Supporting the immune system

The immune system is a huge and complex system that relies on certain nutrients to work – zinc, iron, vit c, vit A, vit E, vit D, B vits, phytonutrients. I whole heartedly disagree with the British Dietetics Association which states “Simply put, you cannot “boost” your immune system through diet.” Well boost is the wrong word, we can certainly give the immune system everything it needs. I thought it might be useful to list some of my favourite foods and supplements which have been shown to be of benefit. Like with vit C and the common cold, it wont always stop you from catching it but it can lessen the symptoms.

So what does our immune system need? Plenty of…

  • Vit C – remember stress depletes this vitamin. In the past year….74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. 61% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling anxious. 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed reported feeling alone as a result. So make sure you get enough on a daily basis as we don’t store Vit C and remember that steaming best as it can easily be lost in cooking. Sources: kiwi, citrus fruits, peppers, garlic, green leafy veg. I prefer Ener-C to Barrocca (has aspartame in it) or BioNutri’s Vit C Complex.
  • Vit A is a fat soluble vitamin which means you need to some form of fatty food to aid its absorption into the body (along with E, D and K). really useful for mucousal linings of lungs, ear and nose. Dairy, liver, eggs, or beta carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body from brightly coloured fruits and veg.
  • Vit E – another fat soluble vitamin which is a potent anti oxidnant and helps modulate the immune system. Found in nuts, seeds (especially sunflower) and green leafy veg.
  • Zinc – depleted whenever you drink alcohol. Sources: lean beef, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, prawns.
  • Iron – green leafy veg, brown rice, quinoa, lean meats, darker cuts of chicken, pulses.
  • Vit D – best soruce is through sunshine. It’s really more of a hormone like substiane than a vitamin. Or supplement but make sure it’s D3 – I like BioCare’s emulsified (already been partly broken down reay for absorption).
  • Protein – for growth and repair. Most quality protein sources with all the essential amino acids are eggs, salmon, tofu, peas, pulses, seeds, nuts, brown rice, mushrooms, oats.
  • Omega 3 – oily fish (choose small fish like trout, mackerel, sardines over tuna), nuts seeds, linseed oil for salad dressings.
  • Fermented foods and gentle fibre from plants to help our gut health – two thirds of the immune system is in the gut. A good probiotic can be helpful here – I like Renew Life or BioCare Acidophilus Forte.
  • Anti virals – elderberry from a supplement has been shown to help in cases of Epstein Barr (glandular fever). I like Bionutri’s Elderberry Complex (also for kids too in chewable form) or Pukka do an Elderberry syrup.
  • Anti bacterial garlic! I also like UnBeelievable Health’s Daily Defense which has oleic acid in from the olive tree (the olive tree lives so long because of this anti-fungal).
  • Nuts and seeds, great sources of minerals such as zinc and selenium (good for liver and thyroid).
  • Plants based cookery – plants are high in lots of essential vitamins and minerals. They also contain phytonutrients such as flavonoids which have been shown to benefit the immune system.
  • Drink water but not in large quantities and away from food as it can put out our stomach acid ‘fire’.