Boosting your immunity: Foods to keep you healthy and safe
Immune foods are plenty! But do remember that they come from whole food sources. Random supplements promising immunity are a myth.
The truth is that you need to keep your gut healthy and your immune function robust. You can do this by eating a wide range of colourful foods that are rich in different phytonutrients.
Colourful foods contain phytonutrients that are rich in antioxidants. Whenever your body produces free radicals in your cells, it creates oxidative stress where your cells age. Oxidative stress impacts your immune function significantly.
The way you combat this is with antioxidants that are found in colourful plant immune foods.
Gut health and immune function
Before looking at immune-supportive foods, the first thing to always remember is that the health of your gut plays a key role in immune function. Almost 70 percent of your immunity is situated within your gut.
Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue is a concentration of lymph tissue in your gut. Without your lymphatic system, all your cells would constantly sit in their own waste and bacterial debris, without oxygen and circulation.
When lymph is congested around this area, there is a tendency towards belly fat, poor digestion, digestive distress, constipation, and subsequently, poor immune function. Therefore, the health of your gut is where immune work should begin.
Movement of the lymph around your gut
Your lymphatic system does not have a pump. You are the pump. Through gravity and movement, you support the lymphatic system. When lymph gets congested around your gut, it severely impacts your digestion and immune function.
Before we look at foods that are supportive of better immunity, a powerful way to begin is by having overall exercise and movement, and specifically those that move lymph around your gastrointestinal track with targeted and localised abdominal exercises.
Strong abdominal muscles also support peristalsis and better digestion. Do you have a daily exercise regime in place? If yes, you already have a strong foundation set up for great immunity.
How can you eat your way to better immunity?
Keeping a few things in mind and adding some foods to support better digestion and immune function is always a form of intervention that can help you from the get-go.
The first step to better immunity is to avoid eating foods that congest the lymphatic system in the first place.
If you have challenges with digestion, immunity, any other health symptoms and chronic condition, eliminating gluten, dairy and refined sugar can instantly make things better for you, as it drastically reduces congestion of the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue and allows the lymphatic system to be healthy.
Ginger has been used since ancient times as an immune food. Ginger is antibacterial and supports your immune system.
It also contains compounds that are a natural blood thinner. Since it has such strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, ginger has been used to boost the immune system for centuries. It is a potent food that not only improves digestion, it also moves lymph.
The thing to remember though that is warming. If you have challenges with a warmer core body temperature or a tendency to heat up, it can actually raise body temperature even more for you. It can also speed up the transit time of food.
Ginger is something that is a Goldilocks amount. Too little can make your gut lymph congested and too much can make you excessively hungry and not feel satiated. Find your magical amount by adding a little bit more each day until it is just working perfectly for you.
Cruciferous foods with fibre such as broccoli have a potent dose of beta carotene that supports immune function. It also supports liver detoxification which is closely linked to immune function. Compounds in broccoli antioxidant genes and enzymes in immune cells which combat any damage by free radicals.
The thing about broccoli is that you need it to retain the fibre. Overcooking can weaken the fibre and make it lose its rich green colour. That green colour is chlorophyll. Green foods contain sulforaphane, which are powerful detoxification compounds.
Improving liver health and detoxification instantly improve digestion and immune function. Chlorophyll is purifying to your blood and anti-inflammatory.
Green apple is an astringent food that helps your body move lymph. It allows your body to shrink water. Green apples contain excellent nutrients such as vitamin E and C.
The vitamin C boosts antibody production and supports immune function. It is also anti-inflammatory and a potent antioxidant that supports recovery from immune suppression.
Hot water is a great way to improve digestion and immune function. Having a cup of hot water every half an hour or every hour helps your body’s lymphatic system to work optimally.
Much of the digestive challenges today have to do with an inadequate intake of water. It is surprising how many people are eating great foods but accept that their water intake is really poor.
If you need to get yourself an app to remind you, that can be a great way to be consistent. It doesn’t cost anything and it can change everything for you.
Another great way to bring two interventions together is to have warm ginger water sometimes.
When it comes to immunity, don’t be overwhelmed by specific foods.
If you can just keep in mind that you need to improve digestion and help your body’s lymphatic system, that can be the best place to stay consistent. Once you do that, you can always keep adding foods that help your immunity.
And as I always say everywhere, just eating a diet that is whole, unprocessed, colourful and which brings in that wide range of phytonutrients from different coloured plant foods is going to always take you towards great health, one step at a time.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta