By Kate Barnes
Building a strong immune system can be thought of as a two steps:
Nurturing our bugs, i.e. our microbiome.
We have a mutually beneficial relationship between us (our bodies) and our bugs (our microbiome). This relationship is fundamental to a strong immune system. When it’s strong and healthy, we have a much better chance of keeping illness at bay and therefore, staying healthy.
Nourishing our cells.
We know it’s important to eat well and enjoy good, healthy whole foods, however there’s something else that’s equally as important. That is to be actually absorbing all these fantastic nutrients these foods are giving us…or not?
Signs that our bodies aren’t absorbing well can include: being regularly sick with colds or flu; experiencing bloating, constipation or loose stools; lethargy; headaches; mood swings; blood sugar swings, etc. The trick is to stop for a moment and listen in to these signs and act upon them. Without good nutrition, i.e. nutrients, it’s incredibly difficult to create strong, healthy bodies.
Very simply when these two functions are going well – we’re well.
Think of the following tips as a checklist for ideas that help nourish our cells and nurture our bugs and prevent illness, especially colds and flu! Add one or two things in that ‘feel’ right for your family and start there.
An immunity checklist – 24 quick and easy tips:
- Vitamin D. The sunshine and happiness vitamin. In Australia, the winter sun is low in the sky – it will be rare to need a hat or sunscreen. Try to enjoy a healthy dose of sunshine when it’s out and about. If you’re staying out longer, then pop on a long sleeve shirt, hat or a non-toxic sunscreen.
- Sleep. Aim for 10-14 hours for children, depending on their age and 7-9 hours for adults. The more hours we sleep before 12.00am, the happier we are.
- Stress less. Allow for down time, i.e. schedule it in: play, fun, outdoors, be creative, let the kids get dirty, mediate, rest, do more of what you love and love what you do.
- Fresh air and physical activity every day, embrace the weather and the elements.
- Water. Drinking 1-2L of good quality, filtered water is ideal.
- Reduce or eliminate sugar, dairy and gluten. It’s kinder on our digestive system and immunity. Especially eliminate dairy for sinus, colds or mucous generating infections.
- Reduce processed, packaged foods. These foods hamper the health of our microbiome and slow down our digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Evaluate simple carbohydrates, (including fruit). Simple carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and rice are generally low in quality nutrients. They do little to satisfy hunger, especially in our children and can affect our blood sugar levels. Think twice about how much you’re having and when having fruit, aim to have no more than about 2 pieces of fresh, seasonal fruit in a day.
- Greens, glorious greens. Enjoy lots of them and different types of greens in any way you can, fresh, steamed, baked, blended, juiced in soups, etc. Fresh greens are energising, detoxifying and feed a healthy microbiome.
- Good fats! Good fats are often a neglected nutrient, yet vital for our wellbeing. They also help to keep our blood sugars stable and are important in helping absorb some vital nutrients and maintain a healthy immune system.
- Bone stock/broth. Include bone stocks regularly, especially through winter. They can be added into sauces, soups, smoothies and tea! We can’t say enough about one of nature’s true superfoods, and check out my recipe for Immuni-TEA for a quick and easy way to enjoy a cup of bone stock.
- Whole (real) foods, including herbs and spices, especially foods like garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon – all known for their healing qualities and used over the centuries to promote wellbeing.
- Check for toxin exposure around the home. Toxins can inhibit cellular health and disrupt a healthy microbiome. For example, toxins to be aware of include personal hygiene and home cleaning products, radiation, electromagnetic and chemical exposure, cookware, plastics, heavy metals and microbial infections. These can all place stress on the body and disrupt our immune health.
- Fermented foods. They are a perfect way to build a healthy population of ‘bugs’ and microbime. Add them in daily, e.g. kefir, authentic sugar-free yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso paste, olives and capers. If the children aren’t too fond of the idea, try making applekraut! Grate some apple and add in a small amount of sauerkraut or the juice. This helps them get used to the taste while still getting the benefits of the fermented food.
- Enjoy a good wholesome breakfast and lunch or afternoon tea/dinner and look after your cells, microbiome and your blood sugars.
- Own a pet.
- Laugh. It instantly diminishes stress hormones and increases immune cells, automatically improving our resistance to disease.
Laugh. It instantly diminishes stress hormones and increases immune cells, automatically improving our resistance to disease.