Boosting your immune system has never been so important and an effective yet simple way to do so is actually through the foods you consume, as 80% of your immune system is located in your gut.
There are three key vitamins that can bolster the immune system, which we can access with minimal effort through certain foods.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that optimises the whole immune system and the Mitochondria, which are the ‘batteries’ that power the cells in our body.
A great source of the vitamin C is paprika, as well as berries, lemons, limes and citrus fruits. The Kakadu plum, native to Australia, and the Camu Camu fruit have one of the highest concentrates of vitamin C. Fermented cabbage, otherwise known as Sauerkraut, is also loaded with vitamin C and easily made at home with minimal additional ingredients/ tools.
Vitamin A strengthens the lining of the tube systems within your body, such as the gut lining and the lungs, to ensure they can work effectively and support the immune system. Cod liver oil, beef liver, sheep liver and carrots are all rich sources of vitamin A.
A recent study showed that a higher level of humidity and sunlight decreased the transmission of influenza. Another study also revealed that vitamin D deficiency could affect the microbiome and immune system.
The easiest way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. This doesn’t mean baking yourself for hours in the sun, it just means exposure for a few minutes a day, usually in the middle of the day. Try going for a 10-minute walk at lunchtime.
The time of day, time of year and angle of the sun can all affect how much vitamin D you can access from the sun at any one time. The useful app D Minder provides a rough approximation of how much vitamin D you can gain from the sunlight throughout the day. It also offers prompts of when you will get the best access to vitamin D from the sunlight.
Other effective ways to boost your general health and immunity include:
Get Enough Sleep
When we sleep, our body rests, repairs and regenerates. It’s an essential time for our body to heal and fight off disease.
Exercise puts added pressure on the mitochondria to create energy. If you’re worried about immune function, engage in just moderate to light forms of exercise to lower the possible stress on the mitochondria and immune system.
Oysters are rich in Zinc, which is commonly known to suppress viruses, and they are also high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which help promote the general wellbeing of your gut where the majority of your immune system sits.
Immune boosting turmeric milk:
When my brother or I were young and caught a cold, mum would whip us up some hot turmeric milk which was very heartwarming and soothing. I only recently realised the significance of this underrated spice which contains an active compound called curcumin, which has now been subject to numerous scientific studies related to its positive effects on gut health, depression, immunity etc. Turmeric is also greatly enhanced when consumed with fats, hence why the combination of eggs or milk is beneficial.
- 250ml of A2 milk or nut milk (eg. coconut, almond, cashew)
- 1/4 teaspoon Organic Turmeric Powder
- small pinch of black pepper
- small pinch of cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon Organic Ginger Powder
- 1 cardamon pod
- 1/2 tablespoon Raw Organic Honey
1) Mix spices together in a small bowl.
2) Pour milk/nut milk into a saucepan.
3) Add spice mix to milk/ nut milk and mix well.
4) Gently heat milk to just before boiling ( there should be no skin formed on surface).
5) Add honey and mix well.
6) Pour into a mug and sip while warm.
Fibre Diversity is Key:
It’s important to eat a wide variety of dietary fibres. Different fibres work in different ways and they each provide their own health benefits. Eating a variety of fibre, including resistant starch can help to improve gut health and provide that vital support for our immune systems. Don’t eat the same thing over and over again. Try to pick something new each week. Some good sources of resistant starch include:
- Wholegrain cereals
- Starchy vegetables
- Baked beans
- Red kidney beans
- Firm bananas
Probiotics and Prebiotics:
Probiotic foods with good bacteria can help to support the gut lining which helps to support the immune system. When there is a lack of good bacteria in the gut, other forms of bad bacteria may be allowed to grow causing inflammation and compromising the immune system.
Probiotics are naturally found in a number of foods and drinks, including yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir and kombucha. There are also a number of supplements available, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Prebiotics feed the probiotics bacteria, enabling it to work more effectively. Prebiotics are naturally found in a wide range of foods, including bananas, asparagus, artichokes (both Globe and Jerusalem), onion, garlic, flaxseeds, oats, wheat, barley, green vegetables, goji berries and honey. Raw apple cider vinegar (with “The Mother”) is also classified as a prebiotic.
Increasing your probiotic intake over time can improve your overall gut health, and nutrient absorption from the foods you eat. In turn, this boosts your digestive health, immunity and overall wellbeing. But because many prebiotic foods are high in fibre (prebiotics are fibre-rich in nature), adding too many at once can lead to issues such as gas, bloating and uncomfortable bowl movements – it’s all about balance.
Ferment those Veg:
A recent study showed that L.plantarum, a probiotic found in fermented vegetables, has an antiviral effect against Influenza A. The process of fermentation can also help to increase the bioavailability of some nutrients, which helps the body to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals. Fermented foods are also rich in vitamin B and vitamin K, which are vital to a healthy immune system.
You can simply ferment veg at home, and this will ensure that you will reap the rewards of all the nutrients, as it will be fresh.
Chop up green cabbage and any other vegetables, massage and squeeze salt into it, add caraway seeds, then pack the cabbage into a jar, cover it with a secured cloth and then leave it to ferment for 3 – 10 days for a small batch. This process is done using your hands so it’s imperative that your hands and all utensils used, are disinfected and clean.
Other fermented foods that you can make at home, which are packed with probiotics and vitamins include miso, kombucha, tempeh and kombucha.
The younger you can expose kids the sour taste of fermented foods the better. If they are exposed to the taste at a young age, they are less likely to turn their nose up at it.
Traditional milk kefir (pronounced “keh-FEER”) has over three times the amount of probiotics that yoghurt has, and is filled with vitamin B and vitamin K vitamin, which are vital to a healthy immune system.
Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage made from cows milk, goats milk or sheep milk that everyone from babies to the elderly can benefit from. There are also coconut and water kefir alternatives, but traditional milk kefir should be perfectly suitable for those with lactose intolerance.
As well as being a natural immune booster, Scientific research demonstrates six major health benefits from drinking traditional milk kefir. You can experience a healthier heart and cardiovascular system, decreased inflammation and faster healing, improved digestion and better gut health, faster metabolism and easier weight loss, enhanced brain function, antimicrobial activity, lower blood sugar and appetite suppression.
One of the best things about milk kefir is that it’s simple and inexpensive to make at home, and home-made kefir actually retains significantly more of its health benefits than any store-bought kefir.
All you need to make Kefir at home is kefir grains, a glass or food-grade container, the milk of your choice (ideally organic, grass-fed, and full-fat), a room temperature that’s between 18 – 28 degrees Celsius and 24 hours to ferment it.
Follow these simple steps to make your own milk kefir:
1. Clean the vessel first, then rinse it thoroughly.
2. Add the milk, then dump the grains in and agitate them gently with a wooden spoon or other non-reactive utensils.
3. If possible, agitate the mixture whenever you can, or every few hours.
4. After 24 hours, check the milk. If it’s noticeably thickened or bubbly, your kefir is ready.
5. Strain the grains out with a non-reactive strainer or sieve.
6. Enjoy the kefir as-is, incorporate it into a recipe, or chill it in the fridge before drinking.
7. Once you strain the mixture, it’s best to immediately start another batch of kefir to keep your grains healthy.
If you’d rather not make more kefir just yet, add milk to the grains, then refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready.”
For further advice, tips and access to the gut health products such as home fermenting kits and cultures, kefir grains, probiotics, prebiotics, supplements and more, visit www.nourishmeorganics.com.au