Due to COVID-19, we’re all taking extra precautions when it comes to staying healthy and avoiding contact with viruses. For most of us, this includes masks, hand sanitizers, social distancing, and limiting our social bubbles. We should also be thinking about improving immune function as it is our primary line of defence against infectious diseases and viruses.
With schools beginning to reopen this week, and many of us either returning to, or continuing work outside of the home, it is inevitable that we’ll come into contact with a higher volume of viruses as our contact with others increases. Not to mention, cold and flu season just around the corner.
One of the best ways to improve your chances of staying healthy is to have your immune system functioning at its best. I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite immune-building foods and nutrients that are easy to include in your diet and will help improve immune function.
Perhaps one of the best-known nutrients for immune health is vitamin C. This nutrient is available in many foods, and supplements and should be a central part of any immune protocol. It immobilizes microbes directly, neutralizes microbial toxins, acts as a natural antihistamine in high doses (gram doses taken to bowel tolerance), increases lymphocyte mobility, and is essential to macrophage activity. It’s best to take Vitamin C with bioflavonoids which are found in plant foods green teas and all sorts of supplements.
Good dietary sources include red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach and winter squashes.
It’s likely that you’ve heard about the importance of gut health by now. 70% of the immune system resides in your gut, as it is the primary line of defence between what we put in our mouths and what is absorbed into the bloodstream. Probiotics help support gut health, and immunity by making sure the balance between good and bad microbes tilts in favour of the good guys, and protects us from developing any number of infectious illnesses.
Good dietary sources include yogurt with added cultures, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods.
Raw Garlic & Onions
Onions contain immune-boosting nutrients like selenium, sulphur compounds, zinc, and vitamin C. They are also one of the best sources of quercetin, which has antiviral properties. Garlic on the other hand contains antioxidants in the form of diallyl sulphide and stimulates the production of glutathione, an important liver detoxifier that helps protect the immune system.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acids are important for all immune functioning. Those with low levels of these essential fats are less able to produce interferon which is a group of signalling proteins made and released by cells in response to the presence of several viruses in order to heighten their anti-viral defences.
Good dietary sources include salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Try adding these foods to your diet or increasing their frequency to help support the body’s natural immune defences.
I’ll also add one last item to this list which is getting enough sleep. Inadequate or poor-quality sleep has been linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. Aim for 7-10 hours a night for best results.