus being on vegetables. The antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage and reduce inflammation.
- Eat prebiotic foods such as onions, garlic and sauerkraut. Prebiotic helps to feed the friendly bacteria in our gut. Onions and garlic have natural antiviral and antibiotic properties.