Optimising your immune function
The immune system is a complex and amazingly clever system, designed to protect us from infectious bacteria and viruses we encounter daily. It includes things like our skin, which works as a physical barrier and our tonsils which act as a security guard for anything we might breathe in or ingest. We are also armed with a huge number of immune cells which all have different jobs. For example, some cells can directly engulf an infectious bug and destroy it, while others can respond to an injury and cause inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s clever way of getting the right immune cells to the damaged area to bring nutrients and clean up the mess caused by the infection.
For our immune system to operate well, we need to feed our bodies the right nutrition. Sometimes though, we may need a little helping hand from supplementation with nutrients and herbs. This is where a consultation with our Naturopath Sallie, is beneficial as a treatment plan can be designed specifically for you.
Here are some ideas to help you get started on boosting your immunity, naturally :
✘Cut out the sugar! I know this one is hard. And your natural health practitioner can help with any cravings or barriers you might have with this one. Sugar suppresses your immune system for about 4-5 hours. This means that if you are having even two sugary snacks per day – let’s say a muffin for morning tea and a chocolate bar for afternoon tea – your immune system is struggling all day to keep up with any infections you come across. Some bacteria even thrive on sugar.
✘ Cut back or eliminate caffeine! Caffeine is a tricky one too, but it’s in coffee, black and green teas, and energy drinks. Excessive intake of caffeine can deplete essential nutrients. Try swapping your tea and coffee for herbal teas or sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime.
✘ Stress! The long term stress has a hugely detrimental effect on our immune system. It prolongs the inflammatory response and exaggerates symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and headaches.
✔ Protein – we need adequate protein to make antibodies (these are cells which recognise infections and send for help). Chat to your natural health practitioner about how much protein you should be consuming.
✔ Vitamin C – works in so many amazing ways. A simple explanation is that Vitamin C boosts the number and function of immune cells, so you can mount an appropriate response to infections. Think kiwi, capsicum, apples, oranges, parsley, spinach and lemons.
✔ Garlic – is antibacterial and using it raw provides the most benefits. If you feel a sore throat coming on, try slicing a clove of garlic and eating between thin slices of apple or crush a clove of garlic and mix it with raw honey.
✔ Zinc – is antiviral and involved in over 200 processes in our body. Zinc deficiency has been implicated in higher rates of respiratory infections and poor wound healing. Zinc is in foods like oysters, red meat, chicken, ginger, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sardines, and split peas.
✔ Iron – this is one test that your GP might be happy to do annually and it’s important to know your iron levels. Iron is in foods such as red meat, dark leafy greens, sardines, almonds, walnuts, molasses, and lentils.
✔ Warming spices like ginger and turmeric – these have immune-boosting properties and taste amazing! Try this warming drink to start your day….
In a large saucepan, add 4 cups filtered water, 1 chunk of grated fresh turmeric (or 1 teaspoon of dried ground turmeric if you can’t access fresh), 1 chunk of freshly grated ginger, and 1 cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes and then allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large jar or container and pop in the fridge – this will last 4-5 days. Each morning, put 1 cup of the mixture into a small saucepan and warm gently. Take off the heat and add the juice of ½ lemon and a teaspoon of raw honey. Mix well and drink warm.