NOW it’s more important than ever to mind what you put into your body – as with every meal you support or undermine your immune system; the only weapon you have against viral infections. Here are my top immune supporting nutrients:
1. Vitamin A – Beta carotene from orange and green coloured plants and retinol from liver and cod liver oil is crucial for the first line of defence that patrols our mucus membranes lining the respiratory tract.
2. Vitamin C – needed for immune cell functions, prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections and heal damaged tissues. Fresh raw fruits, vegetables and herbs are best sources – in case of infection supplementation is necessary.
3. Vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin” regulates every step of our immune response, deficiencies have been linked to both autoimmunity and frequent infections. Foods such as eggs, butter and mushrooms have very low amounts, supplementing with cod liver oil or enhanced omega 3 capsules are necessary in Ireland as we hardly get enough sunshine of the right ray-angle.
4. Zinc – is the key to turn on white blood cell creating machinery, without it we cannot make enough immune cells. Shellfish – especially oysters, fish, pumpkin seeds, pecans and brown rice are best sources. In case of digestive problems supplementation is necessary.
5. Selenium – enhance the immune response against viruses and protect our cells from the oxidative damage during this noble fight.
Brazil nuts are the best source – 3 a day can supply you with the right levels. Fish, brown rice and cottage cheese are also rich sources.
6. Probiotics – over 70% of your immune system is in the gut and the immune cells are trained and regulated from here by the microbes.
A diverse gut flora is necessary for normal immune function – eat fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and take a supplement with the most types of strains available.
7. Bone broth – a.k.a. the “Jewish penicillin” - rich in collagen and molecules from the bone marrow, this tasty soup has long been known as immune supporting convalescence enhancer. Bones cooked with vegetables, herbs and garlic for 4-6 hours then sieved and sipped hot – often part of fasting practices to re-boot the immune system.
8. Garlic – the choice of ancient Romans; contains allicin and sulphur-compounds to boost the disease-fighting responses of certain white blood cells when encountering viruses. Studies show garlic may reduce the frequency and severity of colds and flues. It is best to crush and leave for 10 minutes to activate its medicinal properties, then add to foods at the end or eat it raw mixed in butter or olive oil.
9. Elderberry – a potent anti-viral inhibiting neuramidase, an enzyme viruses use to spread – similar to some antiviral drugs, and boost our immune cells when needed, calm their messages when the threat is over.
10. Antioxidants – a wide range of strong coloured fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices will tidy your gut flora for best immune support – the more variety of plants, the more diverse your gut flora and the stronger your immune system becomes.
Antioxidants also protect your cells from oxidative damage that inevitably occur during the war that is the immune response.