Now is the second best time to boost your immunity! The best time was yesterday, but I prefer not to live in the past, so lets get into it!
As with the whole body, the health of your immune system is heavily reliant upon the state of health of your digestive system. Immune cells that are located within the gut’s immune system are allies for good gut flora and they both work together to keep you healthy and strong.
If you’re keen to stay on top of your immunity, there are some natural ways to bulletproof your immune system, which I’d love to share with you. Don’t worry about doing everything all at once, it takes time to boost your immunity, it’s not an overnight thing, but try these and let me know what you have tried and what works for you in the comments below.
If you’ve noticed more throats becoming scratchy or noses more sniffly and more and more jumbo boxes of tissues being used on your morning commute, now is a good time to look after yourself and boost up your natural defence system.
Rather than relying upon regular cold and flu medication, which can weaken your immune system’s ability to respond naturally to illness, finding natural ways to boost immunity and fight off colds, flu and bugs is a good long-term approach.
The first place to begin boosting your immunity is in your gut, where 70-80% of your immune tissue resides. Because your gut is often the first entry point for pathogens, you’ll want to ensure that you have a good amount of good gut flora to prevent pathogens and infections from being absorbed through the gut lining.
Including foods that soothe and rebuild the gut lining such as gelatin, aloe vera and slippery elm can also assist in nutrient absorption, helping you to feel more energised.
The best way to ensure a robust immune system is to increase microbial diversity in the gut by eating a balanced diet filled with anti-inflammatory, fibre-rich, antioxidant rich, nutritious, prebiotic and probiotic rich foods.
Some of my favourite immune-boosting foods and ingredients in each of these specific areas include;
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our body to avoid foggy brains, helping to produce energy and strengthen our immunity. Flaxseeds are full of Omega-3 fatty acids and high in fibre to promote regular bowel movements.
It’s no secret that oily fish like salmon, sardines and tuna are overflowing with omega-3 fatty acids but, our fishy friends can also raise dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. Dopamine improves circulation and blood flow, to keep active and serotonin, our happy hormone is sure to put a smile on your dial!
Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that increases the level of immunity-boosting proteins in our bodies. These proteins help fight bacteria and viruses when they try to attack. Turmeric is also a natural anti-inflammatory and painkiller.
Fibre is important for digestion and getting the right kind of fibre in your diet will give you the best chance of creating a healthy community of gut bacteria and smooth digestion.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water, and is slower to digest as it attracts water to form a gel. Types include oatmeal, psyllium husks, acacia fibres, berries, lentils (soaked for easier digestion), fruit and vegetables.
Insoluble fibre doesn’t dissolve in water. It passes through the digestive system relatively intact and speeds up the passage of food waste through your gut. Sources include grains, nuts, seeds, beans, fruit and vegetables.
While insoluble fibres are great for flushing out pollutants from the body, an excess of these fibres can be irritating. Too much roughage can also bind to minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron, preventing their absorption. Soluble fibres, on the other hand, are the ones you can focus on for improved gut health.
When you eat the soluble fibres found in whole plant foods, your gut bacteria ferment them into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, propionate and acetate, which nourish your gut. This is wonderful for maintaining the integrity of your gut lining, improving digestion, increasing the absorption of minerals and assisting with immune system function.
Healthy sources of fibre include sweet potatoes, carrots and root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, (I usually try and pre-soak them to make digestion easier).
Vitamin C is a powerful flu-fighting antioxidant which can help to keep colds and flus at bay by enhancing your immune system functioning and increasing the production of necessary antibodies and white blood cells in your body, a key component to warding off infections. Some ingredients to include are mango, blueberries and citrus fruits. Other well-known sources of vitamin C are broccoli, parsley, cabbage, capsicum and dark leafy greens. My Immune Boosting Edible Smoothie below contains a mixture of wonderful Vitamin C rich sources and this is a super simple way to get a high-speed injection of C.
Zinc is an important mineral in the development and functioning of the body’s infection-fighting white blood cells. It’s vital to note that how well we absorb zinc depends heavily on the foods with which it’s consumed. The amount of protein in the diet is a factor contributing to the efficiency of zinc absorption as zinc binds to protein. Women, vegetarians and vegans can often be lacking in zinc, as it’s most commonly found and absorbed from animal products. Zinc is predominantly found in lean red meat, chicken, eggs, seafood, especially oysters and shellfish and in smaller quantities in whole grains, nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and fortified breakfast cereals.
In season fresh fruit and vegetables, are sources of prebiotic fibre and a number of powerful antioxidants to help protect the body's cells against damage and infection. Flavonoids, the natural pigments that give plants their colour, have antioxidant, or cell-protecting, properties.
Beetroot, broccoli, sweet potato, oranges, red capsicum, and pumpkin are high in antioxidants to help immunity.
Prebiotic Rich Foods
Our friendly bugs need to be fed to maintain the survival and proliferation of their colony. This is where prebiotics come in — and in simple terms, they act as a food for our good bacteria, as they’re high in special types of fibre. It’s prebiotics that do all the behind-the-scenes work in our tummies. Without them, probiotic bugs have a poor chance of surviving.
While probiotics are live organisms, prebiotics are the components of our food that are otherwise not easily digested, but are thoroughly enjoyed by our beneficial bacteria. These include oligosaccharides such as oligofructose and inulin, which leave behind carbohydrate molecules that are a tasty meal for our microbiome. Good vegetable sources of prebiotics include fresh dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, leeks, chives, garlic, endive, asparagus, radicchio, chicory, shallots, spring onions (scallions), beetroot (beet), fennel bulbs, green peas, snow peas (mange tout) and savoy cabbage.
Prebiotic fruits include avocados, custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmons, bananas, apples, pomegranates and figs. I encourage you to incorporate some of these delicious prebiotic foods into your diet, it’s your body’s best defence to keep you ahead of common bugs and boost your immunity.
Probiotic Rich Foods
To replenish your strains of good bacteria, it’s helpful to try to consume small amounts of probiotic-rich foods at least a few times each week. Good sources include yoghurt or coconut yoghurt, coconut water kefir or water kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, miso paste and natto (a Japanese fermented soybean product).
Probiotics and probiotic rich foods will help contribute to a thriving inner ecosystem that will benefit the wellbeing of your entire body.
I like to take a probiotic supplement daily, and consume a range of fermented and probiotic foods to widen the diversity of my good bacteria, as different strains have different health benefits, ranging from increased serotonin production to an improved metabolism.
Bioxyne, has a daily probiotic supplement called Prograstrim to assist in supporting a healthy gastrointestinal tract and a healthy immune system. The active ingredient in is PCC®, Bioxyne’s patented strain of the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus fermentum.
Several scientific and clinical studies have shown that consumption of PCC® may assist in maintenance of a normal healthy gastrointestinal and healthy immune system. In clinical trials, Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 has demonstrated positive effects on the gastrointestinal and immune systems, including reduced susceptibility to respiratory tract infections, improvement in eczema (atopic dermatitis) symptoms, and boosting of the immune response to the flu vaccine.
Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 is of human origin and exhibits superior survival to other probiotics in the acidic (pH 2-4) environment found in the stomach and large intestine. It colonises the human intestinal tract and stimulates the areas of immune tissue in the small intestine.
I previously interviewed molecular biologist Dr Peter French, on the blog and we spoke about the connections between atopic dermatitis (eczema) and the gut, as studies also show that this strain can reduce the symptoms of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (eczema) in infants. If you know of anyone suffering from eczema you might like to send him or her this link.
To find out more about Bioxyne, the latest research on the gut microbiome and its effect on our health read on here, or if you are interested in reading more in-depth information about Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-003 you can find it here.
And now for my ultimate Immune Boosting Edible Smoothie!
Edible smoothie bowls are thick and creamy smoothies you can eat for breakfast, topped with delicious add-ons. Do you remember those thick shakes you may have enjoyed as a child? You know the ones which you could barely suck through a straw without getting fish face?
Here’s a much more nourishing blend to be enjoyed with a spoon, bursting with phytonutrients and enzymes that’ll give you an easily digested energy boost for the day ahead. This is the ultimate immune boosting bowl! I add it to my repertoire of meal ideas as the flu season kicks in.
Serve it with your choice of toppings — fresh passionfruit, extra flaxseeds or chia seeds, flaked coconut, fresh berries.
Smoothie bowls are simply a thicker version of a smoothie —
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 2 frozen bananas, cut into chunks
- 1 fresh mango, roughly chopped, or 1 large handful of frozen mango chunks
- 2 large handfuls of rocket (arugula)
- 2 kale leaves, centre spines and stems removed
- 375 ml/ 1 ½ cups Coconut, almond or oat milk (your choice)
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed (linseed) meal
- 1 tsp Love Your Gut powder (optional)
- 1 tablespoon tahini
Place all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and whiz until creamy and smooth. Add more milk to thin the smoothie a little, if necessary.
Scoop into two serving bowls and add your favourite toppings!