There has been much reported on our unhealthy habits during lockdown, but did you realise that these unhealthy habits could have a negative effect on your immunity?
‘Immunity is hard to measure as there is no one factor that sums it up,’ explains dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Heath and Food Supplements Information Service.
‘Studies measure several things, longterm methotrexate like number of immune cells, how well people respond to vaccination and how many viruses and bacterial infections people pick up.
‘What we’ve seen is that lockdown has reduced our chances of catching infections, like colds and flu, because we’ve not interacted or travelled as much and have been in less contact with infected people. However, all this does is kick the can down the line – we can still catch these infections at a later date as we get back to normal life.
‘The cycle of infection, immune response and recovery is part of normal human existence.’
We hear the terms immunity and immune health bandied around a lot at this time of year, but do you know what they mean and how to boost them?
A survey for HSIS found that fewer than six in ten people knew roughly how the immune system worked and 13% admitted they had no idea.
Top signs your immune system is suffering
- Constantly catching colds
- Battling frequent infections, such as ear infections, cystitis or thrush
- Needing several courses of antibiotics over a year
- Taking longer than normal for your cuts and grazes to heal
‘Having a good immune system means the body has the ability to recognise and deal with germs (or pathogens), including viruses, bacteria and fungi,’ says Carrie.
‘The immune system is split into two main areas – innate immunity, which you’re born with, and acquired immunity, which you develop every time you’re exposed to a new pathogen. Viruses and bacteria try to hijack your cells to provide the nutrients and building blocks to make copies of themselves. They can then overrun your body systems. Your immune system tries to stop this by identifying the invading pathogen, isolating it and then destroying it.
‘We have many types of immune cells, for example phagocytes, which literally gobble up pathogens, killer T cells, which produce substances toxic to pathogens, and lymphocytes, which recognise infections our body has dealt with before.’
Most of us know eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help boost our immunity thanks to key nutrients which are essential for immune function.
These include vitamins A, C and D, folate (B vitamin), zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, selenium and long-chain omega-3 fats (found in fish). However, according to Carrie, most of us don’t eat a diet high enough in these key nutrients to help.
‘No specific food can “boost’ immunity as it is a very complex system,’ she says.
‘What we can do is we can stack the cards towards having a more effective immune system.
‘A key way is to boost gut health. Since our gut wall is one of the first lines of defence against pathogens, it’s important to eat high fibre foods (wholegrains, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds) and consider taking a probiotic supplement. Topping up your diet with a daily multivitamin and multimineral supplement is also an effective way to ensure you meet your nutrient needs.’
To boost your immune system, try these:
Sambucol Extra Defence
Sambucol Extra Defence contains black elderberry juice which is known for its antiviral proprieties. It’s also fortified with vitamins.
Buy it for £12.50 from Boots
Four Five CBD Effervescent Multivitamins
Four Five’s CBD Effervescent Multivitamins are orange flavoured and packed with essential vitamins, iron and zinc to help with rest and recovery. Also aids the daily functioning of the nervous system.
Buy it for £6 from Four Five
Oh My Flo Tea
Packed with powerful adaptogenic herbs and botanicals to support daily balance, Oh My Flo Tea also contains the multi-purpose achisandra.
Buy it for £6.49 (12 bags) from Our Remedy
Bon Eco Bed of Nails Acupressure Mat
Bon Eco Bed of Nails Eco Acupressure Mat works in a similar to acupuncture. It has 8,800 (non-toxic and recyclable!) plastic ‘nails’ to help release endorphins and drain the body of toxins.
Buy it for £100 from Cult Beauty
Exhale Coffee contains the same number of antioxidants as 12 punnets of blueberries or 55 oranges and comes in Espresso Roast, Medium Roast and Decaf flavours.
Buy it for £7.95 (225g) from Exhale Coffee
Re:Nourish’s +IMMUNITY soup
Re:Nourish’s +IMMUNITY soup is packed full of things like kale, spinach and turmeric, which are all sources of antioxidants and vitamins.
Buy it for £2.90 from Ocado
Heaven Organic Propolis Extract High Potency
Rich in flavonoids (a class of antioxidants), Heaven Organic Propolis Extract High Potency contains 50% propolis (a resinous mixture that honeybees produce) that is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-viral effects.
Buy it for £10 from Honey Heaven
The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic
The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic is packed with herbs and suitable for adults and kids.
Buy it for £16 from The Organic Pharmacy
Glow Bar Immunity Shrooms
Each of the medicinal mushrooms in Glow Bar’s Immunity Shrooms has been selected for immune- boosting properties. Just add to your morning drink.
Buy it for £38 (80g) from Glow Bar
Cosmic Molecule Bone Broth
Cosmic Molecule Bone Broth is crafted from the bones of healthy grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. It contains essential nutrients, including 19 different amino acids, protein and collagen.
Buy it for £24.99 from Cosmic Molecule
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