>> IMMUNE BOOSTING ALWAYS
We typically think of protecting our immune systems to be something we need to think about in winter. We wait until we get signs of a bug and then make an effort to wrap up warm, have a few early nights or maybe we just opt for orange juice in place of the usual tonic in our vodka – for all that vitamin C ;). All good choices, but probably not the best way to keep our immune systems strong.
The trouble with that method is that its tougher to get your immune system to jump into action when its already under attack. It also neglects the other 9 months of the year when you are just as susceptible to disease.
We are exposed to organisms as soon as we walk out the door. On top of that, our own bodies make BILLIONS of new cells everyday, some of which will inevitably mutate. Our immune system is always on the look out for any of these troublesome organisms, and the strength of it determines whether any of them become disease, and make us sick.
This can happen at any time of year, its not exclusive to winter, and it isn’t just about keeping a cold at bay. Our immune system is responsible for fighting off any disease trying to make your body its home. So, as we head into spring it is just as important we don’t neglect ourselves.
I’ve had to work extra hard to keep my immune system on guard this past year and have tried and tested multiple remedies and supplements as part of my daily routine to ward off any nasty bugs, mainly because chemo weakens your immune system and so puts you at a higher risk, but also for fighting off the cancer itself.
What I know most importantly is the power of our gut health for keeping our immune system in check, and this is even more apparent when I think back to 8 years of suffering with IBS and realising how much sicker I was whilst going through that.
80% of our immune system lives down there in our gut, so the diet we eat and how we maintain the friendly bacteria within our gut has a huge impact on our immune system, and increasing the number of white blood cells.
Eating a good diet that includes anti-inflammatory, vitamin rich, vegetables and spices that are high in antioxidants, all year round, is the best strategy for immune boosting, and doing this will automatically support healthy immune function.
So I’ve put together a list of the top 10 things that I have been doing over the last year that I have easily incorporated into my lifestyle, that I believe has helped keep me healthy over the last year even whilst I was being plied with chemo drugs.
(I realised as I wrote this that I have way more than 10, so make sure to get through to the bottom with my favourite immune booster Buddah Bowl that I eat regularly that contains most of the other little bits!)
I use ginger in my daily juices, and with a slice of lemon in my first morning tea. It is also great for digestion so having ginger tea before meals really helps break down your food for better digestion.
Ginger has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries for its immune boosting properties due to being loaded with antioxidants. It is also known to help break down toxins in our organs and helps flush out unwanted waste through our lymphatic system.
An Ayurvedic super-spice! This probably needs very little explanation, but Turmeric contains a compound called Curcumin which is an extremely powerful anti-inflammatory. Specifically it activates the production of t-cells which are the cells within our immune systems responsible for fighting against disease.
I use turmeric liberally in a lot of my food, but try and use it raw wherever I can. Its much better if you can avoid heating it directly because the properties can be lost during the process. Its also best to use black pepper alongside turmeric to boost absorption.
Turmeric lattes are my favourite way to take turmeric or just as a simple tea, and you can blend in loads of different herbs and spices to counter the flavour. However it is also something that is easily supplemented if your struggling to get it into your food, or you just don’t like the taste.
WARNING – have a special ‘turmeric utensil kit’. It will stain your entire house yellow!
As the majority of our immune system does live in our gut, keeping our gut healthy is key and probiotics are a great way to do this. Probiotics are lost from our gut through bad diet, fluoridated water and antibiotics, to name a few, all which all promote bad bacteria.
Supplements are really beneficial for some but can be to strong for others so make sure to seek advice before taking anything too strong. They can also be pretty pricey long term. Eating probiotic rich foods on a regular basis is a great way to maintain the balance of bacteria and also help with digestion and detoxification of our gut.
I try to incorporate some fermented foods as part of my daily diet, whether that be adding kimchi or sauerkraut to a salad or using apple cider vinegar within a dressing. Also drinking kombucha is a brilliant source of probiotics, and the tastiest way. All these things are really easy to make yourself too!
Mushroom are immune boosting powerhouses and are great for balancing our immune systems. However, there are over 10,000 different types of mushroom so its not just about filling your spag bol with chesunt mushrooms, although they are a great source of vitamins so eat them too! The best properties lie in the rarer types.
Medicinal mushroom are great for so many things and each has their own individual uses. I won’t go into that here because I think mushrooms deserves their own post! But when talking immune system the best are;
Shitake, Turkey tail, Maitake, Cordyceps, Tremella
These are all shown to boost t-cells and also act as anti-inflammatories. Apart from Shitake, which are readily available as an mushroom so can be added to your meals, the rest can be bought as powders, or in supplement form.
The all taste different, but generally they are quite bitter so I mix them a lot with other flavours in a hot drink if you not into it. Adding hot milk and coaco is my favourite, or they can be added to smoothies, or just sprinkled on food if you dare!
Blueberries contain flavonoids that have antioxidant properties as we probably all know. These help boost your immune system and attack any free radicals which are trying to suppress it.
Studies have also shown that flavonoids also play a role in the immune defense of the respiratory tract and people who eat flavonoid rich foods are less likely to get respiratory infections or the common cold.
I have at least one handful of blueberries everyday, either with my breakfast as a topping, in a smoothie or just as a snack throughout the day.
Green tea also contains flavonoids which helps strengthen the immune system. So regular cups of green tea as a substitutes for tea of coffee is great!
≫ AMLA POWDER
Considered to be one of the highest vitamin C content foods out there, amla is from the Indian gooseberry and is a major component of the ayurvedic supplement chawanprash which is used for immunity.
The level of vitamin C is so high that it is found in both fresh and dried amla, compared to a lot of foods that loose their vitamin C through cooking.
Amla is antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti inflammatory!
I take roughly a teaspoon of amla powder a day in juices or just in water in the mornings.
≫ BROCCOLI & BROCOLLI SPROUTS
Broccoli is another great source of vitamin C, and also contains powerful chemicals such as sulforaphane, which is thought to turn on antioxidants and immune cells to fight off free radicals. For this reason, it is a great choice of vegetable to eat regularly to support immune system health, however you choose to prepare it.
I eat broccoli almost daily, if not cooked in food then in juices.
Broccoli sprouts are one step more intense and provide great amounts of sulforaphane so are a great snack, salad topper, if you can get your hands on them, or want to grow them yourself. This is my next ‘good life’ project.
≫ PUMPKIN SEEDS (ZINC)
Zinc is essential for the immune system. It has been shown to have a natural ability to strengthen immune function and maintain levels of white blood cells that protect from illness and infection so eating zinc rich foods is a great way to maintain strong immune function.
There are tons of foods with good levels of zinc, for example dark chocolate, chickpeas. Pumpkin seeds are filled with this great mineral and so easy to just throw on salads, smoothie bowls, porridge or just snack on throughout the dayto help restore optimal levels of zinc in the body.
“An immune system without zinc is like an army without soldiers”.
Mediation isn’t just about helping you relax, although it is great for that, there are also some real physical benefits, and supporting your immune system is just one of them.
There are so many studies that have been done to try and understand how and why this happens, and the mind-body connection is still something that is still being discovered.
It is thought that mediation increases activity in the area of your brain that acts as the command centre for your immune system helping it work more effectively and produce more defense cells.
Studies have also show that meditators have significantly higher levels of antibodies in the blood that fight infections and illness. This is because stress in the body decreases these levels and so working on lowering your stress will help increase these levels.
Just 10 minutes of sitting in the morning, before you engage with the day, to have time with your own thoughts is a great start to meditation if you don’t already. Also making sure to manage any chronic stress in your life and get the rest that you need to limit stress on the body.
≫ EXERCISE & BREATHING
Even just small amounts of movement every day can help upregulate your immune function. It also helps lower stress hormones as mentioned above.
As you heart rate rises, and your circulation improves so does the circulation and movement of your immune cells. Doing just a small amount of exercise everyday can keep your immune cells on the look out for any potential issues. Equally if you are already sick, getting up and moving can help get those cells back into action.
Breathing exercises are also really powerful for strengthening your immune system and this is something I do as part of my daily exercise practice. Deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing for a few round each morning will help counteract all the stresses that we take on throughout the days and helps to rebalance the nervous system which in turn then helps to regulate immune function.
Just be careful to not overdo it. Too much exercise can actually put you into low level chronic stress!
〰️ IMMUNE BOOSTER BUDDAH BOWL
There are so many other great foods that are part of most of our daily diets that when eaten regularly are a great source of support for our immune system. This buddha bowl has become a staple.
All of these items are great for you! Each one is great for your immune system in its own right so together this is like the supergroup of the healthy foods! If there something you don’t like, skip it and add more of something else.
No method required, it’s a salad, quantities can be whatever you want!
∙ Broccoli – however you like it cooked. I blanche, then roast for 5-10 minutes
∙ Sweet Potato – roasted for about 20 minutes. I like to either slice or cut into chunks
∙ Red pepper
∙ Sauerkraut or Kimchi
∙ Sunflower seeds
∙ Pumpkin Seeds
∙ Garlic – for cooking with broccoli and sweet potato
∙ Lemon – for dressing
∙ Tahini – for dressing
∙ Broccoli Sprouts
∙ Avocado – this is not specifically for immune boosting, but if just all round great for you.
*Add apple cider vinegar to the dressing if you are not adding sauerkraut or kimchi.