Written by Lisa Baker, Nutritionist at Nutra Organics
Immunity becomes a hot topic in winter as things cool down. Shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures can leave us more vulnerable to infection and illness so we wanted to share some insight into what your body needs to stay pathogen-fighting fit.
To really support our immunity, we need to have a fair idea of what immunity actually is. Basically, immunity is the system that your body has to protect you from foreign invaders (like bacteria, viruses and fungi). It can be broken down into three parts: Barriers (both physical and chemical), Innate Immunity (also known as non-specific resistance) and Acquired Immunity (also known as specific resistance).
Barriers are quite easy to understand. Physical barriers include your skin, nails and the lining of your digestive system. Chemical barriers include your mucous membranes, stomach acid, and even the fluid coating your eyes. This first line of defence protects us from a majority of the potentially dangerous pathogens that we run into in daily life so we need to take care of it to ensure it can do the best possible job. Our Collagen Beauty
contains Collagen, Vitamin C and Zinc, and along with a healthy varied diet, it has been clinically proven to increase skin hydration and elasticity, and improve wound healing and connective tissue structure and function. All of these factors help to ensure a strong, resilient barrier!
Your Innate and Acquired Immunity gets a lot more complicated. These include all the cells in our body that roam around looking for anything dangerous, that got through our first line of defence, and destroying them. Innate Immunity is the part of immunity that is always present in the body and responds quickly when a pathogen is encountered. It includes fever, inflammation and special cells known as Phagocytes which patrol our tissue and engulf and destroy foreign cells. Acquired Immunity is our most complicated and specialised line of defence. This is the part of immunity that can be trained to specifically fight certain pathogens (through previous exposure or vaccination) so that if exposure occurs again, you will be able to destroy the invader before it spreads or makes you sick.
To help keep you healthy, here are some diet and lifestyle tips for keeping your immune system in top working order.
1. Energy and Nutrients
The immune system is a massive consumer of energy and nutrients and is one of the first things to be affected when your body isn’t getting adequate energy or nutrients. Some of the most essential nutrients to support immune function are:
- Vitamin C (which is abundant in red capsicum, broccoli and citrus fruit)
- Vitamin E (found in most nuts and seeds)
- Zinc (found in meat, legumes, whole grains, nuts, eggs and dairy)
- Vitamin A (found in organ meats, oily fish, pumpkin and carrot)
- and Vitamin D!
Exercise stimulates a heap of processes in the body to help with health and vitality, but one of the specific benefits of exercise for immunity is the boost in circulation and lymph drainage. White Blood Cells and Phagocytes are moved around in lymph fluid and blood. They destroy bacteria and other small foreign cells. The boost in circulation is able to speed this process up! Excessive exercise, however, is associated with a decrease in immune function, so be careful not to overdo it!
Sleep is an extremely important component of immunity. A lack of sleep has been shown to reduce the number and activity of immune cells which can lead to an increased risk of illness. With the decreased daylight hours of winter, there really isn’t any excuse to not get your 8-9 hours of shut-eye.
If you're needing a little help with winding down at night, our Lunar Latte
is a dreamy pre-bedtime indulgence, containing ingredients like reishi, ashwagandha, lavender, chamomile and passionflower that are a perfect addition to your night time routine.4. Pre and Probiotics
A happy balanced microbiome is an important ally in immunity as it helps to prevent the growth of harmful disease-causing pathogens. Incorporating Pre and Probiotics can be helpful. Some great natural sources of prebiotics include garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas (the less ripe the better), apples and oats. Some great probiotic options are yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kombucha.
In conclusion, as per most self-care pieces of advice, mum was right all along. Feed yourself well, move well and rest well in order to stay well this Winter.