Winter is around the corner and we are determined to get our immune systems in good shape before the cold sets in. Try our favourite ways to boost our immune system, with tips from our wellbeing experts and their selection of wellbeing essentials. Don't let the sniffles sneak up on you!
Healthy Gut - Did you know that 70% of the immune system is located in the gut*? Forming a complex structure of organs, the gut not only works to digest and process the food that we eat, but it also provides our main source of defense against the ingested bacteria and pathogens** that can lead to colds and flues. With this in mind it makes sense to make sure gut health is optimised and maintained in order for our immune systems to be at their flu-fighting best. Below Content Medical Herbalist and Nutritional Therapist Jennifer Derham divulges the key elements of optimum gut health and an enhanced immune system...
"Found throughout our intestines and essential to our overall health are beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillis species and Bifidobacterium, these have immune modulating properties both in the gut and throughout the entire body." To ensure these beneficial bacteria are able to flourish, Jennifer recommends incorporating pre-biotic foods such as garlic, onions, raw chicory and dandelion greens and supplement with a good probiotic. Another organ often overlooked for it's role in immunity but vital to staying well is the Pancreas. Producing enzymes crucial for the proper break down and absorption of nutrients from our food: "Without these vital nutrients our vitamin and mineral status can diminish greatly resulting in lower levels of key immune enhancing nutrients such as zinc, iron, vitamin C and D to name but a few."
Another of Jennifer's immune enhancing go-to's are mushrooms, including the humble button mushroom: "Mushrooms have antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-microbial effects and also contain polysaccharides and beta glucans known to enhance immune cell production and strengthen the bodies immune response."
In addition to mushrooms, one of our favourite topical #skinfood’s Manuka honey (as used in Dr Alkaitis’ Skinfood Facial) has additionally been shown to have a positive influence over gut bacteria, with studies demonstrating its potential to increase beneficial bacteria and decrease pathogens in the stomach.***
Meditation & Sleep – We all know the importance of sleep when it comes to keeping well, but with never-ending to do lists and active social calendars, when it comes down to it, the majority of us simply don’t get enough (we get it, we’re sometimes guilty of it too!) however, there is increasing evidence that of a lack of sleep causes a detrimental alteration of the immunological, neuroendocrine and thermal functions of the body that contributes to the onset of pathological processes such as infectious disease.****
The good news is that whilst nothing should replace a good 8 hour snooze, engaging in a regular meditation practise can be of help. Effective in triggering the Relaxation Response (RR), studies have shown that meditation enhances the immune system, diminishes inflammation and even leads to higher levels of serotonin the feel good hormone*****. Additionally, recent studies have demonstrated that even a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function, with findings suggestive of meditation as capable of altering brain and immune function in positive ways.******
Vitamins - If you find that colds linger for well past the usual 5 – 7 day expiry date, chances are you may be lacking in one or more essential micro-nutrients. If this is the case, incorporating immune supporting vitamins such as C and D in the form of food, sunlight (it you can get it!) and supplements into your every day is crucial for maintaining optimum immunity, however, studies show that modern agriculture, transport and food storage severely impairs food quality, provoking a loss in vital micro-nutrients especially in non-organic crops*******. This makes it even more important to ensure we’re eating as much organic produce as possible. In addition to whole-food sources, to always ensure we’re getting our RDA and more, we turn to high quality food-state supplements. Vitamin C and D are crucial to a healthy immune system.
Exercise - Whilst there are mixed opinions surrounding how exercise impacts on our stress levels which is a major influence on our immune functioning, the adaptive purpose of a physiological stress response is to promote survival during fight or flight. While long-term stress is generally harmful, studies have shown that short-term stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges and may actually enhance protective immune responses in the body, increasing anti-infectious mediums and decreasing inflammatory agents.********
Founder of barrecore Niki Rein suggests working out harder but shorter in order to get the best results in the shortest amount of time: “I love anaerobic and HIIT training. The problem with long cardio sessions is that it increases the body’s cortisol levels and stress response which can lead to a suppressed immune system. I always recommend three to four full workouts per week to our clients, or even better, add 15-20 minutes of quick bursts of High Intensity Interval Training every day to get your heart rate pumping and keep your lymphatic system flowing for optimal health.”
Plant Power – We never underestimate the power of plants, especially when it comes to boosting your immune system! There are numerous ways that we love incorporating the medicinal and therapeutic properties of natures apothecary, from inhaling aromatherapeutic oils to utilising ointments and teas , using plants as a way to boost immunity has been practised for centuries. We like to spray and inhale the scent of Lotus Wei Radiant Energy Mist throughout the day when in need of an instant vitality boost and to help clear unwanted energy, or carry around the roll-on version in the form of Lotus Wei's Radiant Energy Anointing Oil. If you're always on the go or travelling, boost immunity and ward off unwanted germs with our hand bag must have: the De Mamiel Altitude Oil. It's an anti-microbial blend of natural oils which is great for decongesting colds - you only need to inhale a few drops to feel its effects!
Founder of Therapie by Roques O’Neils, Michelle, is a prominent propagator of aromatherapy and essential oils as a mode of immune support. Her personal favourite is Naiouli which she loves for combating congested sinuses and fatigue. She also created the organic beauty range Therapie by Roques O’Neils Heal Me, which is packed with immune-boosting, sinus-clearing and decongestive ingredients to support, comfort and strengthen your body when it's feeling run down. Treat yourself to the Heal Me Kit this winter and have a decongesting bathing ritual with it. Your body will thank you!
To catch a cold before it catches us and beat a nasty cough, we swear by the Ministry of Herbs Chest Rub, formulated by our very own medical herbalist Jennifer Derham. Loaded with organic essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme and camphor, it helps relieve congestions and coughs when applied to your chest. If it's relief from nasal congestion or sinusitis symptoms you seek, apply the Ministry of Herbs Sinus Rub on nose, cheeks and forehead both morning and night. We love applying ours before bed whilst enjoying a cup of Content Dream Tea, fantastic for promoting a restful night's sleep and help calm the central nervous system.
Fungi - Plants aside, we also like to rely on nature's finests with our favourite immunity-boosting fungi from Four Sigma Foods Mushrooms: Instant Chaga as soon as the colder weather sets in - not only does it taste sweet and delicious, but it has some pretty remarkable properties. Studies have shown that Chaga is an effective way to fight against bacteria, viruses, and inflammation, as it contains of nature’s highest amounts of SOD, the most potent antioxidant in the human body. Incredibly, it has also been shown to have anti-tumour properties. So to fight off any bugs, simply mix a sachet of Instant Chaga daily in the morning or in the evening and enjoy! It works a treat with chocolate too. For a special treat, you can't go wrong with a cup of steaming hot Xoco Red - Cacao and Chaga deliciousness.
*Allergy and the gastrointestinal system; G Vighi,* F Marcucci,‡ L Sensi,‡ G Di Cara,‡ and F Frati‡ ; Clin Exp Immunol. Sep 2008; 153(Suppl 1): 3–6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x
**Innate Immunity of the Gut: Mucosal Defense in Health and Disease, Yuan, Qian; Walker, W. Allan, Hournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: May 2004- Volume 38 - Issue 5 - pp 463-473
*** High throughput microbial bioassays to screen potential New Zealand functional food ingredients intended to manage the growth of probiotic and pathogenic gut bacteria; International Journal of Food Science & Technology – Volume 43, Issue 12, pages 2257-2267, December 2008; Douglas I. Rosendale et al.
**** Sleep and the Immune System; International Journal of Immunopharmacology; Volume 17, Issue 8, August 1995, Pages 649–654
***** Review of the effects of mindfulness meditation on mental and physical health and its mechanisms of action: Sante Ment Que. 2013 Autumn;38(2):19-34.
****** Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation; Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin; Psychosom Med 2003; Jul-Aug;65(4):564-70.
******* Vitamin C: is supplementation necessary for optimal health? Deruelle F, Baron B, Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, 2008 Dec; 14(10):1291-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0165.
********Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0.