So we cannot get away from talk about COVID-19. Let’s keep it simple though and talk about our IMMUNE SYSTEM. Having a healthy and happy immune system will help us to fight off the virus should we need to so let’s discuss! I have been chatting with Sophie Beddard (DipCNM) is a qualified nutritional therapist after studying with the College of Naturopathic Medicine.
- Step up the veggies
The most obvious but most important. Aim to eat a variety of different coloured foods with every meal. Yellow, orange, red fruits and veggies including leafy greens (spinach kale, collard greens) are rich in immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants including Vitamin C, Beta carotene and Zinc. These nutrients regulate and balance the immune system and can reduce symptoms of respiratory infection, whilst being effective in blocking viruses from multiplying. Be adventurous and throw some veggies into a smoothie! Here is a great Green Energy Smoothie recipe for you!
2. Stay away from the cookie jar
Bored and stressed? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but consuming too much sugar weakens the immune system cells we need to defend against bad bacteria. Try to curb your sweet tooth by embracing berries, apples, citrus fruits and red grapes. There are lots of online recipes online on how to make healthy sweet treats which can be a fun activity with the kids.
Try these Rasberry and Banana Cookies. You only need 4 ingredients and they taste amazing!
3. Introduce probiotic-rich foods
70-80% of our immune system is located in our gut! This means it is so important to keep the gut as healthy as possible. One way to do this is by consuming probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, cultured live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha. Other important and every day foods include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus to create a rainbow diet which will help feed that beneficial bacteria to grow. When ingested, the beneficial bacteria populate the intestinal tract and begin to interact with the body in a positive way by training the immune system, manufacturing vitamins and keeping unfavourable bacteria at bay.
Supplementing your diet with a probiotic is also extremely beneficial. Sophie’s recommended brands are Udos and Biocare.
There’s a great programme on Diet and Gut Bacteria that was recently aired on Channel 4! Definitely worth a watch. Fascinating stuff!
3. Keep Hydrated
We need to stay properly hydrated for our body to function optimally and this goes for our immune system too. Regular water intake can even help to wash any lingering pathogens in the throat down into digestive tract. Once there the stomach acid will kill these off. If you become under the weather, fluid keeps the mucous loose and the membranes moist, allowing you to expel excess mucous and phlegm. Bear in mind that alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeine-containing beverages don’t count as water. Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine acts to remove water from your body, while also leaching water-soluble vitamins and minerals at the same time. Start to introduce immune boosting herbal teas such as ginger, peppermint and echinacea.
4. Address the stress
Easier said than done, I know! It’s impossible to lead a completely stress free life, now more than ever we need to prioritise our daily self-care and relaxation. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), and increases the production of cortisol and adrenaline. While we need this sometimes to run away from the ‘lion’, prolonged stress can supress protective immune responses and increase inflammation within the body. We want to spend more time in the parasympathetic nervous system state (rest and digest). While it’s unrealistic to say goodbye to stress completely, it can be managed through deep breathing exercise and moderate exercise.
Don’t be overwhelmed and try and fit too many things into one day. Make a list of 5 things to focus on whilst you’re staying at home and try to focus on just these. Keep things simple.
4. Exercise, but not too much
Daily exercise relieves stress and assists the body in the elimination of toxins, including viruses and bacteria. Make an effort to take breaks from whatever you’re doing indoors to do a set of push-ups or run up and down the stairs. Here’s an interesting fact for you, studies suggest that if we exercise in nature, we tend to exercise for longer. People who exercise in the outdoors on a regular basis have higher levels of a hormone called serotonin. This reduces tiredness and helps keep us in a happier mood. Here is the part you will really like though….Be mindful of the amount of exercise you are doing. Too much can reduce immunity especially if you aren’t feeling too well to start with. So in theory, too much exercise is not good for your immunity!
5. Focus on improving your sleep routine
For our body to rest, repair, heal and function optimally, we need sleep. This can be easier said than done with little ones of course. Take this time to slow down and focus on implementing a bed time routine. Regulating our natural circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) is imperative when it comes to immune health. Limit exposure to blue light from devices such as phones, T.V. and computers in the evening. These reduce melatonin production (our sleep hormone) which can then significantly affect sleep quality. Turn off the WIFI in your home when you’re sleeping and leave your phone in another room. EMF’s (electromagnetic fields) from these devices may disturb the immune system.
Have an evening bath with relaxing essential oils and magnesium salts. The magnesium found in the salts are absorbed through the skin and help promote a feeling of calm and relaxation. Magnesium can aid sleep quality by regulating melatonin (our sleep hormone) and GABA production (our calming hormone).
6. Be in Nature
Making the most of being at home and look for opportunities to get back into nature. Trees emit certain chemicals (phytoncides) that have been shown to have a positive effect on immunity. Have your morning cup of tea in the garden. Go outside if you need to make a phone call. Natural daylight exposure is great for your body clock, helping you feel more awake and helping your sleep better.
Supplementation can also be a helpful tool to support the immune system. Visit AMARANTH for more information or if you are in need of any supplements during this lockdown period. Amaranth are also making local home deliveries.
Hope this has been helpful! I am going to be bringing you some great and easy family meal recipes later on this week so keep your eyes peeled!