With the current focus on colds, flus and infections, now is a good time to be thinking about optimising our body’s ability to fight infections. Ultimately, this comes down to building strong dietary and lifestyle habits to help keep you fighting fit and better able to deal with stress or infection when it crosses your path.
Nutritionist and Pukka’s Herbal Education Specialist, Holly Huntley, explains a little more about immunity and shares some natural ways to support our immune function below.
The term immunity refers to the body’s ability to fight external threats – micro-organisms and toxins – as well as internal threats that may come from autoimmune responses.
Our overall nutritional status has a big impact on our immune system's ability to function. Some of the key nutrients involved in immune function are amino acids, pro and prebiotics which help boost our gut microbiome and a range of essential vitamins and minerals.
Here are five natural ways to optimise your immune system:
Now more than ever we are realising the extent to which our gut health affects our overall immune function. The stress of modern life, diets high in processed food and regular use of antibiotics have left many of us with guts that function far from optimally.
Balancing our gut microbiome means including both pro and prebiotics in our diets. Probiotics reintroduce friendly bacteria to the gut and can be found in fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. Whilst prebiotics pass through the digestive tract undigested and feed the good bacteria already in your gut. Foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, chickpeas and lentils are great additions to your daily diet.
While we often think of foods rich in vitamins to help ward off bugs, many diets don’t include enough iron or zinc, two of the key minerals that directly support immune function. Adding a daily serving of iron-rich legumes and vegetables such as spinach will help increase your levels, as will opting for wholegrains rather than refined.
A deficiency in vitamin C can manifest as low immunity, poor wound-healing and fatigue. Without enough daily intake of this antioxidant, metabolic processes can become impaired. Try increasing your intake of peppers, kiwis, berries and dark leafy greens, all of which are rich in vitamin C and many other antioxidants.
If you’re struggling to get your daily dose, why not try incorporating a natural vitamin C supplement that is readily absorbed, such as Pukka’s plant-sourced Natural Vitamin C.
When we’re feeling poorly, it can often feel easier to pop a meal in the microwave than cook from scratch. Couple this with the rise of home delivery options and it’s no wonder that many of us are eating more fast, processed and fried foods that are low in the nutrients our immune systems require.
Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have found that an unhealthy diet can cause the immune system to act as if it is responding to bacterial infections. So, the next time you're feeling under the weather and find yourself reaching for the take-out menu, try and consider if there is something simple and more nutritious that you already have at home.
It’s no surprise that simple lifestyle habits such as getting a good night’s sleep, eating a balanced diet full of fruit and vegetables and washing your hands regularly can help support your body’s ability to fight off infections. However if you do find yourself feeling under the weather, hot drinks containing soothing ingredients such as lemon, ginger and honey can help to provide some comfort. Steam inhalation can help to clear congestion so try having a hot bath with calming herbs such as lavender and chamomile which will also support restful sleep.