Immune boosters - apart from Vit C and Zinc...
Updated: Jan 25, 2019
It's that time of year. I’ve just had son #1 off school with a stomach bug, my husband has been feeling sub-par for a few days and even I’ve got a dripping nose. Most of us know that Vitamin C (peppers, citrus, kiwis, blackcurrants, leafy greens) and zinc (meat, shellfish, legumes, pumpkin seeds) are supportive nutrients for the immune system, but what other things could we be doing to thwart the bugs that bring us down?
Support your digestive system. Whether it’s killing off harmful microbes with stomach acid, friendly gut bacteria educating our immune cells, or the mucous lining of our intestines keeping pathogens at bay, the digestive system is crucial to immune health. As it’s constantly exposed to substances from the outside world, around 70% - 80% of the immune system is housed in our gut. Ways to support it start with the basics of chewing well, not drinking lots of water with meals and choosing unprocessed foods with a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. It’s also important to give the digestive tract a rest which we can do by not eating or drinking calorific drinks for 12 hours in every 24 (e.g. 7pm to 7am).
Eat lots of mushrooms. Mushrooms contain substances called betaglucans (as do oats and barley) that boost the cells that gobble pathogens up, and our natural killer cells. Although natural killer cells don’t sound very friendly, they are constant protectors - killing cells that have been taken over by viruses. Even your average white button mushroom contains betaglucans, but for some more exotic options you could try one of the grow-your-own kits (huge success as a present for my Dad…) or a mushroom cacao drink. I predict that the whole medicinal mushroom concept is going to take off hugely in the next year or two.
Supplement with Vitamin D in the winter. Clinical trials indicate that Vitamin D supplementation can help prevent the common cold and even the government advises that we should all take Vitamin D in the winter months. If you’re not doing this, I strongly suggest that you look for a good quality D3 supplement and take it regularly.
Thymus tapping. Your thymus gland is located behind your breastbone and is where the the T-cells of our immune system learn their stuff. These cells need to learn how to distinguish between harmful external cells and the cells of our body so that they don’t start attacking our own tissues. This gland shrinks as we age, and in order to wake it up and encourage T-cell production, a bit of tapping is thought to help. To do this, find your breastbone, go up about 3 inches, and then tap firmly there (imagine Tarzan beating his chest - that’s the right location) for about 30 seconds at a time. This is one of those things where there are no clinical studies to prove that they work, but it’s risk free, takes less than a minute and might help - so why not add it to your daily routine?
Use lots of garlic and ginger in cooking. Ginger helps protect the mucous lining of our intestines that is a crucial barrier against pathogens, and is also good to use if some sort of gastrointestinal bug has hit as it can help with nausea and vomiting. In those cases, try a tea infused with fresh ginger root, or some bone broth warmed up with slices of ginger. Garlic is a known antimicrobial, but for it to be effective, it shouldn’t be cooked for a long period. To keep it as potent as possible, chop or crush onto a saucer, leave for 10 minutes, and add at the end of cooking a soup or stew. Or you can use it raw in salad dressings.
Finally, bone broth! The magic elixir of wellness gurus around the world - with good reason. As well as containing nutrients to support our gut health, researchers found that chicken broth shortens the duration of upper-respiratory tract infections (i.e. colds). This is a great case of a folk-remedy being proven to be effective! If you have a slow cooker, making bone broth is super-easy. Just take the bones from a roast organic chicken throw in the pot, add 2 tablespoons of vinegar, a halved onion, a carrot and a couple of celery sticks, cover with water, set to high, and leave to cook for 36 hours. You can drink it as is, flavour with ginger and garlic or use as a great tasting base for soups and stews.
I hope that everyone reading along gets through the rest of the winter in robust form. As ever, I love hearing what other people do to support their health, so if you have any immune boosting tips, please share them on my facebook page.