With the lingering memories of the pandemic that turned our world upside down, the pseudoscience and misinformation has been more forceful than ever.
Firstly, let me start off by busting this mythical concept of ‘immune-boosting’ tips or products. As promising as this might sound, we don’t actually want to ‘boost’ our immune system.
An overactive immune system can lead to autoimmune conditions, while a suppressed immune system can be more vulnerable, so we want a balanced immune system. There’s no scientific evidence to support ‘immune-boosting’ products, so be sceptical of any bold claims.
Good gut health is essential to supporting our immune system, so if there was ever a time to prioritise your gut health, this is it.
How? Our GM (gut microbiota, the trillions of microbes living along our digestive tract) play a major role in our body’s defence system. Our GM trains our immune system from birth and our gut microbes are in constant communication with our immune cells.
Here are five simple things you can do to support your gut and immune system.
1. Slice or crush your garlic and leave to one side for 10 minutes before cooking or eating it. This increases the active ingredient (allicin) that transforms into other compounds found to support fighting viruses (in test tube studies so far).
2. Zoom in on zinc. Zinc is important to build new ‘fighter’ cells and it may help to prevent virus cells replicating, so it’s worth checking how much you’re having (8mg for women and 11mg for men). Good sources of zinc include firm tofu, lentils, oats, shitake mushrooms and some grains and seeds. Sprouting or fermenting has been shown to help increase zinc availability further, although the crazy prices typically attached to sprouted or ‘activated’ foods is generally not worth it if you ask me.
3. Don’t forget your omega-3s. These essential fats are known to support an effective immune system by helping to control the inflammatory response. Good sources include oily fish, flaxseed, walnuts, fortified foods and algae oil. If you’re not able to, or choose not to, have two serves (120g cooked) of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines or herring) twice per week it might be worth taking an omega 3 supplement. Why? Although you can get some omega 3 from plant-based foods, it’s not as ‘active’ as that from oily fish (the exception being algae oil).
4. Take a break to de-stress. Stress has been shown to increase your risk of the common cold and other respiratory infections, so try simple strategies such as 10 minutes of mindfulness, a five minute body scan, or even just a bubble bath. Whatever you find helps you to relax and unwind. For those with Eat More, Live Well, check out page 116-117 for my 7 go-to de-stressing strategies.
5. Pack in the plants. Last but not least… hitting those 30 plant points a week can support your immune system too. Filled with gut-loving fibre and flavonoids, linked to lower levels of inflammation. Try my fav high fibre beet velevet brownies.