I’ve talked a lot about the immune system over the past year and more and each time I’m planning to write next week’s newsletter something comes up in the news to bring the subject back in focus. This time it’s the Indian coronavirus variant and the daily paper I’ve just picked up describing people who haven’t had the vaccine as Refuseniks! For a moment there I thought I was in Russia under Putin’s heel. Dr Michael Yeadon, an ex-Pfizer vice-president and scientist is obviously a Refusenik as whilst reminding us that no vaccine in circulation has yet received full marketing approval -in other words, still under trial, he is concerned these gene-based vaccines are reprogramming the immune system with outcomes no one can foresee.
So, who are you to believe?
As you know I don’t take sides in these matters, my aim has always been to advise on natural health support, so this week I’m listing the kind of foods you can eat and supplements you can take that will strengthen the immune system. Just a few words of caution before deciding on what you want to mix and match and go to town on. To know if the immune system is functioning as it should then daily you should have a movement of the bowels and otherwise urinate with ease. If you are in physical discomfort prior to bed or have headaches on waking -these also are signs that the immune system is struggling to function efficiently. These words of caution are to account for the simple fact that sometimes we eat at the wrong times or otherwise have a sensitivity to some foods and supplements.
Your immune system has many integral parts.
For example, lymphoid organs release white blood cells called lymphocytes that help regulate the immune system. This response causes inflammation, similar to how your body produces a scab and swells up if you scrape your arm. Generally, this response is acute or short-lived and your immune system returns to normal. However, prolonged inflammation can impact your health and make it difficult for your body to defend against common illnesses. Where does food come into play? You need vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep your body in peak form. You can cause harm to your immune system with poor diet choices — refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, processed and packaged foods, and certain fats (especially trans-fat; Artificial trans-fats are created during hydrogenation, which converts liquid vegetable oils into semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil and can cause inflammation -some can be found naturally in meat and dairy.
These foods can trigger the C-reactive protein (CRP), which alerts your body to an inflammatory threat. Many processed and refined foods are also void of important vitamins and minerals. Diets low in iron or vitamins A, C and D could lead to decreased production in white blood cells. As a general rule of thumb, natural anti-inflammatories can help keep inflammation in check and limit symptoms when you’re ill. Antioxidants protect you from free radicals and can also repair cells and tissues that become damaged during an inflammatory response.
As a general guide you should strive for 50% fruits and vegetables, 25% whole grains and 25% lean meats and proteins.
Here are some food groups to choose from:
Fruits and vegetables:
Leafy greens (lettuce, kale, spinach)
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower)
Citrus fruits (grapefruit and oranges)
Berries (blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries)
Whole wheat, Barley, Oats, Brown rice
Lean meats and proteins:
Seafood, Poultry, Beans (legumes, lentils and peas), Nuts (almonds and walnuts)
Cook with Olive oil, Coconut oil, instead of butter and other oils high in saturated and trans-fats. Don’t be afraid to add herbs and spices, either. Basil, cinnamon, curry, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric can help reduce inflammation.
Here are more examples of ways you can boost your immunity through your diet.
Garlic is a building block for many food dishes, but did you know it has health benefits? Garlic releases allicin when impacted by some sort of friction, such as chopping or chewing. This sulfuric compound has antioxidant properties that can help protect your cells and produce more white blood cells. Ginger is similar to garlic in that it isn’t a primary food, but its addition to meals or drinks can give your immune system a boost to fight infections. The use of ginger for medicinal purposes dates back thousands of years. When you’re not cooking with ginger, try adding it to your tea.
Prebiotics and probiotics.
Gut health is key to the microbiome diet. Probiotics and prebiotics help replace the good bacteria your body loses when fighting infections. Think of probiotics as live bacteria that help your digestive system, while prebiotics are dietary fibres that provide food for probiotics. Greek yogurt and other fermented foods have high levels of probiotics. You can also find probiotics in sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. Many common high-fibre foods, such as apples (leave the skin on), bananas and beans, contain prebiotics.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that can help control infections by increasing white blood cell production. Oranges, lemons and grapefruits are popular sources of vitamin C. It may come as a surprise to know they’re present in vegetables, too. Feel free to load up your plate with bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
You won’t find vitamin D present in as many foods, but it still can help with immune health by reducing inflammation. Your best bet is fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel. Many commercial milk products have vitamin D added, and cheese, mushrooms and egg yolks contain small amounts of vitamin D. Your skin also absorbs vitamin D from the sunlight, so take advantage of the warmer temperatures outside.
Supplementing your diet
Your supermarket is likely to have hundreds of supplements that claim to work wonders for the immune system. These supplements can help you if you have a deficiency, but natural foods remain the best way to absorb key vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D supplements remain popular because it’s harder to get your daily amount through food. You can take anywhere from 600 to 800 International Units of vitamin D. Anything more than that can likely cause harm.
Teas have been popular for thousands of years, primarily for their health benefits. Our guide on the basics of tea provides a refresher on the types of tea and their uses. All forms of tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant. This plant has polyphenols, which are micronutrients that can boost the immune system, improve heart health, and lower cholesterol. Green tea is especially good but nonetheless if you like black teas -they help too.
We are in May -down the winding lane I walk… the natural world has much to teach us! I hope you like this week’s poem.
Seeking Winds of May
Down the winding lane I walk
hid by hedge and under bough
that skirl their leafy sounds anyhow
in the seeking winds of May.
Going nowhere with a purpose
talking secrets with my feet
marching to the cyclic beat
of natural worlds at play.
Pausing at the path smooth head
over which the white clouds scud
stopping, watching cows chew cud
hear the dark horse neigh.
Ambition-less, I am asexual
just conscious of my nose
down I go where the river flows
to greet the end of day.
Not wanting less than everything
I sit rod-less on its banks
eyeing the silver fishes’ shanks
oblivious of time.
Then someone overshadows me
Bow in hand, feminine and fey
and about me She draws a line
in the seeking winds of May.
The ‘she’ in the last stanza is Diana the huntress