By Jennah, Elysia Nutritionist
We each have an innate, intelligent healing system that identifies and seeks to eliminate disease-causing organisms and toxins, including viruses, also known as your immune system.
Try my five practical and simple tips to support and strengthen your immune system and ensure you remain energised through winter and beyond!
1. Be Calm. Share your calm with others.
Stress directly inhibits our immune system. When our nervous system (brains!) have identified a threat, we are placed into survival mode – our brain is physiologically only able to focus on the threat and assume worst case scenario. That way, if ‘worst case’ scenario doesn’t happen, we will land somewhere safe. Our nervous system prioritises functions for fight or flight – like spiking adrenaline, our heart rate, and ceasing digestion. In those moments of time, our immune system is not seen as priority and is distracted from its role of identifying and eliminating harmful things in the body.
So, be calm.
What does that look like for you? Perhaps, deep breathing, being in nature, reducing social media time and receipt of false information, calling a friend and talking about a fun memory, reading, jigsaw puzzles, the options are endless. Just whatever helps you feel calm, do that. : )
2. Eat Food
Immune system function relies on adequate supply of nutrients, including Vitamin C, A, E, D, B-Vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, Protein, Selenium, Copper, Iron, Folate.
Keep nutrition simple. Overall, LOAD UP on green, leafy vegetables, eat a variety of colours of fruit and vegetables, avocado, fish (if you eat it), good quality and appropriate quantities of meat (if you eat it), nuts – cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, and legumes – lentils, beans, and chickpeas.
Spices to give your immunity a boost include garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and cayenne pepper. I love a nightly turmeric drink (see www.littlewildlingco.com.au or make your own), simmered on the stove with choice of milk and honey – so soothing.
Probiotics (live, beneficial bacteria) support your gut! Gut microbes influence immunity by creating a barrier against pathogens and influencing immune cells.
Further information for each nutrient function and food source can be found in the table below.
3. Reduce Toxins
If you are choosing to put excess toxins into your body, your immune system will be preoccupied and busy removing these – think smoking, alcohol, chemicals/additives/colours in processed foods, and synthetic perfumes/make up. Maybe now is just a time to be mindful of reducing these and getting out in nature to breathe in the fresh ocean or tree air!
During sleep is when our immune systems really get to work their magic! Releasing protective proteins and infection-fighting antibodies, yep, without us even thinking about it! The body needs to rest for the immune system to be able to prioritise and sprinkle the magic! 8-9 hours is the recommended amount of sleep per night. If this is simply not available to you right now, start be increasing where you are currently at – either setting a bedtime goal or introducing a calming sleepy routine such as meditation, reading, removing technology, using lavender oil in a diffuser or on your pillow. Try setting up your room so it feels calm or take a warm shower or bath.
5. Listen To Your Body – He/She Innately Knows
For me this means early nights, yoga, being in the ocean and eating well. Your body will tell you what he/she needs, you simply have to listen and feel. What foods do you need? What activities will support you? What can you remove to take some pressure off?
Table – Nutrient Role & Food Source
**Definitions in table
Antioxidant: Removes damaging oxidising agents, protects our cells from ‘free radicals’ that are linked to disease and are produced when our body metabolises food, tobacco smoke and radiation.
linked to disease and are produced when our body metabolises food, tobacco smoke and radiation.
Enzyme: Helps our body do what it does! An enzyme acts as a catalyst for our chemical reactions.
Amino Acid: Single building block of protein that links together for all body’s essential functions, like a recipe, you need all the ingredients to get the desired outcome.
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||Components of every cell in our body that influence inflammation and immunity||Fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts, avocado Hemp seeds|
|Protein||Without protein all of the body’s essential functions are compromised, including immune *Vegetarians and vegans require combining different sources to attain all amino acids||Eggs, Fish, Poultry, Meat Tempeh, legumes *Good quality, protein powder, I have pure hemp protein – if you are finding it difficult to attain adequate protein based on weight and activity level (general minimum guide 1-1.2g/kg of body weight, eg. if 58 kg, require between 58 x 1 -1.2-1.8 = 58 -69 minimum!)|
|Vitamin C||Antioxidant||Fruit – kiwifruit, strawberries, citrus, pineapple Vegetables – broccoli, kale, tomatoes, red capsicum|
|Vitamin A||Reinforces barriers against disease-causing organisms – skin, eyes, respiratory, gastrointestinal tract.||Eggs |
Yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, yum sweet potato!
|Vitamin E||Antioxidant Protects immune cell membranes||Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts Avocado|
|Vitamin D||Increases antibacterial proteins, regulates immune function, protective role||Sun! Our bodies make Vitamin D upon skin exposure to the sun! Fish – salmon, sardines, mackerel|
|Zinc||Required for hundreds of essential proteins for normal cell growth, oxygen transport, assists antioxidant enzymes||Seafood – oysters, crab Meat – beef, pork Legumes – chickpeas, black beans|
|B-vitamins (particularly 6, 9 (folate), 12)|
|B6||Convert food to energy, form new immune cells to maintain immune function||Fish – salmon, tuna Poultry – chicken, turkey Nuts – hazelnuts, walnuts|
|B12||Convert food to energy, form new immune cells to maintain immune function||Shellfish, fish Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck Red meat – beef, pork, lamb Eggs Nutritional yeast|
|Selenium||Structure of antioxidant enzymes, helps regulate inflammation and immune cell function||Meat – beef, chicken, pork Nuts – brazils, sunflower seeds Seafood – tuna, shrimp|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||Form new immune cells||Green leafy vegetables – kale, spinach Legumes – beans, peas, lentils|
|Copper||Antioxidant enzyme function, frees iron from storage to make red blood cells||Shellfish – oysters, crab Nuts – hazelnuts, almonds, cashews Legumes – beans, peas, lentils|
|Iron||Makes vital proteins, transports oxygen, assists antioxidant enzymes, infectious agents can reduce our iron stores – so both iron deficiency and overload can impair immunity||Haeme iron easier for body to absorb – Red meat, poultry, fish Non-haeme, enhance absorption with Vit C – Lentils, Vegetables – leafy greens!!!|