This was an article I wrote last year in the midst of the Aussie winter. Now as we face the Coronaviris pandemic I feel it was important to recirculate this.
Before we dive into the original article I would just like to make a few of comments
- This is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection. This means that antibiotics won’t work against this.
- The suggestions in the article are not a viral proof plan. They are designed to strengthen your immune system, which could mean that you may not get a virus or it may help you fight the infection quicker and not let it take hold as much.
- Washing your hands and wiping down hard surfaces are critical. And I mean properly washing your hands, with soap and water. Here is a link to how to thoroughly wash your hand. These are the two places where viruses will live and spread
- Once the threat of this is over, please relax the extreme cleaning. Our bodies immune system relies on being faced with different bacterias and viruses to keep it strong, it’s how we build immunity. Keep focusing on keeping your immune system strong but relax the concern regarding the exposure.
Boost Your Immune System
Our immune system doesn’t really get given a thought until we or those around us become struck down with a cold, cough or sore throat. It’s then we start thinking ‘How can I boost my immune system?’ As we head into winter I feel like it’s the perfect for a timely reminder that we need to keep our immune system robust. And not just when we become ill. So let’s boost your immune system!
Many people focus on Vitamin C and whilst this is absolutely important, there are so many other foods we can eat to help our immune system do it’s thing.
First and most important in my mind is protein. This is because immunoglobulins, better know as antibodies responsible in aiding in the destruction of bacteria and viruses, are protein. The protein in our bodies are made from the proteins we eat.
This doesn’t mean we need to head out and pile up our plates with meat. The average person requires around 0.8-1g of protein per kilo of body weight – so you if you weigh 70kg you would need 56-70g of protein. To give you an idea of what this would look like it, the following is the amount of protein in a 100g
- steak or salmon is 20-25g,
- chicken 20g,
- tempeh 15-20g
- 1 cup of beans/lentils 15-18g.
This is why ensuring that you are having a serve of protein with each meal is a great habit to get into. It is also vital that you have different sources of protein to ensure you are getting the variety of amino acids you need.
Ensure the protein you choose is of good quality. Like us, animals store toxins and excess food in and as fat. So if you are purchasing meat that is fed with GMO feed, lots of cheap unhealthy grains or are ‘factory-farmed’ this can impact the quality of the meat you eat. As everything we eat is broken down to be used by the body we want to be choosing quality food. Remember always choose quality over quantity.
Mushrooms are the often forgotten heroes of the immune system. These guys are immune-modulating. This means they can up regulate or down regulate the immune system. Shiitake mushrooms are the most studied for this effect. Like all of our foods eating a variety of mushrooms gives us lots of different benefits. Mushrooms also contain proteoglycans which are known for their anti-viral properties.
Other foods that have antiviral components are
We all have heard that Vitamin C is amazing for boosting the immune system. I’m not going to dive too deep into this. What I would like to mention is that absorption of vitamin C decreases with the amount your take. This means if you are supplementing take it throughout the day. It is also abundant in the food we eat – not just oranges.
Capsicum (or peppers if you are in the Northern Hemisphere) is the food highest in vitamin C. Choose nice ripe red capsicums and add this to your meals. This is followed by Kiwi fruit, broccoli and papaya. Oranges actually come in 7th! This is why I’m always banging on about eating a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Consuming antimicrobial foods will help your body increase it’s defenses against any nasties that manage to make it into your system. These foods are
- Onion – around 1/2 an onion a day will have therapeutic effects
- Garlic – best consumed raw. So think about having these in a dressing with olive oil and lemon and you’ve got a great little immune booster
- Olive oil
- Cinnamon – antimicrobial in the mouth. So if you can get a toothpaste with this in it will help kill any baddies or consuming it as a tea.
I cannot recommend enough making up this recipe – Immune Boosting Honey. This contains a very heafty dose of antimicrobials as well as being antiviral. Honestly everyone I have given this to has seen the benefits. The ultimate Food As Medicine!
Optimise your gut health. 80% of our immune system is on the outside of our digestive system. If our digestive system is inflammed this can signal to our immune system to upregulate and direct resources away from other areas of our body, like our respiratory system, to fight what is happening in our digestive tract. There are specific strains of probiotics that can be used for respiratory and gut inflammation. These should be prescribed after a consultation with a nutritionist who has a thorough understanding.
Having robust stomach acid will also ensure that any nasties that do get in can be killed. See my post here for how to make sure you have a firey stomach.
There is also an immunoglobulin (IgA) that lives in the mucosa of both the digestive tract and the respiratory tract. When you have adequate IgA there is a 67% increase in your body fighting off pathogens. The easiest way to alter (postively or negatively) your IgA is through keeping your stress in check. Stressing will literally decrease your IgA by 50%.
For overall good gut (and general) health ensure you are consuming lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, good quality meats and healthy fats. Limit those foods that are devoid of nutrients – processed foods and drinks. Include foods that help feed your gut microbiome such as onions, garlic and asparagus and foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pot set yoghurt with live cultures to increase the diversity of your gut microbiome.
Strengthen your Respiratory System
Strengthening your respiratory system is much like strengthening a muscle, You need to exercise it. Breath work is amazing for this. It will also help with stress and anxiety symptoms. The Buteyko breathing method has been shown to improve the respiratory function of those with asthma. Here is a link to how to perform this. Buteyko Breathing. Performing any breathing exercise will help.
Last but not least is Vitamin D! Sunshine! This is my favourite one! Yes we may be in winter. Yes if you are feeling under the weather you may not want to do much. But get outside. Get the sun on your skin. I cannot tell you how much this is necessary for your immune system. It is also vital to lift your spirits. If you can take your shoes off and feel the ground contacting with your feet. A very important factor in overall health and wellness.
If you would like extra support with your immune system please reach out. My passion for gut health and inflammation are vital components of your immune response and together we can boost your immune system.
I have also written a little piece around the Coronavirus from a more emotional perspective. If you would like to read that you will find it here – Is there a greater message in the Coronavirus outbreak?