In a time when stress and health anxiety may be depleting your physical and mental resilience, we should look at how we nourish ourselves to ensure our bodies and minds are ready for this understandably trying time.
For centuries, food and drink have been used as a protective and restorative measure during times of illness. In recent years, academic research is starting to catch up with what civilizations have known for hundreds of years.
Nutrition plays a role in optimizing your immunity and can positively affect white blood cell count. Specifically, and relevant for viruses, nutrition can influence T-cell and natural killer cell count and activity. These cells have the function of seeking out and killing virus-infected cells.
I wanted to share with you some of my go-to ingredients when illness is knocking at my door.
Disclaimer: These recommendations are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease including COVID-19.
Natural ways to boost your immunity
Raw cacao (no not regular chocolate!) is generally known for its intense rich taste and from a health standpoint, it’s naturally high antioxidant levels. Its potent antioxidant role is the result of its polyphenol content, but more relevant for the current landscape, these compounds in cocoa have demonstrated an ability to modify T-cell function.
Furthermore, cocoa is just generally a great food to help keep your overall immunity boosted. Its ability as an anti-inflammatory and its excellent effect on the immune response of your gut makes it a great reason to make hot chocolate from scratch!
If hot chocolate is not your thing, then try a tablespoon in a smoothie or energy ball recipe.
2. Fresh Ginger
Ginger is widely used across multiple civilisations to help boost the immune system and recover from illness. Recent research is backing this up, with studies showing fresh ginger (not dried) could stimulate mucosal cells to secrete IFN-b that could contribute to counteracting viral infections.
Fighting and protecting our respiratory system is an important factor during the current climate, so why not add some chopped ginger to your meals, make some fresh lemon and ginger tea instead of coffee, or even make an apple and ginger smoothie!
3. Vitamin E
Fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K are vital for maintaining a healthy immune system.
Vitamin E is one of these fat-soluble vitamins showing promising benefits in academic research. A great way of obtaining normal vitamin E levels is to eat 100g of almonds! Although researchers have also shown the benefits of supplementing above these levels, such that an intake of 200 IU vitamin E in elderly persons has been noted to reduce overall occurrence of upper, but not lower, respiratory tract infections.
It is important to discuss any new supplements with your doctor prior to consumption.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D levels affect the activity of almost 1,000 different genes in the body, if your levels are out of the optimal ranges, we can quickly see the deterioration of our immune system.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in balancing the immune system. It helps regulate the innate immunity in the upper respiratory tract and has been shown to have a preventive effect on upper respiratory infections. Vitamin D can be consumed in a variety of foods, but the best way of getting it is to expose yourself (safely) to sunlight.
Ask your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels to see if supplementation is needed.
Please talk with your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.