During the winter, our healthy diets of the summer seem like a distant memory. With darker days and colder nights, our immune systems get a bit of a beating. Opting for stodgy, hot meals over fresh and light produce, our bodies slow down and we become more prone to getting sick. But fear not, friends! It doesn't need to be all doom and gloom. There are many simple things that you can add to your daily routine to help support yourself. From spices to vitamins, here are the best natural foods and supplements that boost your immune system.
The best natural remedies to boost your immune system
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a key hormone that dramatically improves immune function. It stimulates the production of anti-microbial proteins that fights off infections. Try and expose your face, neck and arms to 30 minutes of sun a day. In darker Northern climates, you may need to take a supplement for extra support. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone, so try buying one that is suspended in olive oil, like Nature's Answer Vitamin D3 Drops.
2. Nature's antimicrobials
Garlic, coconut oil, cinnamon, chilli, turmeric, ginger, lemon, green tea and honey. These should be staples in your kitchen cupboard. These ingredients are powerful players when it comes to sustaining a healthy body. They can be added to your diet in many ways. Add some honey to your tea, or chop up some garlic in your meals. All of these are very easy to incorporate into any dish.
3. Eat a colourful, whole food plant-based diet
Colour in food is a good indicator of different antioxidants that are in that food. Red foods like radishes, strawberries and tomatoes indicate Lycopene. Orange and yellow foods like lemons, sweet potato and carrots get their colour from carotenoids. Green vegetables like peas and kiwi get their colour from a range of phytochemicals. Cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cabbage also support the liver to flush out toxins. You can also try powders for extra support. Green powders like spirulina stimulate the immune function and are packed with protein and powerful antioxidants.
Mushrooms stimulate the production and activity of white blood cells in the body. They're an amazing source of Vitamin D and are excellent antioxidants. It's not just the more expensive wild mushrooms like shiitake or oyster that hold the benefits, but the common button mushrooms have been shown to regulate antibody secretion when eaten daily.
5. Support the gut
Encourage good bacteria growth by eating lots of probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and apple cider vinegar. There are also prebiotics, which are what feed the probiotics. They are essentially high-fibre foods and help the probiotics. These foods include onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes and bananas.
6. Reduce sugar
Immune cells have a decreased ability to engulf bacteria when exposed to high levels of sugar. Be careful during this festive period. Avoid over- and binge-eating plenty of high fructose and sugary treats!
Olive leaf extract, sage extract, echinacea and oregano oil work by helping to eliminate bad bacteria. Try cooking with the oils or even using them as aromatherapy.
The human body is around 60% water. It therefore has a huge role in keeping us healthy. Most importantly, water's critical use is the production of lymph which is the body's rubbish disposal. Without the lymph the immune cells would not be able to travel around the body. Exercise is also vital for the movement of lymph around the body. You should be aiming to get at least 8 glasses of water into your daily diet. This should not be replaced by juice, tea or coffee.
9. Kick the caffeine
It's very easy to get into a negative cycle with caffeine. We use it as a crutch when our energy levels are low. Cortisol, the stress hormone which is released when you drink caffeine, has a negative effect on the immune system. If you need a little pick me up reach for the green tea instead. It's a natural antimicrobial and is packed with antioxidants to support the immune system.
10. Sleep, stress and positivity
Express yourself, set expectations, have a positive mental outlook, laugh and get a good amount of sleep. Stress and sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on your health and hormones. Take some time for yourself, have a relaxing bath, read a book, and include mindfulness and meditation into your day.
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