Changes in seasons are usually the most frequent time for illness to strike as our bodies adapt to the changing environment around us. Whether you are moving into warmer weather or cooler days, maintaining a strong immune system during these transitional times is crucial. By eating a well balanced diet with a focus on certain nutrients, you can can assist your body’s natural immune function to thrive and help to keep you feeling energised and enlivened all year long!
There are many factors that may contribute to the weakening of your immune system. These may include physiological, psychological and emotional stress, lack of regular exercise, lack of sleep, poor diet or nutritional deficiencies. Maintaining optimal nutrition is extremely important in maintaining healthy, strong and balanced. Prevention is always better than a cure, and luckily there are many things you can do to give your body a fighting chance against common infections and illness.
Garlic is one of the most potent of all foods. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for treatment and illness and more recent studies support the fact that garlic does boost the body’s immune system. Cooking garlic can destroy some of its health-promoting compounds so the best way to start including it into your diet is by adding freshly chopped garlic to your meals. If you can’t quite stomach raw garlic, you can also try taking garlic capsules. You can also find organic aged garlic capsules on the market now that offer an even higher dosage of immune boosting properties.
Vitamin C is an extremely important nutrient for boosting immunity. You can add vitamin C to your diet in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage and parsley. Vitamin C increases the activity of infection-fighting white blood cells. Vitamin C not only assists in preventing the common cold, it has also been shown to lessen the duration of the symptoms if you do fall ill.
Believe it or not, Zinc may be the most important mineral for your immune system. A Zinc deficiency can cause a weakened immune response, predisposing you to a more lengthy or severe cold. In fact, optimal zinc levels have been found to inhibit the common cold virus. Zinc is found in foods such as red meat, chicken, fish, dairy foods, eggs, legumes and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Taking a zinc supplement can also be beneficial.
Spirulina is a type of sea algae that is considered a superfood due to its extraordinary health-promoting elements. Spirulina can stimulate immune function; it is anti-cancerous and rich in nutrients such as iron and selenium which act as powerful antioxidants in the body. Spirulina can be added to your food or drinks as a powder or taken in capsule or tablet form. The flavour can be intense at first! But adding it to smoothies is a good way to enjoy spirulina if you are taking the power form.
Hot and spicy foods such as ginger, chilli, garlic, wasabi and horseradish are all fantastic for your immune system, so try to use them liberally in your cooking! Make stir-frys with ginger, chilli and garlic, add some wasabi to sushi or vegetables, enjoy Thai hot soups and add some extra crushed garlic to your dips and dressings.
Avoid inflammatory and processed foods
Avoiding foods that cause harm to your body will support your immune system greatly. Try to avoid fried foods, high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugars, trans fats or chemical additives and preservatives. These foods all cause inflammation in the body and their acidic nature requires the body to work overtime to expel their harmful effects. Foods and substances such as alcohol, coffee and excessive meat consumption also take a big toll on the body- so try to limit these foods as much as possible.
Natural supplements are now commonly available that help to boost your immune system. There are some key herbs that naturopaths and herbalists commonly use and advise to offer protection against colds and flu, including astragalus, andrographis, Echinacea and olive leaf. When a cold or flu strikes, try using natural supplements to help support and boost your body’s natural immune function. They can help reduce symptoms, lessen the duration of illness, and also build your body’s defences up- as opposed to antibiotics which actually weaken the body’s immune system and defences.
Take Time Out
Believe it or not, taking time out to rest and relax does wonders for our immune system! Stress plays a vital role in our bodies’ immune function and can be a leading cause in all kinds of illness from the common cold to more serious and life-threatening disease. If you do fall ill, make sure you take time out rather than pushing through. The body needs time to heal, rest and recuperate. If you do not listen to your body and fight on before you properly heal, chances are you will face an ongoing battle with infection.
Maintaining an active lifestyle also does our body the world of good. Try to exercise regularly and get your heart and blood pumping every day! When you feel sickness coming on, a high-intensity workout obviously isn’t a good idea, as hard training forces the body to do a lot of recovery at a time when your body needs all of its energy to try and fight off the oncoming sickness. If you start to feel under the weather, switch to light-intensity exercise such as walking or yoga.
Plenty of H20
Try to make sure you are fuelling your body with at least eight glasses of water per day. Dehydration will inhibit the body’s ability to flush out stored toxins and also leave you with a sluggish digestion. If you find that you are drinking much less water in winter, try to increase your liquids with extra herbal tea. Having a water bottle on hand or at your desk is a great way to make sure you always have water close by!
Speaking of herbal tea, there is evidence that herbal tea, especially green tea and chamomile tea, can help strengthen the immune system. Herbal tea contains powerful antioxidants and other properties that are unique to each tea. Also try Echinacea tea or a mix of ginger, lemon and honey. Fluids, especially hot herbal teas are fantastic for your immune system – they help boost along your lymphatic system, thin down mucus and keep you well hydrated.
Seventy percent of your immune system lies in your gut flora and a healthy balance of friendly organisms is essential to protect you against pathogens and sickness. For this reason, taking a daily probiotic is always beneficial. Also try including more probiotic-rich foods into your diet such as kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and fermented coconut yogurt.
Vitamin D can be powerful in strengthening of your immune system. The sun is the absolute best source of Vitamin D however you can also take natural vitamin D either cod liver oil or an oil-based D3. The best food sources of natural vitamin D are egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, organ meats, and some mushrooms. However getting outside into the fresh air and sunshine is always the best option! So enjoy whenever you can!
Recipe- Immune Boosting Green Detox Soup
This soup is a fabulous way to get a good dose of veggies, as well as the healing properties in garlic, and the natural probiotic in fermented cashew cheese! This soup is designed to be eaten as a cool soup to maintain all the nutrients, but if you are moving into winter, you can certainly heat this soup gently before serving.
1 cup roughly chopped kale
1 cup mixed green leafy herbs (basil/coriander/mint)
2 celery stalks roughly chopped
1 large ripe avocado
2 small garlic cloves
1 zucchini roughly chopped
½ cucumber roughly chopped
¼ leek sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon tamari
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ inch piece of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
2 cups cold filtered water
1 teaspoon of raw fermented cashew cheese to top each bowl.
Simply place all ingredients in your blender and blend until super smooth. If you want the soup a little thinner (its quite thick) simply add some more water until you reach your desired consistency. You are also welcome to warm this soup slightly if you would prefer. Just warm on a stovetop in a saucepan after blending until it is just warm to touch.
Garnish with cashew cheese, sprouts, chilli and herbs.
Makes 2 large or 4 smaller serves.
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