Written by Leisa Cournane – Nutrition Focused Naturopath and in store Naturopath at ComplEat Wellness
Limit what dials down immunity and increase that which boosts immunity.
What we eat but also what we choose not to eat can play a big role in our overall immunity. First let’s have a look at what to stay away from - processed foods and in particular SUGAR - sugar is inflammatory to the body and when we eat sugary foods it leaves us more susceptible to infection.
EAT A WHOLEFOOD DIET AND AVOID ADDED SUGAR.
Lets Dial it up - Some Super foods for Immunity and Bug Busting
Thyme - 1/2t of dried Thyme or 1t of fresh thyme - brew with hot water for 10 minutes and drink as a herbal tea 1-3C per day. Optional - add lemon juice (alkalising and a source of vitamin C) and/or manuka honey (anti-microbial and particularly good if you have a tickly cough). Thyme is anti-bacterial and anti-viral, it is good for wet and dry coughs as well as asthma, it helps clear the passage ways of excess saliva and mucous. Thyme essential oil can also be used in an oil burner or a diffuser.
Garlic - Natures antibiotic -to get the most out of garlics immune boosting properties eat it raw chopped up finely and mixed in with manuka honey.
Ginger - Chop up and brew with hot water for 10 minutes. Great for digestive disturbances, nausea, dizziness and to keep you warm
Turmeric - Immune system and blood tonic, also beneficial for liver and gall bladder health.
Chicken Broth - I find the easiest way to make this is in my slow cooker - either use leftover chicken bones from dinner or buy chicken frames (we sell organic chicken frame 2 packs) and use them place in slow cooker (or large pot) with any veggie scrapes you have and a chopped up onion, add about 2 tsp of cider vinegar (to help get the minerals out) and cook on low for 12-24 hours. Strain and use. Chicken stock inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses, and fights inflammation, It is also a great source of minerals and good for your digestive system.
Vitamin D rich foods - Vitamin D influences nearly 3,000 of your genes, and it plays a major role in your immune response, including helping your body produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides that help fight all sorts of infections. Vitamin D can be found naturally in: fatty fish, portobello mushrooms, egg yolks from free range hens, beef liver and cod liver oil. I personally choose to supplement this important vitamin during winter as low Vitamin D can cause many heath issues. We have many great options for Vitamin D supplementation in store and online.
Vegetables - It can be tricky to keep up the veggie intake in winter, but it is important to do this, vegetables are a source of many nutrients that will help keep you tip top in winter. Kale is great made into chips - take the stalks off coat in olive oil and bake at 180oC for 5 minutes or so - keep a close eye on this as it can go from crisp to burnt quickly. Roast beetroot is also another family favourite and if you like it crispy you can cut it into thin slices and cook for approx. 20 minutes.
Sprouts – These are little nutritional powerhouses and even better you can grow them yourself in 3-5 days. Stock up on some mung beans, alfalfa, and lentils and other seeds that you would like to sprout and you will never be short of greens.
Fermented foods - These include sauerkraut and sauerkraut juice, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, miso and unsweetened yoghurts These keep our bowel and intestines healthy and a large proportion of our immune system is located in our gut.
Lifestyle - As well as a healthy diet, it is also important to sleep well, have some relaxation time and maintain movement throughout winter.
Some Super Supplements
There are also some amazing herbs and supplements that can decrease the duration of infections and boost our immune systems so that when we are exposed to pathogens, they have less effect on us. Some of my favourites are:
GPX – Immune Protect – helps body boost its own Glutathione levels – Glutathione is an antioxidant involves with cell health and immunity.
Vitamin C - increases white cells ability to engulf microbes - increase and decrease dose slowly (if you start quickly on a high dose you can get diarrhoea) approx. 1000-2000mg per day more if unwell (pH buffered) in divided doses.
Zinc - especially for a sore throat in the form of zinc lozenges. If you think you may be zinc deficient we can do a quick in store taste test for $2
Olive leaf - Good for respiratory infections and especially good for low grade chronic infection.
Echinacea - has a direct effect on microbes as well as stimulating the immune system
Thyme - see above
Elder flower and Elder berry - Elderflower stimulates the immune system, enhancing immune function, helping defend the body against viruses and infection. It has potent antiviral and antibacterial properties that help treat head colds, influenza, sinusitis and hay fever.
These recommendations are for general information and a guideline only. See your health professional for your particular circumstances.
Further reading and Science:
Sugar and in particular glucose is up taken preferentially over Vitamin C and this reduces the white cells capacity to fight pathogens by up to 75% - in other words processed added sugars can decrease immunity down to only 25% of it capacity.
e.g. 100g of sugar will disable your immune system by 75% for up to 6-8 hours.
Sleep quality and quantity of sleep is really important for maintaining a healthy immune system aim for approx. 8 hours per night with a minimum of 7 ¼ hours and more if unwell.
Vitamin C - It stimulates white blood cell function allowing them to move faster, and be more effective in their approach to clearing pathogens. It also helps natural killer cells do their activity. Helps with Lymphocyte proliferation. We also know that low lymphocyte levels seem to be a key factor in the severity of how people respond to this current virus. So vitamin C plays an important role there. It also speeds up white blood cell activity. It boosts your immune system in these ways but it also stops your white blood cells from killing themselves in battle.
Vitamin D has many functions in the body but when we are talking about the Immune systems of note is:
The body uses it to produces antimicrobial peptides (AMP’s) which are part of our innate or non-specific immune system so not specific against viruses but it can make lung tissue automatically produce its own anti-viral compounds. Smaller more regular doses are better than lump doses.
NB : if Vit D is <75 you are more than 2 x as likely to get a respiratory infection and if below 50 then it is 3 x as likely At the end of summer need to be around 120-130 to get through winter.
NB : we only make Vitamin D when the sun is overhead and it is warm (10-2 summer and much less in winter).
Vitamin A has its own individual benefits bit also works synergistically with Vitamin D – together they work together to maintain the integrity of the Mucous membrane and skin.
Vit A is also key to be able to produce antibodies (adaptive or specific immune system) (only available from animal foods)
Signs of Vit A deficiency – poor antibody production, epithelial integrity decreased, NK cell reduction, cytolytic activity decreased.
More info : International Vitamin A working Group (IVAG)
Zinc is needed to mount a good immune response and works with Vit A for epithelial health as it helps deliver Vitamin A around the body. It is also involved in innate and adaptive immunity and is important for WBC to function properly. It also has the ability to block RNA polymerase and therefore viral replication within the body.
Common deficiency if AUS/NZ
Selenium many enzymes rely on selenium as well as the ones that produce glutathione. Viruses mutate rapidly in selenium deficient hosts.
China /AUS/NZ are all low in selenium in the soil.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – Mucolytic (breaks up mucous and stops it clogging airways ) and antioxidant
Quercetin displays a broad range of antiviral properties which can interfere at multiple steps of pathogen virulence -virus entry, virus replication, protein assembly- and that these therapeutic effects can be augmented by the co-administration of vitamin C. It also helps Zinc get into the cell which may explain some of its actions.
Echinacea – Direct microbial effect as well as boosts white blood cells function.
In a large randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial, there were 755 people who were administered either placebo or Echinacea. Over this four-month period, those that took the Echinacea had a 53% reduction in days experiencing symptoms of a respiratory tract infection.
There was a pilot investigation using Echinacea in over 1,500 people who were given either the flu vaccine, Echinacea, or a combination of both. Looking at both symptoms and blood work, Echinacea was more effective than the flu vaccine or the combo at reducing the illness incidence and length of illness.
Olive leaf extract: Powerfull anti-inflammatory which is why it works for many ‘condtions’ and can make people feel better quicker. Oleuropein is a compound found inside olive leaf extract, although it's a very, very small amount., oleuropein itself is not an antiviral. However, when it's taken up into our cells, which is exactly where viruses hide up in the nucleus, there's an enzyme in our cell that converts that compound into calcium elenolate and oleanolic acid which becomes an antiviral compound inside the cell where the virus actually is.
Thyme Rich in Volatile essential oils that when you take it it you breath it out the lungs so a great lung tonic and mucolytic for the lungs. One of my favourite herbs.
References avilable on request.