How to Boost Your Immune System


Nutrition tips on how to Boost your Immune System

“This is an unprecedented time, a once in a 100-year pandemic. A time for us to be level-headed, open-hearted, and focused on what we can do to protect ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country, and be kind to each other. A time to hunker down with the family, to take care of ourselves, to cook, and cherish the people and things we love. The more we can face the threat with calm and kindness, the better able we will be to survive and thrive.” Dr. Mark Hyman

The question most people are asking during the corona virus pandemic is “What can we do”  “How do I prevent getting sick”  How do I build my immune system”  Unfortunately, there currently is no cure for the coronavirus however that does not mean that one cannot fight off the virus. The best thing one can do at the present moment to fight off the virus is to maintain a healthy and strong immune system. I will be offering insight into how we can strengthen our immune system to fight off the virus and any related illnesses and to recover faster from then if we do get infected.

I always revert to this saying from Hippocrates:  “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” which brings me to my first point:

Eating a whole food diet that mainly consists of colourful fruit and vegetables.  Think of the Rainbow and try to consume all the range of colors. Aim for 8 servings (more if possible)! A serving is half a cup. This is where we get our anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that act as health-supportive medicine.

Steer clear from refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods. Studies have shown that sugar can suppress your immune system for hours after ingesting. Sugar and processed foods also impact your gastro-intestinal health negatively.  More about GUT health in the next point

“70-80% of our immune cells live in the gastrointestinal tract along with the 100 trillion gut bacteria that make up the gut microbiota. The gut is a major entrance for pathogens, toxins, and allergens and one of the major roles of the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract is to distinguish between harmless antigens, such as food, and health hazards”. A healthy gut makes the rest of you less vulnerable to bacterial and viral invaders. For a healthy GUT we need prebiotics (food for the probiotics) and we need probiotics (the bacteria residing in our digestive tract).  Having onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus provide the prebiotics and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh give you your probiotics (you can find these types of foods from a health store)

Ensure adequate protein intake as this is also critical for immune function.  Sources of protein can be from animal eg chicken, fish, red meat, pork, game, ostrich and plant-based eg legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu, tempeh

Incorporate healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and fatty fish like sardines, pilchards, herring, mackerel, salmon and trout

Don’t forget to spice things up!!! Garlic, ginger, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, thyme, cayenne pepper to name a few packs a powerful anti-inflammatory punch

Let the water flow. This is often a concern I see with my patients, as soon as the temperatures drop so does their fluid intake.  Adequate fluid supports all your body functions including your immune system.  Remember hot drinks like herbal teas count towards your total fluid intake as well as the new buzz word around town bone broth.  Bone broth is also packed with collagen and glycine which supports your immune system

Hit the snooze button.  Getting adequate sleep of 7-8hrs is very important for optimal immune function.  Your body loves routine so try and go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time.  Incorporate relaxation and breathing techniques which will help cope with stress and calm the mind

Stay consistent with your exercise.  Mild to moderate exercise helps boost the immune system, whereas overexerting yourself can do the opposite.

My favorite nutrients to take extra during the cold and flu season include the following:

Vitamin D3 our sunshine hormone but even in sunny South Africa we don’t get sufficient exposure and often should be supplemented

Vitamin C has been long known for how it supports the immune system

Omega 3 fish oil
Vitamin A

A gentle reminder to practice all the other precautionary measures during this period. Wash your hands, sanitize, disinfect surfaces, practice respiratory hygiene, and social distancing as much as you possibly can, you may just be saving someone else’s life.


Article contributed by: Gazette Oosthuizen
TROVE Wellness Registered Dietitian
Instagram: @ezette_oosthuizen_dietician

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