By Nathalie Coudray, H&B contributing editor
Taking care of yourself and giving your immune system the best chance to fight against viruses is one of the most important things to do all your life and particularly right now.
Our immune system is composed of organs, cells and tissues that work all together to preserve and protect the body from infection and inflammation.
Our genetics influence our immune system so everyone reacts differently.
However, our heritable factors are not responsible for everything, your lifestyle, chronic stress, poor diet, nutrient deficiencies, lack of sleep and exercise, and the imbalance of our microbiome, meaning the bacteria in your gut, plus pollution determine the strength of our immune system.
We all want to stay in shape, so to keep yourself as healthy as possible, and enhance your inner beauty, here are five steps that might interest you :
Step 1 – Take care of your gut
You will be surprised to learn that your gut is one of the best soldiers in your body fighting for a good immune system. Did you know that your gut contains 80% of your immune cells ?
Feed it with the best nutrients and they will influence and boost your immune system. Why ? Because what you eat is directly connected with your ability to fight against bacteria and viruses. At all times and especially now is the right time to set up a nutritional program to fortify and help your precious immune system.
Zinc is one of the most important mineral nutrients to boost your immune cells. It is very easy to find it in our nutrition : eggs, red meat, nuts, beans and lentils, whole grains, shellfish and … dark chocolate !
Be careful, don’t take zinc supplement without the advice of your doctor, it can be dangerous.
Eat plenty of fermented food, rich in probiotic bacteria and enzymes. It will help your gut to be in good health and improve your digestion. Kombucha, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut are the greatest choices.
Step 2 – Reduce refined sugar
Everyone knows by now that refined sugar is extremely bad and dangerous for our health. It can be considered as an addictive substance and the proof is how it feels when we crave it!
What you might not be aware of is that sugar has massive negative effects on your gut. With an overconsumption of sugar your white blood cells cannot fight viruses and bacteria.
In addition, sugar (like diary) feeds inflammation – especially when you have a flue – so the best advise I can give is to better stop eating refined sugar, or at least, reduce massively your consumption. Do not substitute with artificial sweeteners as this can cause other health problems.
Step 3 – Vitamin D3
Being deficient in vitamin D3 can increase health issues (flues, infections, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease…).
Normally, your skin produces vitamin D when you expose yourself to the sun without any sunscreen. 20 minutes per day is necessary but it depends on your skin tone and the latitude.
Best is to do a blood test to check your vitamin D levels. If your results show less than 20 nanograms per milliliter, your vitamin D level is considered as deficient. The best result would be above 30.
During the winter in many countries around the world the sun is not often appearing to support us, and our diet can be full of herbicides and pesticides. All these reasons can cause vitamin D deficiency.
One of the best ways to improve your immunity is to take vitamin D3 supplement every day during wintertime or whenever you are not in the open air exposed to sunlight ( hot summers when staying inside with air condition is common ). Consult with your doctor or practitioner for the dosage of your daily vitamin D3 intake.
Step 4 – Inflammation
Reducing inflammation involves healing your gut and modulating your immune system.
Your nutrition should also be boosted by anti-inflammatory foods.These include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, almonds and walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, broccoli, peppers, garlic and onions, turmeric, berries and green tea.
If your nutrition is deficient, take the star of the anti-inflammation supplements, the Omega 3 fish oil.
Step 5 – Take vitamin C
Vitamin C is anti-viral which supports your immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant that the body can not synthesize and which must come from food or supplement.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables are rich in Vitamin C. Best sources are acerola, citrus fruits, kiwi, red berries, pepper, spinach, cress, fresh herbs such as parsley for example.
Attention! Vitamin C is very sensitive to heat so don’t cook at high temperature and too long as you will destroy most of it.
Vitamin C supplements are easy to get over the shelf in your pharmacy or health store, buy the brands which no added sugar, artificial flavors and other harmful substances.
Alternatively you can buy ascorbic acid which comes in powder form and put one spoon in a glass of water. Drink it several times a day ( morning, lunch, afternoon ).You should not take vitamin C in the evening before going to bed. It might keep you active and you won’t find sleep easily.
The more vitamin C the better to boost your immune system, there are no side effects or overdose to be afraid of. Several grams per day can be utmost beneficial.
Be aware that effervescent vitamin C supplements may contain too much sodium chloride which is dangerous for the blood and blood pressure. This may increase cardiovascular accidents.
Other ways to bolster your immune system are by lowering your stress, avoiding too much alcohol and smoking/drugs, sleeping well and enough hours, exercise outdoors when possible. Oxygen nourishes our cells and makes them work better.
And as a REMINDER : Wash your hands… Now in times of Covid-19 and for the rest of your life as a good habit and prevention of bacterial and viral infections!
Qualified Nutritionist & Naturopath
Healthy Lifestyle Expert