With growing concern about COVID-19 are you focusing on just washing your hands and extra hygiene, or are you considering your overall immune health to protect yourself and loved ones?
In lockdown we will have more time to cook from scratch and nourish ourselves, but obviously shopping and sourcing food and supplements can be more tricky, so just do your best to include some of the key nutrients in your diet.
Some of the supplements mentioned might be at the back of your bathroom cupboard, so a spring clean could be very profitable. Bring out all those expensive powders and pills you forgot to take-now is the time to include them. And plenty of colourful fruit and veg will always be key of course!!
Making delicious soups is a great way to boost the immune system and reduce food waste. Freezing or stewing fruits that are over-ripe is also great. Try fun baking with the family, maybe experimenting with what’s available or needs using up. Avoid all quick, packaged and processed food!!
Good nutrition is key to a healthy immune system, your wellbeing and mindset.
Vitamin A deficiency is known to impair the innate immune system. Vitamin A is found in the diet in two forms: beta-carotene – found in red, yellow and orange fruit and vegetables (freshly squeezed oranges and lemon, sweet potatoes, carrots etc), retinol, or ‘active vitamin A’ – found in high fat animal foods like eggs, liver and full fat dairy products. Beta-carotene must first be converted in the body before it can be used, so it is best to supplement a mix of both retinol and beta-carotene, often found in good quality multivitamins.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory properties and supports the body’s ability to fight infection. Vitamin C has proven to shorten the duration of the common cold, and prevent it in some conditions. It also helps to support a healthy stress response and may have added benefit when worries are heightened. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi, berries, pomegranate, goji berries and peppers. Or supplement at least 1000mg daily, easily available in pharmacies.
Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is important for supporting the body’s ability to fight infection. Many immune cells express vitamin D receptors and vitamin D enhances the antimicrobial properties of immune cells. The main source of vitamin D is sunshine; your bare skin produces vitamin D when in contact with the sun’s rays. It’s good to get levels checked annually and to supplement if needed, however, it’s vital at the moment take 1000iu’s daily and sit in the garden regularly!!
Quercetin is a naturally occurring flavonoid found in plant foods. Flavonoids unique structural properties mean they have the potential to interact with different cell types and are beneficial in the protection against disease. Mostly bitter flavoured, foods rich in quercetin are red onions, capers, dill, coriander, radicchio, watercress and kale.
Studies show that selenium deficiency seems to speed up the rate that viruses can mutate, and influenza has been found to be more pathogenic in selenium deficient mice. For general immune health ensure that selenium levels are optimal. Foods rich include brazil nuts, oats, sunflower seeds, fish, turkey and chicken.
A deficiency of zinc will suppress immune function and can have a negative impact on the immune system’s ability to deal with infection. The body is unable to store a lot of zinc so it’s crucial to include in your daily diet. Foods rich are meat, shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds. You can also take extra zinc in supplement form like in a daily multivitamin or take 30mg at bedtime.
Beta glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides found in bacteria and fungi, used to make cell walls and store energy. Beta glucans have a natural ability to modulate immune function. I recommend Cordyceps, Reishi and Royal Sun mushroom in supplement form or a beta-glucans supplement.
An herbal supplement derived from the echinacea plant is a renowned immune tonic. Echinacea can be particularly helpful for fighting infections of the respiratory tract. It has been shown to play a preventive role but also provide relief to symptoms and aid the recovery process. So worth including and available in most pharmacies here.
The gut microflora has important roles to play in their interactions with the immune system, supporting a thriving, diverse gut microbiome is an important part of ongoing immune health. Choose a multi-strain supplement (I buy ProFaes4 25m here in pharmacies) also include fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha and yogurt, if available at this time.
A healthy immune system needs a supportive lifestyle too:
- Get good quality sleep – this is something to top up on whilst in lockdown!!
- Keep stress levels down and relax, maybe try online yoga – I love www.glo.com
- Plenty of fresh air and sunshine – even if that means taking time to sit on the balcony or terrace to drink your coffee and read a book, or perfect time of year to start gardening!!
Keep safe, nourished and positive in these trying times!!
Nourishing and Immune boosting Recipes to follow.
About the author
Suzanne is a Nutritional Therapist trained in London at College of Naturopathic medicine. She has 25 years experience as a chef and recently trained in raw foods, at a gourmet level with Matthew Kenney.
Suzanne’s business is Vital Nutrition which she founded in 2008. She offers private consultancies focusing on diet and lifestyle improvements supporting patients on their journey to optimum health.
Her regular cookery workshops are delicious, fun and educational and her cooking skills are available to private clients, on retreats and for chef training.