Each of us is different and will have different nutritional and lifestyle needs to keep our own personal immune system functioning at it's absolute best. What I can tell you is that stress will be your biggest immune depressant so anything that can downgrade this, will help your immunity.
We can do a few other things to help protect us against the viruses that tend to circulate a little more freely at this time of the year, so I've rounded up my top ten immune boosting tips!
You may be able to put a few of them into practice to help you and your family stay as healthy as possible this season.
1) Get your Gut Healthy!
Most of your immune cells lie within the gut mucosal lining! So keeping that in tip top shape will have you ahead of the game from the start. Use daily probiotics in the form of capsules, powder, yoghurt, kefir, kombucha and cultured vegetables. There are many things you can do to keep your gut healthy and you can refer to a list of things to keep your gut healthy which is part of my gut health series. To read this list, go HERE.
2) Garlic, Garlic, Garlic!
There is an active constituent in garlic called Allicin. This pytochemical or plant compound has ant-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-mircobial properties. Make sure you source good quality organic garlic. Some of the garlic you see in the supermarkets is blinding white! This garlic might possibly be bleached. I'm not kidding you! Some garlic (especially from China) is grown in all manner of things, including faeces! So please look for organic purple garlic and you'll be right! 😉
To get the allicin out of the garlic, crushing it so the juice comes out is the best way to consume it. So when using garlic in cooking, make sure you crush or chop your garlic and leave it for 10 minutes before adding to the heat. This will give the garlic time to form the strong allicin properties which will remain stable through the cooking process.
Alternatively, stir into your soups, casseroles, stir fries, slow cooked meals etc. after they have come off the heat and just before serving. You can also add crushed garlic to some extra virgin olive oil, lemon and apple cider vinegar and use this to dress pasta, rice, vegetables and salads. It's also a component of my 'Jungle Juice' which I will give you the recipe for at the end of these tips.
For people who can't ingest garlic in their diets or the Jungle Juice due to sensitive digestion or even little kids who don't like the taste, you can get it into the system another way....
Now before you say, "what the???" - hear me out!
We absorb a lot via our skin and so absorption through the soles of our feet is very effective. So, what you do is get some coconut oil (about 30ml) in a bowl and crush one clove of garlic for a child or two cloves for an adult and stir it around a little. Then on nice clean feet, apply this oil and pop socks on. Leave overnight or all day if possible. It will go right through your system, you will even smell garlic on your breath the next day even without eating it!
DON'T PUT GARLIC STRAIGHT ONTO FEET WITHOUT MIXING IN OIL- IT CAN BURN!
3) Vitamin C
And plenty of it! You can get it in your diet from foods such as kiwi fruit, citrus, all berries and green leafy vegetables, pineapple, parsley, broccoli and capsicum.
Taking an added Vitamin C supplement for your immune system daily as well as your dietary intake is still a good idea especially in the lead up to winter. It not only helps with immunity, but the health of your cardiovascular system and skin.
You can take a Vitamin C tablet, but make sure it is a good quality one sourced from rosehip or take a powdered food form. Look at ones like Nutra Organics C Berry Blast for little kids and just mix in water or coconut water. For adults and older kids, look at Changing Habits Camu Camu powder which can go in smoothies or juices.
I also LOVE and use Liposomal Vitamin C if you can get hold of that from your naturopath, healthfood store or pharmacy. It's a liquid form that is really well absorbed by our cells.
Zinc is an extremely important mineral for proper immune function. Good dietary sources are beef, ginger, oysters, whole grains and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. It is also available in tablets and drops and often times, you will find that you can buy Zinc and Vitamin C together.
5) Vitamin D
Another pivotal vitamin when it comes to ensuring our immune system is working correctly and unfortunately these days, is found to be quite deficient in a lot of people. Dietary sources are fish liver oils from cod, halibut, herring and tuna (remember getting dosed with a tspn of cod liver oil as a kid?). It can be bought in capsule form these days as well as liquid.
You will also find it in egg yolk, milk and sprouted seeds. Vitamin D is actually made by the synthesized action of sunlight on our skin so especially in the winter months, it is important to have skin exposed without suncream (GASP!) for at least 10 minutes a day. This will not only help with your body's production of Vitamin D but lift your serotonin as well (happy hormone!)
There are quite a few herbs that help with not only reducing the likelihood of you getting sick, but also help lessen the severity and duration should you catch a dreaded lurgy that's going around. Some herbs do this by either:
1) increasing your white blood cell count (your first line of defence). The most popular ones are Echinacea, Andrographis and Astragalus.
2) helping your body adapt to stressors, as stress is a huge immune suppressant. Herbs such as Siberian Ginseng, Withania and Rehmannia are fabulous for this.
3) or there are others that work directly on the pathogen by being anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial - my favourites are garlic (of course), golden seal and Olive Leaf Extract.
4) Mushrooms! If you see mushroom extract capsules or powders when you are looking at supplements, don't be afraid to give them a go! Mushrooms contain powerful compounds that enhance and balance your body's ability to fight disease and stay healthy. They are jam-packed with healing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components that destroy infections, slow down ageing and regenerate nerve cells.
Herbs either come in their dried form which you can take as a tea, tablets or capsules which are the next strongest and for the most effective, liquid extract form.
This is a hard one, especially for parents with young kids but if you are not getting enough sleep, you will also have suppressed immunity. When we sleep, the body has a chance to repair our cells and remove waste to be excreted the next day. If we don't allow the body adequate time to do this, we are in a constant cycle of catch up, physically and mentally and that will take its toll. So get to bed earlier and try to aim for 8 hours a night. To read more about getting a better sleep, you can read my All About Sleep blog HERE.
Again, easier said than done sometimes but so, so crucial to keeping the immune system functioning properly. Being in a state of stress means that our levels of cortisol and adrenaline are high, which in turn suppresses immunity. These hormones can save our life as they are responsible for taking blood and nutrients away from our organs to the periphery of the body so we can fling ourselves into action!
But of course, this leaves our organs and glands from being properly nourished (and for short bursts of time that doesn't matter) but for longer periods of time will of course, be no good! So whatever you can do to keep those stress hormones down is like giving your immunity a shot as well.
Exercise especially walking, yoga and tai chi, meditation, taking time out to do things you love doing and that relax you is like taking out an insurance policy on you staying healthy while others get sick around you!
This is also why I focus so much on the Flower Essences to help with our emotional and physical health. Everything that happens to us physically is due to the manifestation of emotions that have been buried and not dealt with properly. To help with stress, I recommend my Chillax Pack.
Please visit this link HERE to have a read about how these blends can help you clear emotional baggage and stay emotionally and physically stronger.
9) Stay away from Sugar!
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that eating a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, good fats and whole grains are food for you right? But did you know that when consuming refined sugar, it is not just added weight that you need to worry about?
Sugar actually fuels all pathogenic activity in the body. Whether you are harbouring a virus, a bacterial infection or fungal overgrowth such as candida, the fastest way to make it bigger and stronger is to feed it sugar. You can actually starve these pathogens by keeping sugar out of the bloodstream so they can't get the better of you!!
10) Bone Broth
An amazing and nourishing way to keep healthy is to get into your bone broth! Make it a source of all your winter soups, casseroles, stews, risottos and simply drink a cup on it's own. Boil your kids pasta and rice in it if they won't have it any other way. Wherever you would usually use stock or water, why not try a broth? You are building up your gut with amino acids from the bone and cartilage and repairing parts of your body that may be weaker and more prone to infection.
I promise if you try to do as much of this as possible and where you can, make some changes, this will be the healthiest Winter you and your family will ever have!
Jungle Juice Recipe!
Take as a preventative if you are around anyone who is sick or use it to treat those nasty colds and flus
You will need:
1 orange, squeezed
1 lemon ,squeezed (if you can't have citrus for any reason, replace the lemon and orange with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar)
2 small cloves of garlic, crushed (don't forget to leave for ten mins before adding boiling water)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
a pinch of cayenne or 1 small chopped fresh or dried red chilli, seeds removed (leave out if you can't do chilli!)
2 teaspoons of raw unprocessed honey
1/2 thumb sized piece of ginger grated (I use a microplane)
Pop it all into a glass, top with boiled water, give it a good stir and drink on down! It's not going to taste fabulous, but it's not too bad (thank goodness for the honey!) and you can sip it slowly if need be which does amazing things for a sore throat!
Drink once daily as a preventative or 2-3 times daily when fighting a virus and don't forget to wear your garlic socks! 😉
Yours in Health,