Want to Fight Infections Better? Boost Your Immune System!
With the extraordinary situation in which we have all found ourselves recently, a lot of focus has been on staying out of the way of anything that might cause us to pick up viruses or unhealthy bacteria. Whilst this is 100% correct and what we should continue to do – social distancing, washing and sanitizing our hands, avoiding leaving the home, and so on; another lesser known way to help remain healthy is to boost your immune system.
ITV’s This Morning breakfast show recently chatted to Dr Chris. He spoke of the importance of keeping your immune system healthy; so that if you come into contact with Coronavirus, or any other illness, your body was as fighting fit as it could be.
For anyone who is unsure of what the immune system is, Live Science describes it as a complex network of cells and proteins within the body. Its role is to “protect against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguishes them from the body’s own healthy tissue.”
Dr Chris explained to the presenters, Eamonn and Ruth, that because the immune system is so important, it’s crucial to understand how to help give it a boost. He described how an amazing 70% of the body’s immune system is in your gut; this being filled with healthy, or “friendly”, bacteria.
The point he stressed is to increase the population of friendly bacteria whenever possible. This can be done through eating:
When we say yoghurt, it is specifically plain, natural, Greek style yoghurts. A great way to check whether you’re getting the right ones is by looking at the ingredients and find the healthy bacteria listed on there – a common one to look out for is “lactobacillus”.
After you’ve increased the population of friendly bacteria in your gut, you now need to think about feeding them – keeping them healthy by eating:
When it comes to beans, the sky is the limit! It can include fresh ones – such as butter beans, broad beans, French beans and string beans. They can also be the tinned variety – baked beans, kidney beans and black beans to name just a few. These all do wonders for feeding your friendly bacteria. Dr Chris also explained that another easy to access food is:
Quite apart from boosting your immune system by feeding your friendly bacteria, this fruit is amazing in many other ways – it is a source of Vitamin C and potassium, it helps raise energy levels with natural caffeine, and aids in digestion.
Dr Chris stated that “these are good, cheap ways of feeding the army of friendly bacteria in your gut” – sounds like a fantastic reason to keep eating those delicious foods.
The final part of the advice that the doctor of 40 years had for boosting your immune system was to try to get as much Vitamin D3, as possible.
Being out in the sunshine is the most natural way of increasing this – when we are out and the sun is shining, D3 is made under the skin. He explained that, unfortunately the Northern Hemisphere has just gone through our winter months; meaning we are all very low on Vitamin D.
Going out in the beautiful sunshine we’ve been enjoying recently (with the appropriate sun protection) can be a great way of adding to it. However, with the recommendations from the Government to stay inside, as well as people’s usually busy lives, Dr Chris categorically instructed people to buy Vitamin D3 supplements to take daily.
The doctor explained how he’s been aware of the benefits of this vitamin for years, so has been taking supplements for it throughout the past few years himself – even during the months when he can increase it through safe sun exposure. If it’s good enough for a doctor of 40 years, then it’s good enough for us!
Vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common in the UK, especially after the winter months, and it can cause lots of health related problems – not least a decrease in our immune system. Dr Chris recommended all those who are at risk of Coronavirus, in his own words; “that’s everyone”, to supplement their Vitamin D to give you more of a fighting chance if you do come into contact with it.
When looking for a supplement either online or over the counter (safely and with social distancing measures in place), make sure that the bottle says Vitamin D3 – this is the one that is most helpful for the immune system.
So let’s increase our intake of natural yoghurts, beans, bananas and Vitamin D3 supplements – it will help boost our immune system. Whilst these steps can’t guarantee us not coming into contact with, or contracting, Covid-19 they will hopefully give us more of a fighting chance to keep it at bay and fight it off as best we can.
If you’d like more information on how diet can affect us, you might enjoy our article: How does diet affect our mental health and wellbeing?