As featured in Body+Soul on 5th June, 2016

Our immune system is like our own personal army, ready to fight off the variety of bugs that we may be coming into contact with over the cooler months. A healthy and responsive army relies on a few key factors:

  • Having the right number of troops
  • Having well trained troops, with specialist forces that can be recruited should you come into contact with something unusual (like a virus, for example)
  • All members of your army have enough energy to do their job for the required period of time.
  • All your troops working together for the common cause of good health!
  • We tend to get sick when one of these key areas gets thrown out of balance. If you’re prone to catching everything that goes around throughout winter, here are some key tips to help get your army in tip-top shape!

1. Look after your gut

A large portion of our immune system is actually located in our gut. Having a balanced bacterial population in your gut helps prime your immune system so that you have the right number of troops all knowing what they are supposed to be doing.

2. Decrease your refined sugar consumption

Emerging evidence suggests that the consumption of refined and processed sugars found in soft drink, confectionary and other ‘junk food’ reduces the killing capacity of your troops. This then lets the infection take hold of your body, meaning you’ll start to experience the signs of sickness.

3. Bring in the herbs!

If you’re immune system has been slackening off, some herbal medicine can help whip it back into shape. Herbal preparation containing astragalus, andrographis, olive leaf and/or Echinacea can be particularly helpful for boosting your troop numbers and helping them up skill.

4. Chill out!

Our stress levels affect our immune function. Ever notice that you get sick right when taking a break after a big, stressful project? The constant stress has resulted in your troops losing the capacity to fight, making you more susceptible to picking things up infections. If this is you, time for immune system boot camp.

5. Food as medicine

Regular consumption of garlic, onion, turmeric, citrus (e.g. lemons, oranges and limes), cinnamon, chilli, rosemary and thyme will all to help nourish and support immune function. Manuka honey is also useful and can be eaten straight from the spoon at the first sign of a scratchy, sore throat or cough.

ZINC – The Immune Nutrient

Zinc is an essential nutrient for healthy immune function. If we don’t have enough, we can’t produce enough troops which makes us more susceptible to infections and can also lengthen the duration of our illness. Low zinc levels are also associated with higher levels of inflammation. Unfortunately our body doesn’t have a zinc storage system so we need to make sure we are consistently getting enough. Start with your diet before jumping to a supplement and consider things like oysters, beef, shitake mushrooms, tahini, pepitas, peanuts, cashews and pinenuts. The Recommended Daily intake of zinc for Australian’s is 14mg for men and 8mg for women.