Your 4-step plan to boost your immunity
Naturopath and Kombucha City founder Gail Matthew looks at how you can boost your immune system to prevent getting sick or speed up your recovery post illness.
With Covid-19 and winter flus and bugs continuing to take hold right across New Zealand, there has never been a more important time to focus on ensuring you have a strong immune system. Whether you are trying to avoid getting sick in the first place, or whether you want to build up your strength after an illness so you don’t get sick again, there are steps you can take to support your wellbeing. Here’s a four-part action plan.
1. Support your adrenals
When you have a severe illness such as Covid or an extremely bad flu, it puts extra stress on your body, impacting your adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are part of your body’s hormone system and control your body’s response to stress.
If our adrenal glands go into overdrive to deal with the extra stress created by being sick, they have nothing left to support our recovery or to help our body fight the next bug or virus that comes our way.
One way to support your adrenals is with herbs – Withania (also known as Ashwaganda or Winter Cherry) is one of the best herbs for this purpose but Licorice and Rhodiola are also good.
Most health shops will be able to sell you an over-the-counter adrenal support supplement.
It’s also important to do everything in your power not to put more stress on your body. Routine is key to this – our bodies respond well to rhythm and routine. Get up at the same time, eat breakfast at the same time, and go to bed at the same time, before 10pm or earlier if you feel tired. Make sure you get lots of rest – even 15 or 20 minutes sitting on the couch counts. Mini breaks can really help, especially when you are in recovery mode.
Don’t exercise unless you feel up to it. Exercise is good for you unless your body is really tired. A handy rule to follow is that if you go for a short walk and you feel fatigued, you shouldn’t be exercising. If you go for a short walk and you feel energised, you are ready to exercise again.
2. Get help from herbs and vitamins
As well as the herbs that work with your adrenals, there are other natural helpers that will support you to build up your immunity.
Taking Echinacea for a short period is a great way to boost your immune system. With natural remedies, the earlier you start taking them, the more effective they will be. So, if you feel a niggly sore throat coming on, hit the Echinacea. It’s best to use these remedies for a short period – such as a week – rather than taking them all winter.
Vitamin C and zinc also help with immunity. Liposomal Vitamin C is more effective than regular Vitamin C because it is more easily absorbed by the body.
Finally, if you feel as though you are lacking in energy, it would be a good idea to start taking a high-quality Vitamin B complex.
3. Eat your way healthy
Another way to support your immune system is to ensure you are getting a wide spectrum of vitamins and nutrients from your food.
Eat lots of vegetables – aim for a ‘rainbow plate’ with lots of different coloured vegetables to increase the range of antioxidants you are consuming.
Fermented food will increase the microflora in your bowel which boosts your immunity by creating an environment where it’s easier for your body to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. Stock up on some delicious kombucha from Kombucha City, or add other fermented foods such as cultured yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, sourdough bread or fermented sausage to your diet.
Fall in love with soup. If you are recovering from illness it can be taxing for your body to breakdown whole food but it can absorb nutrients from soup. Soup is a great way to get a variety of vegetables into one meal. Also, because you are eating the liquid the vegetables were cooked in, you are not losing any of the nutrients. It’s fine to blend the soup if it makes it easier for you to eat.
4. Sleep, sleep, sleep
Sleep is essential because it allows your body to rest and recover.
Listen to your body and do what it wants. If you are falling asleep in front of TV, head to bed instead of watching the last 15 minutes of your show. If you are tired at 6pm, it’s ok to hit the sack early. Or even better, schedule in time for an afternoon nap so you can make it through the evening.
Get into a healthy sleep/bedtime routine. Start getting ready for bed at 9.30pm so you will have your head on the pillow ready for sleep by 10pm. Follow a similar pattern each night – for instance, turn off the TV, put your cup in the dishwasher, then brush your teeth and wash your face so that you train your body to know when it’s time for sleep.
Boosting your immune system will help you fight off infectious diseases and feel healthy all the time, making it easier to enjoy all the gifts and challenges life brings.
Posted: Monday 1 August 2022