Our immune system is miraculous. It has evolved over millions of years and is constantly learning. Nature takes its course but is there anything we can do to improve or strengthen it? Inflammation can impact lots of areas of our body, including our immune system, which we can help by eating anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants.
We asked registered Nutritional Therapist Kate Fisk to share some of her wisdom and give us a shopping list...
Green tea is rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage, is anti-inflammatory and promotes healthy gut bacteria. Green tea can also provide a calming effect on a busy mind whilst also providing energy without the coffee 'buzz'. It supports blood sugar balance and promotes insulin sensitivity. It has also been known to help burn fat more effectively and supports cardiovascular health.
1-2 cups/day. It does contain caffeine, so don't drink it after lunch.
Reishi (Medicinal Mushrooms)
Reishi is anti-inflammatory and helps deal with adverse effects of stress on the body. It supports energy levels, balances hormones and is a powerful antioxidant (helps protect against cellular damage and disease formation). It can also support gut health, blood sugar balance, sleep, mental health, liver function, cardiovascular health and has anti-carcinogenic properties.
1-2 tbsp/day (as a tea or in a smoothie). Most effective if taken with foods high in vitamin C and on an empty stomach, so perfect for a smoothie first thing.
Reishi powder from Natural Dispensary.
Elderberry is packed with flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins and is a powerful antioxidant. It supports blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. It may also support cardiovascular health, skin health and has anti-carcinogenic properties.
1 tsp, 1-3 times a day
Elderberry Tincture from Herbs Hands Healing.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and helps circulation and blood flow. It has also been known to protect against neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's. It also supports blood sugar balance, liver health, skin health, improves insulin sensitivity and may reduce symptoms of depression. It's anti-carcinogenic and anti-arthritic.
Best taken little and often. Add some of this paste to herbal teas, smoothies, scrambled eggs, soups, etc. It tastes great made into golden milk (with almond milk) just before bed to help sleep.
Try ¼ of a teaspoon, twice a day, and build up to 3-4 times a day for the first 4-5 days.
Can increase to ½ – ¾ of a teaspoon 3-4 times a day, if needed.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory, a powerful antioxidant and may have anti-carcinogenic properties. It helps regulate blood sugar, has anti-obesity effects (modulates the development of fat cells), improves cognitive function, promotes digestion (and therefore gut health). It can also help fight infections.
Add small amounts to smoothies as well as adding to soups, stews and curries. Or drink as a tea.
Here's my ginger tea recipe:
Wash a two-inch piece of fresh ginger root and cut it into very thin slices. Add the slices to hot water and boil for 10–30 minutes - depending on how strong you want it to be. The longer the better.
Remove from the heat, strain, discard the pieces and add in some lemon or lime juice to taste.
Camu Camu Berry
Camu camu berry is the top vitamin C food! It's also rich in manganese. It supports the immune system and looks after your gut, gums, heart, liver and eye health. It may also promote weight loss and support mood (stimulates serotonin production).
Best taken as a powder and can be added to smoothies. 1.5 tsp provides approximately 500mg.
NB Total supplementary vitamin C intake should be between 1000 and 2000mg (1-2g).
Camu Camu berry powder from Natural Dispensary.
Butyrate is made by bacteria in our gut when it ferments certain starches. It promotes gut health (which supports immune function) and enhances insulin sensitivity. In addition, it reduces inflammation and provides fuel for cells in our colon.
Two types of fibre provide the fuel for these butyrate-producing bacteria: resistant starch and fructans.
Resistant starch is found in cooked and cooled potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, beans, legumes and whole grains like quinoa.
Fructans are found in onions, garlic, leeks, broccoli, chicory, bananas (the greener, the better) and asparagus.
Zinc plays a critical role in many processes within our body. It supports our immune function, is a powerful antioxidant and can help balance hormone production. It supports growth and repair, aids digestion and also helps keep your liver, heart and eyes healthy. It also plays an important role in wound healing.
Top sources of zinc include lamb, grass-fed beef, oysters, mushrooms, lentils, avocados, chickpeas and seeds (hemp seeds are particularly rich in zinc. 1 tbsp of hulled seeds contains 1 mg, and can be added to smoothies). Pumpkin seeds are also pretty good (dry roast a batch and sprinkle on soups, salads etc.)
Kate Fisk is a registered Nutritional Therapist who qualified with a diploma in Naturopathic Nutritional Therapy after studying for three years at the College of Naturopathic Medicine.
She is registered with The British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), and The Association of Naturopathic Practitioners (ANP), both professional bodies for Nutritional Therapists.
She is based in East Sussex and holds consultations online via Zoom. Find out more about Kate here.