It is now officially cold!
With Winter now in full swing your body is put under extra stress coping with the temperature change meaning your immune system may be struggling to cope. Add that with being surrounded by people sneezing and sniffling their way through coughs and colds means we need to work extra hard to ensure we don’t get struck down with the dreaded winter flu and associated bugs ourselves.
Here are my top tips for a healthy immune system.
The first two really simple things that we often forget are getting plenty of sleep and managing your stress levels. These two things on their own can have a huge impact on your immune system so I would start with nailing these two first. During Sleep your body releases Cytokines which are needed to fight infection and inflammation and also help your body combat stress. We also renew our cells and antibodies during sleep which again help our bodies to ward off and combat infection. A lack of sleep therefore means less Cytokines, antibodies and cell renewal to help your body fight infection.
Eat plenty of leafy greens. Dark Green vegetables i.e. kale, spinach and broccoli are rich in iron which helps our body to absorb vitamin C, which most of us know is vital for a strong immune system. So we need to stock up on iron to ensure our body can absorb the nutrients it requires. Also scientists have found that eating leafy greens stimulates the production of an immune cell called innate lymphoid cell. This cell helps in protecting the body from invading pathogens and help with the balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestine.
Oats. Oats are rich in selenium and beta glucans which are nutrients that support your immune system. Oats also help to control healthy bacteria in the intestine which again supports your immune system. And I don’t think there is a better way to start a cold, wintery day than with a bowl of hot porridge and some berries-yum! And I will let you in to a secret……..Ready Brek is totally fine-ssshhh!
Mushrooms. Mushrooms contain immune boosting polysaccharides including previously mentioned beta glucans which support the immune system, they also have anti vital (again good for immunity) and anti cancer properties. Add them to soups, casseroles etc.
Yoghurt and Kefir. Your digestive tract contains around 60 percent of your immune systems cells. This makes it extra important to maintain a healthy gut. Including fermented foods in your diet like natural yoghurt (the plain stuff that doesn’t need an ingredients list!) and kefir can help to maintain a healthy bacteria which helps to decrease the number of harmful bacteria and stimulate immune cell production. Try having some natural yoghurt and fruit for breakfast or as a dessert.
Orange fruit and vegetables. Butternut Squash, Sweet potato, Carrots, Oranges etc. Orange flesh fruit and vegetables are jam packed with carotenoids, vitamin A and C all essential for immune function. Vitamin A also has anti viral properties and is vital in supporting the cells of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and lungs – your main barriers against invaders.
Citrus Fruits. Citrus Fruits are packed with vitamin C, which makes immune cells stronger and helps the immune system identify and attack invaders. It also helps make interfon (please say this in a superhero style voice!) which is part of your bodys natural defence system enabling you to fight off infection. You should try to up your intake of these through winter as high levels can seriously help to prevent flu. Other good sources include berries, kiwi and red peppers.
Salmon and other Oily Fish. Oily fish contain essential fatty acids which among other things maintain the cells in your gut. Also, research from the Michigan state university found that omega 3 docosahexaenoic (say that after a drink!) acid increases activity of immune cells specifically white blood cells (the important ones for immunity). Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D which is again essential in maintaining optimum immunity.
Nuts and Seeds. These have many benefits but particularly relevant is the Vitamin E Content. This anti oxidant protects our fatty tissues and cell membranes from damage whilst fighting infections. Add a handful of sunflower seeds to your porridge or snack on a handful of almonds mid afternoon.
Garlic. Garlic is anti bacterial, anti viral, anti fungal …..and anti social! For optimum immune boosting power garlic should be fresh and crushed which helps to convert the active chemical allicin to its active form. Add it to soups, stir fries or anything else you fancy (garlic bread does not count-unless you make the entire thing including bread from scratch, in which case I guess we can let it slide)
Coconut Oil. Coconut Oil is a healthy saturated fat which contains monolaurin made from lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride which has been widely researched for its anti microbial and anti fungal properties. Anyone who knows me knows I pipe on about this stuff all the time stating that it is just magic! From my own experience when I worked in an office I used to come down with every cough and cold going until I started putting a spoon of this in my porridge. I became superhuman (well almost) and managed whole winters without a sniffle. It is also very rare for me these days to be struck down by flu considering the amount of training, time outdoors getting drenched, muddy and being surrounded by ill people I do. You can get it in health food shops and quite often the supermarket these days.
And if you do get struck down, Research has also shown that taking Zinc within 24 hours of the onset of a cold can lessen the severity.
Also take 1000mg of vitamin C 4-5+ times per day and your symptoms will clear up much faster-trust me I’ve tried this and my cold ran screaming within a day!