Supporting our immune system is a bit of a hot topic right now.
We are in the middle of a pandemic, the flu season is upon us and I’m sure lots of you are worrying about your kids at school who seem to catch everything that is going around.
And you may also be concerned about family members who’ve been identified as high risk of a viral infection and you want to help them to reduce the risk.
So what is our immune system?
Well, it’s probably one of the most complex systems in our body for starters! It’s actually a vast network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect our body from foreign invaders and disease.
Our immune system is designed to fight off anything foreign that comes into our body that shouldn’t be there and can cause us harm.
Bugs and germs can get into our bodies through breaks in our skin, through our respiratory system, into our digestive system, into our eyes and via our reproductive system.
To fight them on an external level, we have our physical and chemical barriers, eg our skin, mucous, sweat, sebum, stomach acid, etc.
And then internally we have a whole system designed to destroy any nasties.
Some of our immune system we are born with, eg, if we have an infection we may produce more mucus to flush it out or get a temperature so that we can blast it out with a fever.
Other parts of our immune system are learnt from exposure to certain infections as we go through life. And this is where we build up antibodies to protect ourselves from them.
So with such a complex system, there is naturally a lot that can go wrong!
But there is also a lot we can do to support our immune system to make sure every part of it is working at an optimal level. And this really should be our goal.
There are five easy ways to ensure that our immune system is in top tip condition:
Number 1 – Drink at least 1.5 litres of water per day.
The human body is compromised of approx 62% of water and water is an essential nutrient that is involved in every function of your body. It helps transports the nutrients and waste products in and out of your cells. So a no brainer that this is the foundation of a solid immune supporting plan.
If you don’t like water, you can try adding some berries, cucumber or lemon. Tea and coffee don’t count towards your quota but fruit teas, if you like them, do.
Number 2 – Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Try and get 30 different fruit and vegetables into your diet every week. And aim for as many different colours as possible.
Why are fruit and vegetables important?
Well, they pretty much cover off the important vitamins required to support your immune function and they are full of anti oxidants that protect our cells.
They are full of vitamin A which protects the mucous linings of the respiratory system and helps regulate inflammation.
They contain vitamin C which we cannot store in our bodies so we have to take it in daily. If we are deficient, our immune function becomes severely compromised and our risk of infection increases.
Number 3 – Include lots of healthy fats (omega 3) in your diet.
Good sources include salmon, mackerel sardines, olive oil and avocados. But if you don’t eat fish, flax and chia seeds are another good option and can be sprinkled on porridge or salads and included in smoothies.
Foods rich in omega 3 increase our white blood cells which are responsible for fighting off infections. They are also very good at reducing inflammation.
Number 4 – The mineral zinc.
This is great for supporting the lining of the lungs and, in the same way as the healthy fats, it increases our immune cells.
Good sources include lean red meat, chick peas, lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Number 5 – Vitamin D.
This vitamin has been well researched and there is a lot of evidence to show that it has an important role in regulating the immune system and may help to protect us from respiratory infections.
But 90% of vitamin D is obtained from exposure to the sun and a deficiency in the UK is fairly common during the winter months.
Public Health England recommends that it is taken as a supplement from October until the end of March when the sun is not strong enough to produce vitamin D. Most people should aim for a minimum of 2000 IU per day when not exposed to the sun.
So to recap – there are 5 things to remember – lots of water, fruit and veg to get your vitamin A and C, oily fish three times a week along with good sources of zinc. And don’t forget to take vitamin D as a supplement during the colder months.
Here’s to a healthy happy winter!
If you would like to find out more or need any support with your health and hormones, please do contact me.