5 Ways to Boost your Immune System

 
 

Our immune system is a complex system of cells and organs that rely on important vitamins, mineral and enzymes in our body to function at an optimal level. Not only does our immune system provide a defence system towards infections, it also keeps other important processes in the body functioning smoothly at all times. But did you know that occasional infections are beneficial? It actually contributes to building the immune system more. It is of course a fine balance between the two. When the immune system gets 'confused' or out of balance for a long period of time, it is then we start to see conditions such as auto-immunity, chronic infectious diseases and illness come about.

Below are 5 ways to support a healthy immune system for long term health and wellness using the beautiful foods from nature and therapeutic nutrient therapy.

 

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1.Increase Consumption of Nutrient Dense Foods

Food as medicine is the number one key to keeping the immune system strong all year round. Sweet potato and carrot contain beta carotene which can be converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin involved in supporting our immune system to produce immune protecting cells. Garlic and onions both contain flavonoids such as quercetin, and are rich in sulphur compounds that act as natural anti bacterial and anti virals.

Bone broth, and to a lesser effect but still therapeutic, vegetable based broth. Both contain high amounts of immune loving minerals and vitamins. Bone broth will provide the body with collagen and gelatine to support healing of the gut lining and all connective tissue. Both are simple and easy ways to increase the nutrient value to homemade soups, stews, curries and slow cooked meals.

2.Increase your intake of Zinc

Foods such as animal meats, oysters, eggs, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and wholegrain’s contain optimal amounts of the mineral zinc. There is a ton of research showing that zinc is vital for a strong immune system. Immune cells such as Natural Killer cells (NK), T cells and B cells are involved in keeping the immune system strong and to prevent infection.[1] These cells depend on zinc to maintain function and replicate. Viral and bacterial infections such as the common cold, diarrhoea, auto immune disease and parasitic infections are just some of the conditions that rely on a strong immune system to combat. 

Research has shown that zinc deficiency can result in immunodeficiency and imbalanced immune reactions which can, over time show up as conditions such as eczema, allergies and autoimmune diseases.[2] 

3.Keep your Gut Healthy

Our entire digestive system is a delicate system involved in the absorption and utilisation of nutrients. Keeping the gut healthy is key to long term immune health. Adequate stomach acid, digestive enzyme production, and beneficial bacteria all play very important roles to maintain a healthy digestive system. Consumption of pre and pro biotic foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables can improve digestion and absorption of immune boosting nutrients.

Saccromycceys Bouladii, a beneficial yeast, has been researched in immunosupporessive patients and has shown to produce multiple anti-inflammatory, and gut healing mechanisms.[3] It has also been demonstrated that S. boulardii increases the number of the main fermenting bacterial groups found in the bowel, and suppresses pathogenic bacterial overgrowth. This provides the gut with a balance of beneficial bacteria and yeast to support a healthy immune system.[3] 

4.Vitamin D

Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. In humans, vitamin D is obtained from the diet or it is synthesised it in the skin. As vitamin D is cutaneously produced after exposure to UV B light, its synthesis is influenced by season, use of sunblock and skin pigmentation. [4] 

Vitamin D has been used to treat infections such as tuberculosis before the advent of effective antibiotics. Tuberculosis patients were sent to sanatoriums where treatment included exposure to sunlight which was thought to directly kill the tuberculosis. Cod liver oil, a rich source of vitamin D has also been employed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as for general increased protection from infections.[4]

There have been multiple cross-sectional studies associating lower levels of vitamin D with increased infection. One report studied almost 19,000 subjects and found that individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for variables including season, age, gender, body mass and race.[4]

There have been a number of other cross-sectional studies looking at vitamin D levels and rates of influenza as well as other infections including bacterial vaginosis and HIV. All have reported an association of lower vitamin D levels and increased rates of infection.[4]

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5.Immune Boosting Herbal Teas

Using herbal teas is a great and gentle way to support the immune system in a preventative and therapeutic approach. Herbs such as Astragalus, Echinacea, Elderberry, Thyme, Marshmallow root, Yarrow, Peppermint, licorice and Ginger root all aid in supporting the immunity. 

Warming spices such as clove, cayenne, ginger, cardamon, nutmeg, turmeric and cinnamon work on stimulating circulation and lymphatics to improve blood and oxygen flow around the body. 

 
 

References:

1. Klaus-Helge Ibs, Lothar R, 2003, Zinc-Altered Immune function, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 133, Issue 5, Pages 1452S–1456S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.5.1452S

2. Wessels, I., Maywald, M., & Rink, L. (2017). Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(12), 1286. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu9121286

3. Villar-García, J., Güerri-Fernández, R., Moya, A., González, A., Hernández, J. J., Lerma, E., … Knobel, H. (2017). Impact of probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii on the gut microbiome composition in HIV-treated patients: A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 12(4), e0173802. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173802

4. Aranow, C. (2011). Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of Investigative Medicine : The Official Publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research, 59(6), 881–886. http://doi.org/10.231/JIM.0b013e31821b8755