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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McDiarmid

Boosting your immune system...

A little note from me…

The Corona virus is a subject that is affecting all of our lives at the moment. At the time of writing this, we have moved into the ‘delay’ phase of the Government strategy. With so many articles written and newspaper headlines, it can be very overwhelming to know what to believe and at how much of a risk we are at with the virus.

At the moment, the statistics show 80% of cases reported are of ‘mild’ symptoms, and the most at risk categories of getting more serious complications from the virus are people who are elderly, with impaired immune systems, or with underlying health conditions.

If we do contract the corona virus, our bodies don’t have any natural defence against it. Instead, our bodies have to work hard to create antibodies to combat the virus. This takes several days, and the stronger your immune system, the more effectively your body will create these and the quicker you will recover.

As well as following the Government guidelines of washing hands and self isolating if we exhibit any upper respiratory tract issues, it is really important to think about how strong your immune system is, and work hard on building this up. This will mean, if we do come into contact with the corona virus, we are as strong as we can be to create the antibodies to combat the virus and enable us to recover quickly.

What Factors can deplete the immune system?



Being depleted in nutrients

Diet high in sugar

Lack of sleep


Toxins and pesticides

What are the best nutrients to boost our immune system?

Protein rich foods like eggs, fish, peas, beans and lentils. Research studies show that a deficiency of protein can result in depletion of immune cells and an inability of the body to make antibodies and other immune related cells. Animal studies have shown the inadequate protein can lead to a 25% reduction in immune efficiency.

An Increase of fresh fruits and vegetables, trying to make them 50% of your total food intake in a day. Both fruits and vegetables are abundantly rich in vitamins and minerals which include anti- oxidants and phytonutrients (sometimes referred to as phytochemicals). The immune system is dependent on a good supply of these nutrients. Fruits and vegetables also contain compounds that support the liver and its detoxification process which is essential to support the immune system.

A great deal of research has been aimed at vitamin C in particular. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin which means that our body does not store it so a regular supply is needed from our diet. Foods particularly rich in vitamin C are red peppers, broccoli, all berry fruits, oranges, tomatoes and papaya. However most vegetables and fruits contain some. Vitamin C is one of the primary anti -oxidants working alongside vitamin E, selenium and beta carotene to support the immune system.

Garlic has been hailed as being very beneficial for the immune system. It has been shown to stimulate the production of white blood cells and acts against a wide range of non- beneficial bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, all of which can be a challenge to the immune system and its efficiency.

Mushrooms have also been shown to be hugely beneficial particularly shiitake mushrooms. Mushrooms contain a compound called beta glucan that has been shown to boost immunity. They are so easy to include in the diet, mushroom soups, on toast, in an omelette, added to casseroles, eaten raw in salads or added to a kedgeree.

Zinc is another nutrient that has been singled out as very essential for good immune function as it is a potent immune stimulant so try and include some zinc rich foods in the diet regularly. These are all types of fish and sea food, (particularly oysters) also seeds and nuts, oats, green peas and whole grain cereals. So looking at these foods it should be quite easy to reach the recommended amount of 15mgs a day.

Research into vitamin D has shown that this vitamin in particular is very beneficial to the immune system. The problem is that because we live in the northern hemisphere we tend to be quite deficient in vitamin D because our main source is from the sun. The only reliable foods to give us vitamin D are oily types of fish like trout, tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines also eggs (from the yolk) and fortified breakfast cereals. We have to be careful with these though because many breakfast cereals also contain lots of sugar and salt. So it may be advisable to consider a vitamin D3 supplement especially through the winter months. It is recommended that we have between 3,000 and 4,000 international units (i.u’s) a day. Vitamin D has also been shown to help fatigue and general energy levels.

Vitamin B6 is vital to support biochemical reactions in the immune system. Vitamin B6 rich foods include chicken, cold water fish such as salmon and tuna. It is also found in green leafy vegetables and chickpeas.

The role of gut health

Did you know that 80% of our immune cells reside in the gut? A good healthy digestive system helps to support the immune system. This can be achieved by preventing constipation and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you do suffer from a sluggish bowel then ground flaxseeds daily sprinkled over muesli or porridge or in soup or stirred into yogurt really helps. Most people find that 2 tbsps a day is sufficient. It is important that if you do use ground flax seeds that you drink plenty of fluid.

Top tips:

Aim to eat a rainbow of colour in your fruits and vegetables

Think about your gut health

Boost nutrients through supplements if needed

Reduce your intake of sugar, caffeine and your exposure to stress

Take part in moderate exercise to stimulate the immune system

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