Supporting your immune system
Josie Buck, The Mindful Cook shares with us the best ways to support your immune system and stay healthy.
How can we boost our immune system?
There is a lot of misinformation flying around at the moment about immunity. Many articles refer to ‘boosting’ immunity, however, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that our immune system can be boosted.
The immune system is not an isolated system but a connected network of organs and parts of the body that work together to help us fight disease. This starts at the skin which is our first line of protection against harmful external microbes. This vast interconnected network does not simply respond to one thing like echinacea tablets or vitamin C, but there are things we can do that will give it the best chance of performing well for us.
Tell us more ……..
Keeping your gut healthy is key to supporting your immune system and you can do that mostly through eating a balanced and varied diet – rich in vegetables and dietary fibre.
Your gut is home to millions of different types of bacteria and funghi that do lots of very useful things for you and this is known as your gut microbiome. It plays a role in many things including, maintaining the health of your intestine, controlling blood sugars, protecting you from infection and reducing inflammation.
Do I have to restrict myself on a ‘balanced diet’?
Absolutely not – it’s the opposite, it’s about making sure you eat a good range of macro and micronutrients also known as food groups, vitamins and minerals. A good amount of dietary fibre, healthy fats and a wide variety of wholefoods. Mindful eating is about achieving that healthy balance which will make you feel and be able to perform better.
How can we do this during lockdown?
Include as many and as wide a variety of vegetables as you can. If you are doing a daily walk, drop in at your local greengrocers, it avoids the supermarket and invests in local business. Use vegetables as side dishes but also to make things you can batch and freeze like soups, curries, and stews.
Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh, so if there are any left in supermarkets, use those too.
Include good fats in your diet. Essential fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6 are closely linked to immune function, inflammation reduction and healthy cell function. Olive oil, eggs, oily fish (tinned just as good as fresh), nuts, and seeds are all good sources.
Use tinned lentils, beans and pulses in your cooking, these are a fantastic source of dietary fibre, minerals and protein. Lentils are great as a meat replacement in chillies, lasagnes, and traditional dishes like Shepherd’s Pie.
What mindful lifestyle hacks can you share with us?
Things like exercise, sleep and stress management are also vital in supporting your immune system. At this uncertain time, do what you can to ground yourself. There are plenty of online events going on at the moment to keep you active at home. Start a daily ritual of whatever you need to do to stay mentally healthy – reading, listening to podcasts, meditations, using essential oils to help you sleep better. All these things are more important now than they have ever been.
We should mention vitamin D as it influences immunity and there are very few dietary sources of vitamin D. Our body produces vitamin D as a result of exposure to the sun, however from October to March in the UK the sun does not contain enough UVB radiation to enable Vitamin D production. Also, if you have limited access to outside spaces at the moment, it might be worth supplementing. It is widely available online, look for vitamin D3.
What’s the best thing if we’re feeling a little under the weather and need some liquid comfort (non alcoholic)?
If you are feeling under the weather, there’s nothing like a hot honey and lemon drink to make you feel better. Whether or not vitamin C helps us to banish colds is not really proven, but there is plenty of evidence around to suggest it plays a role in the health and strength of our immune system. I combine an active, naturally antiseptic honey like Bal Honey, with lemon or orange juice, hot water and a little root ginger to spice it up. Pure comfort.
Check out The Mindful Cook Facebook and Instagram feed for more free, nutritional and emotional support. Josie also runs short courses such as ‘Nutritionally Balanced Dinners Made Simple’ – which might just fill your time and your tummy!