Immune Health

Immune Health

Immune Health

As I’m writing this, Coronavirus is rapidly causing chaos around the world.

It’s a scary time.

With so much uncertainty.

I also know that in every crisis there are always good things that come as a result of the bad.

Like learning more about our immune system.

And the positive steps we can take to boost our natural defense mechanisms.

Lessons that are helpful now.

One thing that surprised me with my research on immune health is that food is just one aspect.

You can have the most perfect diet but if you’re stressed out and losing sleep. You’re probably still going to get sick.

So before we get to the recipes, lets take a look at what you can do on the lifestyle front.

With love Jules x

Lifestyle Habits for Boosting Your Immunity

1. Reduce Stress

When we’re in stressed-out flight or fight mode that takes priority. Which means our bodies are focused on escaping danger. And our immune response takes a back seat.

This is an excellent system if a tiger is about to eat you. But not so great if you’re freaking out because of the Coronavirus.

Anything you do to reduce stress will give your immune system a chance to do it’s job.

My favourite techniques are:

i. Meditation. 20 minutes of Trancendental Meditation every morning.

ii. Deep Calm Breathing – 5 mins after lunch, after dinner and before bed.

iii. Journalling. I write at least 5 things I’m grateful for before bed. The 5-Minute Journal is a great place to start if you’re new to journalling. I’ve used their app too.

iv. Repeating positive mantras. My current favourite when I’m freaking out is to say ‘I am where I am and it’s OK’. It’s an excellent reminder to focus on the present moment. I also like ‘I have everything I need right now’.

2. Sleep!

Good quality, consistent sleep is essential for a robust immune system.

Because many of the housekeeping processes carried out by the immune system can only occur when we are getting our beauty sleep.

If you’re struggling in this area, I feel for you.

I had some severe insomnia last year. I’m planning on creating another training on sleep health but in the mean time, see this article.

Any steps you take to improve your sleep will have a massive positive impact on all areas of health. It’s totally worth it.

3. Sunlight

Vitamin D3 has been linked with improved immune health [1]. And the best way to get Vitamin D is to expose your skin to sun.

I aim for at least 20 minutes per day.

Sunlight is also helpful for boosting your mood and setting your circadian rhythms. If sun isn’t an option, consider supplementing with Vitamin D3 (I do in the Winter.)

It’s not just vitamin D though.

Sunlight has also been shown to boost the activity of specific immune cells called ‘T-Cells’ [14].

4. Gut Health

I won’t pretend to understand the exact mechanisms by which our gut influences our immune health.

But I’m willing to bet that anything you do to increase your gut health, will have a positive impact on immunity.

For more on gut health see 20 Best Foods to Improve Your Gut Health .

5. Cold Exposure

If you’re already sick, skip this one.

But if you’re well, exposing your body to cold for short periods of time increases your metabolism [2] which in turn stimulates your immune system [3] and also helps with fat burning. Win!

I’ve started having a cold shower in the mornings. Just 10-20 seconds. And while it takes some psyching up to get in, I always feel invigorated when I get out.

Start with a warm shower and then just go for 5 seconds of cold at the end and work your way up.

6. Hygiene

Your mother was right. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Cover your mouth when you cough. Self isolate when you are sick.

Anything that reduces your exposure to bacteria and viruses in the beginning will make life much easier for your immune system.

TOP 15 IMMUNITY-BOOSTING FOODS + BEVERAGES

NOTE: This isn’t an exhaustive list, there are plenty of foods that improve your immune function. These are just the ones I’m personally focusing on at the moment.

1. Bone Broths

Chicken soup has been shown to inhibit pathogens that cause respiratory tract infections [4]. But I suspect all bone-based broths have a similar impact.

How to Eat More Bone Broth:

  • Have a cup instead of tea or coffee. For bonus immunity points drizzle it with Turmeric & Ginger Oil.
  • Eat more soups.
  • Add it to stews or other slow cooked dishes
  • See the Immunity Recipes list in this training.

2. Ginger

Has been used in Chinese herbal remedies for centuries. Turns out ginger contains substances which fight viruses [5].

How to Eat More Ginger:

  • Ginger tea – infuse sliced fresh ginger in hot water.
  • Tomato based sauces – adds beautiful warmth and subtle spice.
  • Ginger oil – drizzle over everything from eggs to salads .
  • With garlic – wherever recipes call for garlic, add julienned or grated fresh ginger.

3. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium. Selenium is a mineral used to make the antioxidant enzymes such as Glutathione Peroxidase [6] which in turn helps boost immune function.

How to Eat More Brazil Nuts: I keep a jar on the dining table so we just add few nuts to our dinner every night. Super delicious too!

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms contain beta-glucans which raise the activity of the immune system. [7] Asian mushrooms like Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms contain higher levels of these beta-glucans [8], but they are present in common white and brown mushrooms as well.

How to Eat More Mushrooms:

5. Eggs

Are the most complete source of protein. Whole eggs contain many nutrients which work together to reduce inflammation and boost immunity. [9].

How to Eat More Eggs:

  • Choose poached, scrambled or fried eggs for breakfast.
  • I include one egg-based dinner like a frittata or omelette every week in the meal plans.
  • Boil a batch of eggs and keep in the fridge for snacks or to boost the protein of your meals.

6. Garlic

There is clear research showing that garlic not only improves the immune system [10], it has been proven to reduce the occurrence of the common cold. [11] Plus it’s delicious!

How to Eat More Garlic:

  • Fry a few sliced or minced cloves in oil before cooking anything.
  • Roast whole heads until soft and add them to salads, sauces, everything.

7. Chilli Peppers

The active component in chilli peppers which makes them taste hot is called capsaicin. This seems a little counter-intuitive but it has been shown to help clear up sinus inflammation [12].

How to Eat More Chilli Peppers:

  • Add hot sauce to everything (preferably one like Tabasco without lots of sugar)
  • Add 1-2 chopped fresh red chillies anywhere you’d use garlic or ginger.
  • Use my fermented chilli hot sauce on everything.

8. Turmeric

The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin has been well documented to improve immune function [13].

How to Eat More Turmeric:

  • Eat more curries!
  • Add grated fresh turmeric anywhere you’d use ginger or garlic.
  • Drizzle turmeric oil on everything from eggs to chicken to salads or cooked leafy greens.
  • Turmeric tea.

9. Grass-Fed Butter

Contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is known to boost immunity among other health benefits. [15]. Note that grain-fed butter has significantly less CLA.

How to Eat More Butter:

  • Replace half the oil in my Stick Blender Mayo with melted butter – you’ll need to keep it out of the fridge or it will solidify and split the emulsion.
  • Use flavoured butters like this quick chive butter or spiced butter as a sauce.
  • Eat it with a spoon!

10. Grass-Fed Lamb & Beef

Rich in zinc which is known to stimulate immune T-cells [16]. Lamb contains more zinc so it’s a better choice.

How to Eat More Grass-Fed Lamb & Beef:

  • Find a local farmer or other good source of grass-fed meat.
  • Substitute lamb chops for steaks or ground lamb (mince) for beef.
  • Treat your family to my insanely easy Pot Roast Lamb Shoulder.
  • Don’t over-do it. I aim for lamb or beef twice a week and keep my portions to 150g (5oz).

11. Oysters

One of the richest food sources of zinc. I always have oysters if they’re on the menu when I eat out. Canned oysters are another option, however I’m yet to find ones that aren’t sourced from China.

How to Eat More Oysters:

  • Order Oysters whenever you eat out
  • Learn how to shuk your own (I need to do this!)
  • Find a source of good quality canned or jarred oysters.

12. Leafy Green Veg

Leafy greens are excellent sources of so many vitamins and minerals. Plus fiber to keep your gut microbes happy.

How to Eat More Leafy Green Veg:

  • Serve something green with every meal. Even if it’s just some baby spinach leaves.
  • Master the classic green salad.
  • Make a double batch of Secret Winter Greens freeze half and serve the rest as an extra veg (either warm or cold) with any meal.

13. Lemons

Lemons are rich sources of Vitamin C without the sugar oranges. Vitamin C won’t necessarily prevent you getting an infection but it has been shown to get rid of a cold more quickly [17].

How to Eat More Lemons:

  • Make lemon juice your go-to for salad dressings. I like 1 tablespoon lemon with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
  • Serve lemon wedges with cooked protein – especially great with fish!
  • Try this Lemon Olive Salsa which uses chopped lemon flesh. So good!

14. Sauerkraut

Kraut is a source of Vitamin C but also good for your mirobiome because it contains probiotics. And a healthy gut will only enhance your immune system.

How to Eat More Sauerkraut:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons to any meal. I have it at least once a day.

15. White or Green Tea

Both contain Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG which is beneficial for your gut microbes AND has been shown (in mice) to turn on immune T-Cells [18]. I prefer white tea because the flavour is less bitter and it has more EGCG.

How to Eat More White or Green Tea:

  • Choose these over black tea or coffee.
  • Use tea instead of stocks in soups or stews. Like this mushroom soup.

Immune-Harming Foods

Any foods that have a negative impact on the gut or promote inflammation, will also have a adverse influence on your immune health.

I suspect that avoiding these foods, will have a more positve impact on your immune fitness than eating all the immune boosting foods listed above.

  1. Sugar
  2. Grains especially wheat flour.
  3. Factory farmed animal products
  4. Highly processed foods
  5. Vegetable + Seed Oils

Immunity-Boosting Supplements

Until last year I didn’t take any supplements.

I believed we should get all our nutrients from food.

And then I had a severe bout of innomnia.

I was so desperate to improve my sleep I decided to experiment with supplements.

My sleep improved dramatically after I started taking magnesium. And since then I’ve decided that supplements can be beneficial. Here are the ones I’m taking at the moment.

My current supplements

  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D3 (except during Summer)
  • Fish Oil
  • 2 Brazil nuts / day (for selenium)
  • Vitamin C Megadose (3-4g per day)
  • Reishi Mushroom Extract

Also consider:

  • Zinc – if you don’t eat a lot of zinc rich foods like oysters, beef and lamb,
  • Glutathione – a super antioxidant. Expensive though.

Actions

1. Review the lists of lifestyle factors, food and supplements.

2. Choose one area to focus on in each of these.

3. Share your plan in the comments below.

For example you might have the following plan:

Lifestyle – start keeping a gratitude journal before bed.

Food – add ginger to more dishes. Make ginger tea. Or eat 2 brazil nuts every day.

Supplements – start taking vitamin D3.

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