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Your white blood cells are the key players in having a healthy immune system, they are made in your bone marrow and are part of the lymphatic system which eliminates toxins from your body. Gastrointestinal health is essential as 80% of your immune system is found in your gut.
When we are stressed, we release the stress hormone corticosteroid, which lowers the the number of lymphocytes we produce and compromises the immune system’s ability to fight off infections.
Stress also influences the digestive system. The ‘fight or flight’ response we experience when stressed is activated by the central nervous system, which works closely with the ‘enteric nervous system’, which — in turn — controls our digestion.
Stress can lead to inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, ‘leaky gut syndrome’, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers or low stomach acid, which allows for bacterial overgrowth, parasitic infections or fungal infections such as candida overgrowth.
Stress also causes hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety and depression which all affect your immunity. It can also lead to unhealthy behaviours such as drinking too much alcohol, smoking cigarettes or taking recreational drugs.
We can all be guilty of making poor nutritional choices when we are in a hurry, overworked or just exhausted. Most people crave sugar or high carbohydrate foods when they are stressed. This adds extra stress on an already suffering digestive system and causes ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’.
Sugar lowers your immune response and can weaken your immune system. Reducing your sugar intake or only having natural sugars found in fruit helps your immune system to stay strong. You can substitute sugar with Stevia, which is a naturally occurring herbal sweetener found in the Stevia plant. Sugar competes with Vitamin C which also affects your adrenal system (your adrenals love Vitamin C), this is another reason why we crave sugar when we are stressed.
Remember, too much sugar = not enough Vitamin C!
Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, energy drinks or alcohol when you are tired. These give you a ‘quick fix’ but this does not last, and you’ll find yourself crashing again and looking for another energy boost.
Reducing screen time (at least two hours) before going to bed and sleeping in a dark room with no electronic devices, such as computers, smart phones, tablets or television, is a proven way of making sure you have a good night’s sleep.
Get moving! As most of us are time poor it is essential to try and exercise at least three times a week. This can be as simple as taking your dog or children for a walk or attending a yoga or pilates class. Exercise is a great way of enhancing your mood, stimulating your lymphatic system and helping you to lose weight or to tone up.
It is just as important not to over exercise as this is just as harmful to your immune system as not exercising.
Drinking alcohol on a regular basis is detrimental to your immune system as it effects the gut flora and leads to ‘leaky gut syndrome’. Too much alcohol over many years effects liver function as well as many other organs in your body. Research is finding that people are drinking on a regular basis as a way too ‘de-stress’ after a busy day at work or looking after the children.
Binge drinking is popular with younger generations although if you are finding that you can be alcohol free for the week and then regularly overindulge on the weekends, this is also a form of ‘binge drinking’.
Broth that contains healthy animal fats boosts immunity and helps to treat ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’. It has healing compounds such as, collagen, gelatine and amino acids. It contains minerals such as, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and sulphur. Bone broth also contains chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine which are anti-inflammatory. Bone broth boosts detoxification, helping to eliminate toxins that can impair immunity. Chicken soup made on bone broth reduces inflammation in the respiratory system and improves digestion.
Pre and probiotics such as sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, homemade yoghurt (dairy or coconut), kefir or kombucha are beneficial for gut health as they restore healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal system. Fermented foods increase vitamin A and C levels. Fermented foods remove toxins from your system, aid digestion and support healthy immune function.
Shitake, Reishi and Maitake mushrooms help to reduce systemic inflammation. They contain powerful antioxidants that protect red blood cells and monocytes, are high in selenium (which supports thyroid health) and may assist gut bacteria to resolve infection.
These three have amazing anti-inflammatory properties, garlic has anti-viral properties and anti-fungal properties. You can combine the three into soups, curries or drink as a tea to promote strong immunity especially from colds and flus.
Salmon, mackerel, herring, avocado and nuts are great for heart and brain health as they decrease inflammation within your body which helps to keep your immune system functioning properly.
Zinc is an important nutrient that plays a vital role in immune system response, wound healing, synthesizing proteins and DNA, and assists in over 300 other bodily functions. Our body doesn't store zinc so its important to eat foods or supplement with zinc.
Oysters contain the highest amounts of zinc, shellfish and mussels have a high amount as well. Red meat is a particularly great source - beef, lamb and pork.
Legumes contain high amounts of zinc. However, they also contain phytates, which reduce its absorption. Processing methods like heating, sprouting, soaking or fermenting can help improve its bioavailability. This is also the story with whole grains - try and have the gluten free variety as much as possible unless have organic sourdough bread.
Some seeds like hemp, pumpkin, squash and sesame seeds contain significant amounts of zinc. Eating nuts such as pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almonds can boost your intake of zinc. Dairy foods such as milk and cheese are good sources of zinc - try and purchase organic whole milk products. Eggs also contain zinc.
Unfortunately vegetables are a low source of zinc so if you are a vegan or vegetarian then supplementation is a must.
Eat plenty of citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, capsicum, berries and leafy greens. Vitamin C helps phagocytes and t-Helper cells to fight off infections and protect against immune system deficiencies as well as supporting adrenal health, which reduces stress.
Dose up on vitamin A with sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, capsicum, eggs and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin A is high in antioxidants which reduce inflammation. Vitamin A is essential for eye health and respiratory health (chronic respiratory infections can be the result of a Vitamin A deficiency).
Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of wild caught fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils such as cod liver oil are amongst the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, full cream milk and egg yolks. Vitamin D in these foods is primarily in the form of vitamin D3. Some mushrooms provide vitamin D2 in variable amounts. Of course, you can also top up on vitamin D by getting some early morning or late afternoon sunshine!
Did you know? To enhance the D2 levels in mushrooms, you can expose them to ultraviolet light (sunshine) for an hour or so prior to eating or cooking.
Green tea or herbal teas such as echinacea, elderberry, lemon and ginger, turmeric, chamomile, calendula or winter herbal blends help to strengthen your immune system. They are full of antioxidants that are unique to each blend.
Adding fresh thyme, basil, parsley, lemon balm, lemongrass, coriander, garlic, ginger, chillies, turmeric, black pepper are some immune boosting ideas to add to soups, casseroles or stir fries.
Online consultations are now available, book online and lets start supporting your immune system with some 'food as medicine' and herbal supplements.
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