Before we discuss how to boost immunity, I think it’s important to first explain what we mean by our ‘immune system’. Our immune system is our body’s first line of defence which keeps us healthy. The immune system is an interactive system of white blood cells, organs, and proteins which protect the body from bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances. Our immune system is vital in order to neutralise and remove bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi which enter our bodies.
The immune system works hard every single day to protect us and when it’s working well, we don’t even notice it. However, when our immune system gets compromised, that’s when we tend to face illness. Our immune system is constantly adapting and modifying so that the body is able to fight viruses and bacteria as they change over time.
How can we boost our immune system and ensure it is working as best it can?
Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are essential for us to maintain a healthy immune system. In particular, these foods are excellent for our immune system and should be a part of our diet where possible.
Citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges and lemons have highly concentrated levels of Vitamin C and antioxidants which assists with preventing the development of colds and flu as well as the symptoms. Incorporate citrus fruits into your routine by making lemon water first thing upon waking to boost your Vitamin C levels and get your digestion moving.
Bell peppers, in particular yellow peppers, contain more vitamin C than any other whole-food! Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which means we don’t store it as it gets flushed through our bodies as we lose body fluids throughout the day. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and as it gets flushed out of our body, we need to ensure we are replenishing it every day. Vitamin C is essential for a healthy and thriving immune system so eating Vitamin C rich foods such as bell peppers is an excellent way to get your immune system boost.
All different types of mushrooms contain high levels of beta-glucans which stimulate the immune system and help to prevent the development of infections, viruses, colds and flu. Mushrooms have the ability to prepare our white blood cells and keep them ready to attack and fight any threat to our immune system. Mushrooms also contain Vitamin D which is also vital to support our overall health and our immune system. They are incredible at boosting our immune system so make sure you are adding mushrooms into your meals to get this added immune system stimulation.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut or miso are incredible at boosting the immune system. The beneficial bacteria in fermented foods assist with improving your immune system by feeding your good gut bacteria which improves your overall health. Fermented foods are high in probiotics which is essential for gut health and therefore our overall health including our immune system. Fermented foods are also high in Vitamin C which is commonly known for improving our immune system and fighting off colds and flu. Make a miso soup a few times per week to reap these benefits (there’s still plenty of Miso stocked in the supermarkets!) and adding sauerkraut to your salads or breakfasts to give your gut and immune system some love.
Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural cold and flu remedy. Ginger has an array of healing properties and can help to prevent the development of viruses, colds and flu as well as reduce the duration of a virus. Ginger also contains micronutrients which we need for our overall health and to strengthen our immune system. Making fresh ginger tea is a great way to reap the healing benefits as well as cooking with ginger for an added spice and flavour.
Other points to consider…
Making a vegetable broth is also a really good way to boost your immune system. Broths are antiviral, mineral-rich and immune-supporting. You can make a broth using all different types of vegetables such as carrots, celery, onion, parsley, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric and water. Simply place all ingredients into a pan and bring to a gentle boil. Ensure the heat is low enough to let the broth simmer for around an hour and then strain all the liquid into a pot for you to sip and enjoy.
Vitamin D and Zinc are also very important to improve your immune system. A Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to developing infections. Particularly within the UK, a high majority of the population is Vitamin D deficient so I would recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement to assist with boosting your immune system around this time when we have the virus moving around the country.
Zinc supplements are often taken as a remedy for fighting colds and other illnesses. Zinc can help to reduce cold and flu symptoms and also shorten the duration of the common cold. Taking a zinc and Vitamin D supplement is a good way to assist with improving your immune system and speeding up the recovery if you are struck with cold or flu.
We need to be avoiding foods such which are heavily processed and refined and which contain artificial sweeteners, additives and preservatives. We also want to avoid eating too much added sugar as these foods can take a toll on your immune system and overall health.