WELLNESS TIPS TO BOOST IMMUNITY
BY Sharon Platt-McDonald (BUC DIirector for Health, Women's Ministries and Adventist Cimmunity Services)
In the light of the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak, boosting immunity is key to building resilience against this disease, along with hygiene practices such as effective handwashing, and maintaining social etiquette when coughing and sneezing.
However, lifestyle practices also play a significant part. Did you know that how we eat, move, rest and manage stress, all have an impact on our immunity?
Research demonstrates the efficacy of eating well, maintaining regular exercise, adequate rest and effective stress management, all influence our ability to resist bacteria and viruses, especially in the winter months when colds and flu are more common.
Let’s take a moment to examine these segments briefly.
Sara Stanner Science Director of the Nutrition Society*1 highlights the importance of a nutritious diet. She states:
“A lack of nutrients including protein, zinc, selenium, copper, iron and vitamins (A, C, E, D and the B vitamins) will impact on immune function so the best way to protect yourself is to eat a wide variety of foods…” she points out the following:
"Nutrients with potential immune-boosting properties include vitamin A (e.g. orange fruit and vegetables such as carrots and apricots), vitamin E (nuts, grains, vegetable oils and wheatgerm) and selenium (in brazil nuts).
One key food that has been highlighted as a possible treatment for preventing colds and the flu, is garlic.
“Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick in the first place, as well as how long you stay sick. It can also reduce the severity of symptoms.”*2
What happens though, when you eat well and you still succumb to colds, flus and viruses? You may decide to take a trip to the chemist to find a remedy. However, is the pharmaceutical industry always the best option?
An online article by the Independent Community Pharmacist*3 captioned: ‘Brands warm up for winter’- states:
“The cold and flu category is now valued at a hearty£142.5 million, benefiting from a 19 per cent year-on-year increase”
Along with the expense, comes the concerns about some of the ingredients in the medicaments. However, one herbalist has some suggestions for natural remedies that can help with some of the common cold and flu symptoms. Betzy Bancroft*4 suggests the following, highlighting their use:
- Echinacea - may help support the immune system to fight colds
- Elderberry - helpful for seasonal flus
- Elderflower – can induce sweating, which may help reduce fever
- Eucalyptus - Antibacterial and expectorant properties, can loosen congestion for easier breathing
- Golden seal - can help with bacterial infections
- Ginger - can help ease congestion and warm the body. Its anti-inflammatory properties works as a sore throat remedy
- Liquorice - immune-boosting and throat-soothing properties. (Avoid if hypertensive)
- Sage - can help to ease sore throats and dry up mucus in sinuses.
- Slippery elm - A sore-throat soother high in "mucilage," a substance that coats the throat and helps relieve coughs.
- Thyme – Contains antibacterial compounds
As usual, we advise that you speak with your doctor/health professional or pharmacist, before trying any new remedies (including herbs) especially if your symptoms are severe. This is particularly important if you are on medication or if you have a chronic health condition.
For more information on keeping well in winter visit NHS Choices at:
Amongst the reasons NHS Choices *5 gives for keeping active are:
- Some research suggests that moderate exercise can strengthen the immune system thereby reducing the risk of coughs an colds
- Regular exercise will make you feel more energetic which should make it a little easier to get out of your warm bed on cold, dark mornings
Stress & sleep factors
Psychologists working in the field of "psychoneuroimmunology", have revealed that our state of mind affects our state of health. (https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune)
In other studies, adequate sleep is shown to enhance the efficacy of the immune system and its function to maintain wellbeing. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324432)
Particularly in the colder months, adequate sleep and effective stress management are key to maintaining a robust immune system. Professor Eccles director of the Common Cold and Nasal Centre*6 states – “our immune systems are weaker at this time of year, and stress and poor sleeping are factors too.” These further weaken immunity increasing susceptibility to infections.
Professor Eccles raises the importance of general hygiene and ensuring that hands are well washed particularly after visiting public places. He points out:
“Tears from the eye drain via a duct into the nasal cavity and when we touch our eyes with contaminated fingers we pass viruses into the nose.”
Vitamin D supplementation
What about vitamin supplementation? Is there evidence for any specific vitamin which assists in building our immunity?
Commenting on the necessity of supplements, Dr Eccles states:
“I also take Vitamin D3 as a supplement as it’s known as the sunshine vitamin, something which is usually more lacking in the winter months, when colds are reaching their peaks. He adds: “It can give the immune system a much-needed boost during winter when reserves may be low and there is sufficient information to indicate that vitamin D is a vital vitamin for the immune system.”
Thinking through these wellbeing tips to boost immunity, I have realised that when I follow through on a consistent basis the principles outlined above, my health certainly benefits. I wish the same for you too.
Part 2 Wellness Tips to Boost Immunity, looks at nutrition in more detail.
PART 2 WELLNESS TIPS TO BOOST IMMUNITY
THE NUTRITION FACTOR (By Sharon Platt-McDonald - BUC Director for Health, Women’s Ministries and Adventist Community Services)
In this segment of Wellness Tips to Boost Immunity, we turn our attention in a little more detail to nutrition.
Adequate nutrition plays an important part in building immunity. Here’s how it works.
- Vitamin A – vital for skin nourishment, which is the first line of defence for our immune system. Orange foods like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and squash are all are great sources of beta-carotene which is converted quickly in the body to vitamin A.
- Vitamin C - essential for normal tissue function and wound repair. It increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies. Fresh fruit and vegetables are good sources of Vitamin C. However foods like broccoli, red peppers, tomatoes, papaya, mangos, kiwi and citrus fruits are especially rich sources.
- Vitamin E - essential for maintenance of body cells and tissue health. It enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria. This vitamin contains valuable antioxidants that helps maintain optimum functioning of the immune system. Rich food sources are avocados, grains, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
- Zinc – a deficiency in this mineral can increase risk of infection significantly. Zinc assists white blood cell development and increases the amount of infection fighting T-calls. These cells are vital to help fight off viruses and foreign bacteria. This is particularly important for older adults who are often deficient in zinc and whose immune system weakens with age, hence their susceptibility to more colds and flu symptoms. Avocado, beans cereal, nuts, seeds, wheat germ are good sources of zinc.
- Diets below 1200 calories provide inadequate vitamins and minerals for good immunity
- Garlic is often referred to as ‘nature’s penicillin’ and known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. A compound in garlic known as allicin is known to boost the white blood cell's response to illness.
- Onions immune boosting nutrients are selenium, sulphur compounds, zinc, and vitamin C. Additionally they are a rich source of quercetin, a potent flavonoid and antioxidant. It also has antiviral properties and histamine regulating effects.
- Ginger is a warming diaphoretic that encourages perspiration. It helps in the treatment of feverish conditions such as influenza or colds. It also helps to reduce inflammation.
- Processed foods and sugar can suppress immunity reducing its ability to fight infections.
- Good hydration (about 2 litres) flushes out toxins. Adding freshly squeezed lemon to water or lemon slices gives an extra vitamin C boost.
Look out for Part 3 as we examine emotional, social and spiritual factors and how they impact on our immunity.
Information source: Enhancing Health articles by Sharon Platt-McDonald