On the whole, our immune system does a brilliant job of defending us against disease causing organisms in a germ-infested environment. And like all good systems, it needs allies to function properly and effectively. Although the idea of boosting your immune system seems like a no-brainer, it is actually a complex process to do so. The immune system is not a single entity; rather a defense mechanism that comprises many tiers and each has a well-defined role.
The best way to keep your system fighting the good fight is to adopt a healthy life-style. This includes not only proper and adequate food choices, but also combating covert factors such as stress and sleep, which have been shown to have a direct and lasting effect on our capacity to ward off infections. These are small factors that are all the difference between an individual who is sick with the flu 4 times a winter, and the person who seems to have a magical resistance to all things infectious.
In this article we list the nutritious changes you can make to the everyday food you consume, for a healthier, happier year ahead.
1 . PROBIOTICS AND PRE-BIOTICS
Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) is the defense system that is based in the intestines. It is within this tissue that we create all the little cells that are essential to fighting pathogens like viruses and bacteria. Our gut terrain is one of the most important frontiers in our defense against invading pathogens. Beneficial bacteria offer protection against microbes that would otherwise cause colds and flu, and as we move deeper into the winter and into ‘flu season’, repopulating that terrain is paramount. A good quality probiotic supplement that has bacteria in the billions as well as multiple strains of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria is what to look out for. Prebiotics, then, are the foods that the bacteria themselves feed on, helping them to proliferate and colonize effectively. Naturally fibrous foods are great sources of pre-biotics, so fill your plate with an array of veggies throughout the winter. Onions and garlic are also potent prebiotics, as is stewed apple, and can provide a feast for the little guys on the front line.
2. GARLIC, GINGER, TURMERIC
These foods are great for you immunity, because they include an array of important compounds that reduce inflammation and fight infection. Garlic is a natural anti-viral, as well as being a food source in itself for the beneficial bacteria. Ginger and turmeric contain potent properties that reduce inflammation, and are particularly helpful if you have a respiratory tract infection, like a cough or a sniffle, as they will assist in reducing the inflammation associated with those conditions throughout the mucosal membrane of the respiratory tract.
A fabulous decongestant. If you’re really stuffed up, adding dried chili flakes or chopped fresh chilies to soups and sandwiches will release a flow of mucous, and provide some relief from pressure in the sinuses.
Fruits like oranges, grapefruits and tangerines are high in vitamin C, a well-known immunity booster.
Vitamin C is recognized for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps maintain the integrity of your skin, which acts as a protective barrier against infection.
In addition, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, helping protect your immune cells against harmful compounds formed in response to viral or bacterial infections.
Therefore, getting enough vitamin C is a great way to strengthen your immune system and may reduce your likelihood of infection.
For many years, Native Americans have used berries to treat infections like the common cold.
This could be because berries are a rich source of polyphenols, a group of beneficial plant compounds with antimicrobial properties.
For instance, quercetin, one berry polyphenol, is thought to be particularly effective at reducing your risk of getting ill after a bout of intensive exercise.
Studies also show that berries and their polyphenols have the ability to protect against the influenza virus responsible for the flu.
They may even offer a defense against Staphylococcus, E. coli and Salmonella infections.
Berries also contain good amounts of vitamin C, which adds to their immune-boosting properties.
6. COCONUT OIL
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a category of fats with antimicrobial properties.
The most common type of MCT found in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is converted into a substance known as monolaurin during digestion.
Both lauric acid and monolaurin have the ability to kill harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi.
For instance, researchers report that coconut fats may help fight off the types of bacteria that cause stomach ulcers, sinusitis, dental cavities, food poisoning and urinary tract infections.
Researchers also believe that coconut oil may be effective against the viruses responsible for influenza and hepatitis C. It may also help fight Candida albicans, a common cause of yeast infections in humans.
You can easily add coconut oil to your diet by using it instead of butter or vegetable oils in cooking or baking.
See also 11 SUPER FOODS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT for more options and info on trending super-foods of 2017, and their benefits.