Nourish Naturally

1 Jun 2021, 11:48AM

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Eating enough nourishing nutrients is required for the holistic health of your whole body – not just your immune system!

Your body’s overall nutritional status helps your immune system to function and optimises your ability to fight infection. Many micronutrients are needed at each and every stage of your immune response.

A diet lacking in variety and nutrients can have a negative knock-on effect for your immune system. The standard Western diet, for example, is commonly high in refined sugar, red meat and highly processed foods and is often lower in vegetables, fruits and other whole foods. This type of diet can also promote gut disturbances, chronic inflammation and associated suppressed immunity.

Your immune army can’t operate on an empty stomach! As your immune system is constantly active it regularly requires essential energy from vitamins and minerals to keep it fuelled and running smoothly. Consider your diet and nutrition before, during and after illness to optimise your outcomes.

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Make a habit of eating a healthy, balanced diet to nourish your immune system and overall wellbeing. As there are many nutrients involved with normal immune system functioning, ensure you’re eating a variety of whole foods, close to their natural state – vegetables, fruits, lean sources of protein, beans and legumes, whole grains and healthy fats. Regularly adding fresh garlic and ginger to your meals can bolster their immune benefits.

A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fibre will help to keep your gastrointestinal tract and its resident microbiota happy – critical for optimal immune function and your overall health. In addition to diet, the composition of the gut microbiota is influenced by many factors such as stress, sleep and medications, so consider a holistic approach.

Ensure you drink plenty of filtered water every day – at least 8 glasses. For your immune system to benefit from the nourishing nutrients you’re eating, they need to be transported around your body via your blood stream – which is mostly water. Drinking enough water helps deliver nutrients where they need to go. H2O helps prevent the build-up of toxins by carrying waste away from your organs and flushing them out of your body. Water also builds up mucosal barriers in areas like your mouth and eyes, which help prevent infections from gaining entry.

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During illness, it’s important to nourish and hydrate. Any significant physical illness induces a systemic inflammatory reaction and elevates the metabolic rate, increasing demand for nutrients. Consuming a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet may help to reduce inflammation and optimise nutrient status at this time, improving resilience to illness and speeding up recovery. Choose more veggies and less refined, processed foods. 

 When you’re fighting off an infection, your appetite is likely to be low, so keep portion sizes small and regular. You might prefer easy-to-digest yet nourishing, nutrient-dense soups such as chicken and vegetable or mushroom and miso. Toss in some garlic and fenugreek to help break up dense mucous congestion and nourish mucous membranes, particularly in the lungs and other parts of the upper respiratory tract. 

 Keep your fluids up and stay well hydrated. Sip on warm water with lemon (juice, pith and rind can all go in!) and medicinal honey to soothe a sore throat. Or chamomile and peppermint tea (with some fresh slices of ginger) for their calming, anti-inflammatory properties. Gargling warm water with Himalayan salt also can help ease a sore throat.

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After illness, you need to re-fuel. Energy depletion starts at a cellular level, so you need to feed your mitochondria – these are the powerhouses of your cells that fuel all your body’s processes. Protein is needed to rebuild enzymes and neurotransmitters so incorporate lean sources of protein alongside plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats. In addition to diet, cold showers once well can stimulate mitochondrial function.