This wasn’t the topic I was planning to write about this month, but with CoVid-19 (Novel Coronavirus) so much on everyone’s mind, it made sense to offer something that might be of help. What is sometimes described as ‘immune boosting’ is really about making sure you’re in the best health you can be and that your body is functioning at its optimum. That means not overloading the body with extra things to deal with by way of inflammation, stress, toxicity or illnesses, all of which can deplete us. If this virus (or any virus for that matter) is going to come my way, I want to make sure I am in the best shape to fight it off.
So these are my top immune boosting tips. They are designed to be helpful for anyone at any time who feels that their immune system could do with a lift.
EAT WELL Eat healthy foods, with plenty of vegetables, good quality protein and some fruit. Try to avoid processed foods, sugar and alcohol. They can lead to inflammation (causing the immune system to work overtime) and put an extra load on the body’s filtration system (liver and kidneys). Drink plenty of water. This will help the lymphatic system (which is 95% water) do its job: filtering and removing impurities from the body, as well as creating white blood cells which create antibodies to fight disease. I’m also going to include here the advice to stop smoking, as it’s so toxic and places a massive burden on the body.
REST & DE-STRESS This may be the most important piece of advice. In today’s society we are so used to pushing ourselves beyond the point where we are tired or stressed and it is the worst thing we can do for our bodies. I know it is hard to prioritise this, but if you are tired, sleep, and if you are stressed, slow down. Go to bed a little earlier, don’t do a couple of things on your to-do list. The world will wait a little. Last week, I felt a cold coming on: I went to bed earlier, took a couple of naps and took some homeopathic remedies. Now I don’t have a cold any more, but if I’d tried to keep going, I probably still would have. Stress has been shown to cause inflammation in the body, something which puts our immune system on high alert and puts a strain on the body’s defences. Meditation and yoga can be great stress relievers, and making sure we take time to connect with other people is really important too.
EXERCISE I don’t think you need me to tell you that exercise is good for you! It is important generally for keeping the body fit and healthy. Anything that does this, boosts the immune system. Also, www.harvard.health.edu states that, “[Exercise] may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.”
VITAMINS & MINERALS It may be a good idea to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement, especially if you think your diet may be lacking in some areas. Some vitamins play a particularly important role in supporting the immune system. Vitamin C is found in white blood cells and is well known to be helpful in fighting off infections. Vitamin D reduces inflammation and is needed by the immune system to fight bacteria and viruses. Most of us in this country don’t get enough Vitamin D during the winter months as most of our supply comes from sunlight. Think about taking a supplement and, as the days grow longer, try to get outdoors as much as possible. Vitamin B6 supports biochemical reactions in the immune system. Also, Vitamin E helps fight infection, but it is safer to get this from foods like nuts, seeds and spinach, rather than taking a supplement. According to www.harvard.health.edu, “There is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals”, so it’s highly likely that they are important for our immune systems too.
TONICS & HERBS Top of my list here would be Elderberry (tincture or syrup). It is anti-viral, boosts the immune system, is high in Vitamin C, and good for respiratory infections, digestive health and reducing blood pressure. It is highly recommended by renowned Naturopath and Homeopath, Dr Robin Murphy, who says, “Elderberry… contains lectins which stop replication of ten different strains of the flu virus… [and it has been] shown to shorten the duration and severity of cold and flu symptoms.”
Echinacea may be helpful for some people. Studies have shown it increases white blood cells, which fight infection. They have been inconclusive as to whether it may help prevent colds, but have shown that it can reduce the length of a cold.
Propolis (produced by bees to protect honey in the hive) is immune boosting, antibacterial, and mildly anaesthetic, so can ease a sore throat. Thyme is antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, works against parasites, and is good for respiratory infections. Olive Leaf is anti-viral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, good for digestion, and can boost the immune system. Holy Basil is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and calming to stress. It seems that Frankincense and Myrrh also have antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact “One recent study found that burning myrrh and frankincense incense reduced airborne bacterial counts by 68%” [www.healthline.com].
SUPERFOODS A balanced diet would probably include many of these anyway, but if you are looking for an immune boost, it would be a great idea to up your intake of these superfoods. “Raw garlic can increase the number of t-cells in your blood, which in turn fight viruses” [www.hollandandbarrett.com]. It may help fight colds and is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. “Chillies… are incredible health boosters. They contain lots of vitamin A and C (nutrients which can boost the immune system) and capsaicin which can help clear congestion and phlegm” [www.hollandandbarrett.com]. Apple Cider Vinegar is recommended by many for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and probiotic properties. Raw honey is antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal. Oregano is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and an antioxidant. Star Anise has anti-viral properties – interestingly, Tamiflu was created from this. Other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superfoods include: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, blueberries, dark chocolate, broccoli, sweet potato, spinach and green tea.
HOMEOPATHY For an individualised way to boost your health and help balance your immune system, it is a great idea to see a homeopath. They will help investigate what has caused an imbalance in your health, where improvements could be made, and put together a treatment plan just for you. Homeopathy is designed to be gentle on the system, long-lasting and does not deplete the body as some medicines, like antibiotics, can. See my previous post on homeopathy or please do get in touch if you would like to find out more. I offer appointments in person or via Skype and a free 30 minute discovery call to find out if I can help.
Thank you for reading! If you have enjoyed this post please comment, share or sign up to my newsletter below. I wish you all health and happiness, Alice.
Disclaimer: these are my own opinions and are not intended to replace medical advice. I am a Neal’s Yard Independent Consultant, so I will receive 25% commission on any purchase through the links to Neal’s Yard products. I used to work for The Organic Pharmacy but no longer have any links.