Reduce sugar intake and cut out refined foods: 1 teaspoon of sugar may suppress immune function for up to five hours and studies have proven that a high sugar intake negatively impacts white blood cell responsiveness. Choose whole unprocessed grains and lower glycaemic load foods instead. Whole unprocessed grains are also high in beta-glucans, compounds which stimulate white blood cell activity. Eat plenty of antioxidants: eat a rainbow to mop up free radicals. Carotenoids (and vitamin A) play a role in the production of connective tissue, which is a key component of skin. Skin is your first line of immune defence! They also increase production of certain white blood cells. Vitamin C is required for the formation of white blood cells and adrenal hormones. It also increases interferon levels, which coats the cell surface to protect against entry from viruses. Vitamin E scavenges free radicals and increase B cells, white blood cells, which are responsible for making antibodies to fight specific germs. Bioflavonoids such as rutin, quecertin, and hesperidin are present in fruits and veggies and enhance antioxidant activity! Herbs and phytonutrients to try: Astragalus, echinacea, dandelion, milk thistle, red clover, liquorice root and oregano are powerful herbs with blood cleansing, liver detoxifying, immunomodulating and antimicrobial properties. Garlic contains allicin, a potent antimicrobial that helps to fight infection. Fresh ginger contains gingerol, which like capsaicin found in chillies has analgesic properties and are high in antioxidants and other nutrients. Herbs can also be used to make a footbath: fresh ginger, mustard seeds and peppermint with a few drops of cayenne oil is great if someone has a cold! Increase your intake of green leafy vegetables such as seaweeds for their high mineral content and alkalising properties. A recently discovered gene, T-bet is responsible for producing crucial immune cells in the gut known as innate lymphoid cells. These cells respond to what we are eating, specifically leafy greens!
Incorporate fermented foods into your diet: 80% of the immunity lies in the gut so it is important to maintain the correct microflora in there. Restore beneficial bacteria with fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, water kefir, kombucha and kimchee to strengthen your immune system. Consider medicinal mushrooms increase production and activity of white blood cells and have cancer-fighting properties. Shiitake, maitake, reishi and cordyceps are available in supplement form upon recommendations from a registered nutritionist or herbalist. Ensure adequate good quality protein in your diet: The proteins that make up your immune system rely on new protein synthesis to function. A diet which is too low in essential amino acids has a negative impact on the immune system. The added benefit of eating meat and fish is the host of other nutrients they contain, including zinc, which boosts immune response and promotes wound healing. Shellfish is high in zinc and selenium, another potent antioxidant which helps white blood cells to produce cytokines. Oily fish such as sardines and mackerel are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Sleep! Messing up your circadian rhythm disrupts melatonin production. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant which works with cortisol to maintain our circadian rhythms. Sleep deprivation causes physical stress and excess cortisol release, which in turn causes the immune system to go into overdrive and respond with an inflammatory response, the key driver of most chronic diseases. Asthma and allergies can also be aggravated by lack of sleep.