WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?
The immune system is a highly evolved series of defence mechanisms that work against invading organisms and cancer cells, providing resistance to a particular infection or toxin owing to the presence of specific antibodies or sensitised white blood cells.
Smoking - smoking produces free radicals and depletes the body of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants and immune boosters.
Sugary foods and drinks - sugar contains 'empty' calories and diverts nutrients away from the immune system while it is metabolised.
Caffeine and fizzy drinks - tea, coffee and carbonated drinks all suppress the immune system.
Sugar and all refined, processed forms of carbohydrates (cakes, biscuits, sweets, white bread) - these all suppress the immune system.
Alcohol - it suppresses the immune system and makes it overwork.
Dairy - because of it’s mucus forming effects.
Saturated fats – suppresses immunity by blocking up lymphatic vessels.
Increase fruit and vegetables for antioxidant protection, it's important to include as many different colours and varieties as possible.
Increase whole grains to aid elimination, liver function and energy.
Increase good fats from nuts, seeds and oily fish to reduce inflammation, which helps to decrease the immune systems workload.
Increase quality protein from chicken, eggs, fish, soya, quinoa and legumes, which is needed for repair and maintenance.
Include fibre from fresh raw fruit (especially apples), vegetables, oats, beans and lentils to encourage elimination.
Increase calcium intake, which is needed for healthy immune cells. Good sources are tinned sardines with the bones, tofu, kale and all dark green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium is needed for proper thymus function and antibody production and can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, tofu and legumes.
Selenium is important for antibody production and antioxidant support.
Zinc is needed for thymic hormones, proper white blood cell function and for antioxidant action.
Garlic contains allicin, a substance that is antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. It also acts as an antioxidant, helps fight infections and stimulates the immune system. It is best to eat it fresh or in food but you can also take capsules.
Drink at least 2 litres of pure water a day to aid elimination.
Vitamin C is an anti viral agent and viruses cannot survive in a vitamin C-rich environment.
Exercise - at a moderate level at least 3 times a week, although avoid heavy exercise, which can overwhelm the immune system leaving the body open to infection.
Positive emotion boosts all of the immune system.
A good nights sleep of about 8 hours allows the body time to heal and regenerate and ensures active white blood cells, especially natural killer cells.
Yoga (hatha type), meditation and visualisations all increase immune activity.
Relaxation, whether while listening to music, gardening or yoga.
Stress suppresses the immune system by robbing the body of important nutrients required for immunity, so it's important to reduce stress as much as possible.
Consider massage and reflexology for relaxation and the reduction of stress hormones.
Try and spend some time outdoors in natural light everyday as ultraviolet light has been found to boost immunity and health levels.
IMMUNE BOOSTING FOODS
The following vitamins and nutrients are important for strong immunity, with each we've listed a variety of foods that are good sources and can be included in your everyday diet.
Beta-carotene / Vitamin A
Fruits - apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, dates, kiwi fruit, mango, melon, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, prunes, strawberries, tomatoes
Vegetables - artichokes, asparagus, aubergine, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, kale, leeks, lettuce, okra, olives, onions, parsley, pumpkin, radishes, red pepper, spinach, squash, sweet potato, watercress
Flax seed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil
Nuts and seeds - flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts
Seafood - mackerel, salmon
Vegetables - brussels sprouts, cabbage, peas, sweet potatoes
Fruits - apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, clementines, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mangoes, melon, oranges, papaya, peach, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines
Vegetables - asparagus, avocado, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, celeriac, fennel, garlic, globe artichokes, peas, peppers, new potatoes, radishes, spinach, squash, tomatoes, watercress, yams
Omega 3 Fats
Green leafy vegetables
Legumes - black-eye beans, soya beans
Nuts and seeds - flax seeds, pumpkin Seed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts
Seafood - herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna
Omega 6 Fats
Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds
Grains - barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, rye
Legumes - black beans, broad beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, split peas
Nuts and seeds - almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazel nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
Seafood - herring, oysters, shellfish
Vegetables - carrots, garlic, ginger root, mushrooms, parsley, potatoes, sweetcorn, turnips,
Legumes - black-eyed beans, pinto beans
Nuts and seeds - brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
Seafood - herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, tuna
Vegetables - broccoli, cabbage, celery, garlic, mushrooms, onions, turnips