I am a Clinical Nutritionist and TV Health Journalist. For TEDx 2014, I did a workshop on Food for t...
How to boost your immune system02 August 2012, by Kyrin Hall, PhD
If you find yourself frequently nursing a cold, flu or just generally feeling a bit run down, this may mean you need to support your immune system.
This kamikaze weather poses a daily dilemma between wearing flip flops, a woolly jumper or a raincoat. U-turning from a flash rainstorm to causing one to overheat when alfresco all within a single day.
The fluctuating temperatures can impact immunity. It doesn't necessarily cause one to get a cold, but if there are other stressors in your life, this may be the feather that breaks the camel’s back.
Your immune system defends you against bacteria, viruses and fungi. 70 percent of your immune cells sit in the gut. That’s why digestive issues (e.g. bloating, constipation, parasites, allergies - yes allergies) accompany lowered immune function. Headaches and joint pain may also be present.
Maintaining a healthy immune system is an important way to protect oneself against illnesses.
How can you support your immunity?
Dietary & Lifestyle choices are key. Here are 15 tips that you can incorporate to better support your immunity.
› Reduce your intake of mucus - forming foods
These include cheese, chocolate and full fat dairy products since they may cause inflammation in the body. Mucus can form as a reaction to certain foods you have intolerance to.
› Avoid refined carbohydrate foods
White bread, biscuits, cake etc. are empty calories and offer no nutritional support for the body.
› Reduce stimulants
These include caffeine (colas, coffee and teas), cigarettes, alcohol and sugar. Stimulants artificially "prop" the body up, making us unaware of health danger signals. Try to reduce your intake by 25 percent weekly.
› Increase your antioxidant levels
Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables - to include dark green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits and whole grains. Try to consume at least 5 pieces daily.
› Detoxify the body
Increase your fibre intake, such as brown rice, quinoa, beans and cruciferous vegetables. Fibre binds excess toxins and rids them from the body.
› Eat clean proteins
Choose legumes, tofu, eggs, lean meats or white meats. Proteins are instrumental in tissue and DNA repair.
› Increase your Omega levels
Eat oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring, salmon or plant sources such as linseeds and flax. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that cannot be made by the body, so it needs to come from the diet. It is considered an important anti-inflammatory nutrient that is helpful in cases of depression and impaired immunity.
› Increase your sleep
Allow your body to repair on a cellular level. Aim for a minimum of 7 hours sleep per night.
› Reduce your stress levels
Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, and puts the body in a "fight-or-flight" mode, burdening the system. Time management strategies or journaling can help you develop better clarity and coping skills.
Photo by Flickr user (matt)
Photo by Flickr user Dinner Series
› Engage in regular and moderate exercise
Avoid high intensity workouts if you are feeling "burnt out," this will only increases your free radical (toxic) exposure.
› Increase good bacteria
Take probiotics found in natural yoghurt or supplements. This encourages better gut ecology and supports your immunity.
› Increase your nutrient status
Take a good daily multi-vitamin & mineral supplement: that includes vitamin A, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium and at least 30-60mg of zinc among other nutrients.
When one's immune system is impaired, vitamin C levels in the bloodstream decrease dramatically. Calcium and magnesium are needed for the cells to better absorb vitamin C. Vitamins A and E and zinc support immune function.
› Avoid co-workers / friends who have a cold
The cold virus is contagious...
› Give your immune system a break
Take 15 minutes of quiet time daily, ideally spent outdoors. During this "me" time, take 10 deep breathes to oxygenate your brain and decrease feelings of anxiety.
Drink 1,5 litres of water daily. Water helps the body detoxify.
Photo by Flickr user alexlomas
Recipe for immune boosting shake
› ½ cup oats
› Fruits (choose either berries, pear, apple, banana, these work well)
› Spinach (ignore the colour, it tastes delicious, start with a small amount)
› Natural yoghurt
› Omega oils (fish oil)
› Whey protein powder (optional)
Please feel free to share your stories / tips on how best you deal with your cold / flu or general feelings of tiredness.
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