10 Tips to boost your immunity naturally
Antioxidants (polyphenols) in fruits and vegetables fight off viruses and boost immunity. Get them concentrated and unprocessed (raw) in a single drink. Simple. My top 10: redcurrants, cranberry, blueberries, pomegranates, lemon, celery, cucumber, spinach, ginger, kale. Fresh or frozen. In the picture: frozen redcurrants, frozen pineapple, spinach, ginger, lemon. Make it daily, morning or afternoon.
From the common cold to fight virus-induced respiratory infections, vitamin C is an immunological ally. Many people do not realise that 1 cup of kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbage provide roughly 80mg of vitamin C (100% of the RDA!). You may lose up to half of that by cooking. Still that is fairly good. Other less familiar sources: bell peppers, spinach, peas, parsley, thyme.
KALE & CHICKPEA salad:
• Kale, 1 bunch stem removed, finely chopped (vit C)
• 1 Red pepper, deseeded, diced (vit C)
• Chickpea, 1 can, well rinsed
• Cherry tomatoes, 1 pack, chopped in half (vit C)
• Pomegranate seeds (optional) (vit C)
• 1 Lemon (vit C)
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Pomegranate molasses, 2tbsp (vit C)
• Juice of 1 orange (vit C)
• Maple syrup, 1 tbsp
• Tamari or soy sauce, 1 tbsp
leave the kale marinating in the lemon juice while you make the dressing. Toss all ingredients together. Season to taste.
Vitamin D levels can impact the likelihood of getting an infection. How to get sufficient levels during Winter months and particularly with the current recommendations to stay indoors? One serving of mushrooms (especially commercial mushrooms exposed to UV light) gives you the RDA of vitamin D (200IU). When combined with other Winter root veg, such as sweet potatoes (vitamin A) and beetroots (folate, iron, antioxidants), it becomes a immune boosting meal. I love shiitake mushrooms and regularly use them for broths and soups. Naturally genius.
Minerals such as SELENIUM or ZINC are essential for immunity and defence against viral infections. I often see people struggling keeping their levels up. Simple strategy: eat mineral-rich foods like Brazil nuts. A handful of Brazil nuts meet the RDA of selenium (roughly 80mcg/day) plus good amounts of zinc. Versatile: whole, grounded, roasted or turned into nut butter or pesto. Try oven-roast and grind ½ pack of Brazil nuts. Sprinkle over a beetroot and feta salad. Yummy!
70% of your immune system is in the gut in the form of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). So it makes sense to keep the gut microbiota healthy for strong immunity and to stop infections. Gut microbes thrive on different plant fibres. So, a good strategy is to eat a variety of plant-foods on a daily basis. Many of the vegetables we eat have got prebiotic fibres, i.e. leek, onion, garlic, apples, cabbage, celery and most root vegetables. Also, insoluble fibre foods such as flaxseed, beans, nuts and seeds. Probiotic (fermented) foods can also help feed your healthy microbes. Have you tried making fermented cabbage? It’s the simplest!
Stress can depress the immune system making you more likely to get sick. You can be on a nutritious diet but if you don’t rest and relax, your body can’t heal. I have seen this over and over (and I was there before I turned to meditation). Take time off the stressful news and thoughts, find a place or activity that brings you peace and take a deep breath in. Inhale vitality, exhale exhaustion. Inhale safety, exhale uncertainty. Inhale calm, exhale stress. Inhale love, exhale fear. Inhale connection, exhale solitude, etc. Pick your own. A few minutes suffice. I love Thich Nhat Hanh free short meditations, check them out.
We are social beings and we tend to do better in company. Science just confirmed: social isolation and loneliness is felt by the body as an ‘stressor’ which leads to systemic inflammation, low immunity and ultimately puts us on a path to chronic illnesses (DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.02.002). While social isolation is what we need to do right now, we also need to find creative ways to STAY CONNECTED with each other.
- At home, you could practice gratitude with your loved ones, perhaps by caring more, being extra patient or making someone laugh.
- With your social network, you could think of those more vulnerable (i.e. the sick, elderly or living alone) and offer your help.
- With your inner self, you could take the opportunity to reflect on the positive changes that you have been able to make since the lockdown, like resting more, having time to declutter your home/inbox or eating one more vegetable.
It is a win-win. Reaching out to reach in.
Aromatic herbs and spices do not only belong to the kitchen. Most can recall our grandmother’s concoction involving some garlic, honey or ginger. Most herbs help fight off viruses, bacteria and bring down inflammation as they contain the type of nutrients vit. C, folate, iron, vit.K that support our immunity. Just by sprinkling 1-2 tablespoons (3-6g) of thyme, parsley or dill over your meals, you can add up to 6mg of vitamin C. My favourites infection fighters: clove, black pepper, rosemary, sage, ginger and onion and garlic. Versatile: sprinkle them, make a tea, grind or add them to a smoothie.
Mucosal surfaces in the nose, sinus, mouth and eyes are the first line of defence against viral and bacterial infections (bugs tend to stick on lung and gut membranes too). As a general rule, humidity helps to free up mucosal surfaces so that we can eliminate pathogens quickly. Diffuse tea tree essential oil for 30min in a closed room with a humidifier or better inhale for 15min several times a day. Saunas (steam or infrared) are also a great way to sweat out and cleanse your skin and respiratory passages. Alternatively, sink into a rosemary bath. Boil 4 stalks of fresh rosemary or thyme in a litre of water for about 15min. Pour onto a hot bath, get in and relax. Allow this practice twice to three times a week for a few weeks. You will feel rejuvenated and uplifted. Maybe it is time for a Spring cleanse…
The current reality has come as a reminder of what is really important, i.e. family, friends, community and HEALTH. What we can do to keep ourselves healthy? Well, we can’t get rid of all the viruses and bacteria out there but we can build RESILIENCE, so that in the event of exposure to any bug our bodies can arm a strong response or if we get sick, our symptoms are minimal. If we CULTIVATE THE TERRAIN with a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE, just like we attend to a garden that is well kept and nourished, the roots of our health will become stronger. And I leave you with this reflection at the end of this series. I hope I have inspired you. Keep well and healthy!
Please note: this content is for informational purposes only. The aim is to inspire and motivate you towards healthier lifestyle choices.
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