Natural immunity boosters

Fight off colds and flu with these natural remedies

Vitamin D

“Taking a daily dose of vitamin D can boost your immune system, meaning that sneezes and sniffles will be a thing of the past,” says Keeley Berry, nutritional expert and new product development executive at BetterYou Ltd (betteryou.com). “Around September we lose the sun’s ability to deliver essential UVB rays, which our bodies need to stimulate the production of vitamin D, also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Our immunity is dependent upon a nutritional balance which in turn stimulates a myriad of biochemical actions, however with 90 per cent of our vitamin D coming from sunlight and just ten per cent from food, supplementation is strongly recommended throughout autumn and winter. Many studies have found links between vitamin D deficiency and poor immunity, with Danish scientists discovering that the sunshine vitamin is crucial in activating the body’s immune defences. Without sufficient intake, the killer cells of the immune system – the T cells – will not be able to react and fight off serious infections in the body.”

Chicken soup

“Did you hear that chicken soup is great when you’re unwell?” says Ailsa Hichens, a registered nutritional therapist and health coach (www.foodfabulous.co.uk). “If you thought it was just an old wives’ tale, you’d be wrong. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup can slow the speed at which neutrophils move around your body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system, protecting your body from infection. When the neutrophils move slowly, there’s a greater chance of them becoming more concentrated in the areas of your body that need the most healing. Studies have shown chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections like the common cold.”

Vitamin C

“If coughs, colds and chest infections are a regular feature of your winter wonderland then it’s time to implement some healthy immune supporting habits,” says Susie Debice, food scientist and nutritional therapist working with the Altrient team (www.abundanceandhealth.co.uk). “Vitamin C is well known for its role in supporting normal immune function and foods that are rich in vitamin C include green leafy vegetables, parsley, berries and citrus fruits. However, stress increases the need for vitamin C, often leaving the immune system short of this key nutrient. Mindfulness, meditation and exercise may help offset stress, but a daily supplement of highly absorbable liposomal vitamin C helps provide that extra level of vitamin C for beneficial winter support.”

Herbs and spices

“Herbs in particular have a long tradition in fixing sick bodies (think the apothecaries of yesteryear),” says Ailsa. “I encourage my clients to add herbs to as many dishes as they can. Not only does it perk up the flavour, you’re healing your body, too. Most culinary herbs contain anti-inflammatory properties due to their phytonutrients, but oregano and thyme are particularly rich. Spice up your cooking with turmeric and ginger, too, as these are well-documented immune-boosters. Garlic is a potent superfood. It is antimicrobial, thanks to the active ingredient allicin, which helps fight viruses, and has been used for thousands of years to boost the immune system and prevent sickness.”

Water

“Water is a miracle worker,” says Ailsa. “It flushes germs from your system, helps your blood to carry plenty of oxygen to your body’s cells and allows those cells to absorb important nutrients. Invest in a filter jug or bottle to avoid quaffing high levels of chlorine and fluorine along with your tap water. Green tea and chamomile tea are also immune system strengtheners, as they contain antioxidants that help battle free radicals.”

Essential oils

“Essential oils can help support and strengthen the body’s immune response in two ways,” explains Sharon Lovett, marketing manager with Base Formula (www.baseformula.com). “Some oils have antimicrobial properties that help fight bacteria and viruses, and others have immuno-stimulant properties which boost the body’s natural defences. Certain essential oils such as bergamot, eucalyptus, lavender, manuka, ravensara and tea tree can do both and are great choices for building resistance to illness and helping you recover more quickly if you do fall ill. These oils can be used in aromatherapy diffusers, steam inhalations and aromatic baths, or for a simple solution pop a few drops on a tissue and inhale regularly. For a bug-busting, energising diffuser blend try six drops of tea tree, three drops of ravensara and two drops of rosemary. Or do a steam inhalation with three drops of eucalyptus, three drops of lemongrass and two drops of ravensara. If you’ve already got a cough or cold, substitute the lemongrass for benzoin which is renowned for its beneficial effects on the respiratory system.”

Probiotics

“Did you know using probiotics is arguably the best strategy to strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation and prevent infections?” says Seema Vekaria BSc, Dip CNM, a clinical nutritionist working for BioCare (www.biocare.co.uk). “About 70 to 80 per cent of the immune system is found in the gut in specialised tissue known as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). The GALT sits beneath the epithelium consisting of a barrier of tight junctions (TJ). Disruption of these TJs and damage to epithelial tissue leads to intestinal permeability (also known as ‘leaky gut’). When permeability increases, viruses, bacteria, and other antigens are able to enter circulation. The immune system reacts by increasing inflammatory proteins, which leads to intestinal and systemic inflammation, malabsorption, food sensitivities and autoimmunity. Research shows that probiotics (specifically the LAB4 blend which consists of four strains of beneficial bacteria) can reduce intestinal permeability and in turn support the immune system and prevent infections.

Cleansing concoctions

Try the following soothing, immunity boosting hot drinks taken from Prajna Ayurvedic rituals for happiness by Mira Manek (miramanek.com)

Ginger is very warming, anti-inflammatory and great for metabolism. You can sip on this throughout the day. While I used to grate fresh ginger, and put it in my drinks, I’ve now started taking ground ginger because it is much more concentrated. Try to get organic ginger.

Into a mug of hot water stir the following:

  • ½–1 tsp ground ginger
  • A pinch of sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • A few drops of coconut oil

Into a mug of hot water, stir together a mixture of any of the following ingredients. This works as a flush, to get the digestive juices going, cure any cold symptoms and for extra immunity:

  • A pinch of ground turmeric
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (helps lower blood sugar)
  • A squeeze of lemon or lime (avoid citrus if you have arthritis)
  • 2 tsp honey, preferably manuka honey

If you have time to prep, make this tonic in advance ready for the week ahead. It’s a concoction I created for my café, Chai by Mira. Blend together:

  • Juice of 5 limes or lemons
  • 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp roasted cumin seeds
  • You can also blend some fresh turmeric into this if you have it!

Every morning, stir a few tablespoons of this tonic into a mug of hot water, add some honey if you like, and sip away. You can also have this in cold water in the summer months as a refreshing drink any time of day.

Did you know?

“When we get busy and stressed, this can take its toll on our immunity, especially during the winter months,” says Lucinda Miller, a naturopath, iridologist and herbalist. “Luckily, Mother Nature provides plenty of clever ways to keep our immune system robust and includes natural and well researched antimicrobials such as elderberry, olive leaf and propolis.”

Read previous Your Health articles here...

Read articles from our latest issue here...

A top buttonTop