How can we boost our immune systems?
Our immune systems are extremely intelligent, they produce antibodies (proteins) which are designed to fight viruses and these antibodies are retained for life.
Below are some ideas on how you can use food to keep a healthy immune system.
1. Zinc – Helps our bodies produce immune cells. This mineral can be found in meats, cheese, most seeds and kernels.
2. B vitamins – This complex of vitamins provides our immune cells with energy, enabling them to do their job. Whole grains, yoghurts, avocado, green vegetables are good sources. B vitamins also play a vital role in the production of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid). If a diet is low in these our ability to digest food properly is reduced which in turn can affect our overall health and vitality.
3. Probiotics – These have many functions. One function is their role in the synthesis of the B complex (see above). Fast foods, preservatives, antibiotics, excessive alcohol, some medications can have a detrimental effect on our gut biome which can then have a ‘topple’ effect on other systemic functions.
4. Oily seafood – The essential fatty acids in oily fish help support the immune system and our mental health. Salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, pilchards (fresh, tinned or frozen) will provide this much needed oil and are also a fabulous source of vitamin B12.
5. Vitamin D – Most of our vitamin D is gained through exposure to sunlight (80 – 90%). Exposure to daylight stimulates our bodies to produce vitamin D. This vitamin is vital for muscle health, including the heart and it also really boosts our immune systems ability to work effectively. This vitamin is essential therefore for immune health. It is also essential for bone health.
6. Exercise – This ties in well with vitamin D and our exposure to the sun. By getting outside every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, and exposing our hands and faces to the ‘day’ we help to boost our Vitamin D production. Sun protection such as clothes and creams, mobility issues and other reasons can prevent this exposure to daylight, so a supplement would then be recommended. Exercise also stimulates our circulation and blood flow, which assists in circulating our immune cells. A lack of exercise and/or mobility can lead to less time outside and a risk of vitamin D deficiency.
7. Our lymphatic fluid travels through our body through movement and pressure - A simple way to regard it is as a drainage and collection system for the body. Also, it works with the immune system by destroying or alerting the body to infection by producing a range of cells, for example leukocytes. Lymph is not a closed system like blood circulation which has the heart to pump it around. Movement provides a means for the lymphatic fluid and its contents to travel. Even very gentle exercise such as yoga still provides movement thus enabling the lymphatic system to maintain cellular fluid levels and provide oxygen, amino acids, and glucose to tissue cells.
8. Low alcohol consumption – It is known that a glass of red wine over dinner has no ill effects (unless you have pre-existing conditions which contra-indicate this). However, excessive alcohol consumption does reduce our immune systems effectiveness. For some the consumption of alcohol can lead to snacking on high calorie, saturated fat dense foods. Therefore, really limiting your alcohol consumption will help prevent unnecessary weight gain and poor food choices.
9. Weight – Maintaining a healthy weight has so many benefits:
- contributes to the ability to exercise
- helps prevent high blood pressure
- self-esteem and motivation are easier to maintain.
- risk of comorbidities associated with excess weight gain are reduced
10. Vitamin C – This vitamin has many roles, but the primary roles are it is involved with growth and repair of tissue and in the development of the immune system, through its antioxidant properties. Interestingly, high sources can be found in leafy green vegetables, offal, bell peppers and yellow and red flesh fruits.
11. Sleep – Plenty of rest, particularly a good night of sleep really does help our body repair and heal.
Ask your GP or healthcare professional any questions if you have any concerns or re-existing conditions. Nutritionists can advise on the appropriate doses if you choose to buy supplements.
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