COVID-19 has meant a lot of Australians are taking a closer look at their health, and immune systems. Naturopath Gloria Cicchini shares some daily habits to help boost your natural defences against infection and disease.
Immunity is one of the most-searched terms on the internet. An unsurprising fact, given the current health crisis that Australians are living through.
It should be noted however that ‘boosting’ our immune system – which is a broad term that describes a complex system of bodily functions – is not a sure-fire way to protect against infection of COVID-19 (it seems, nothing is).
However, being the healthiest version of ourselves – and subsequently increasing our natural immune responses is one actionable and relatively easy way we can decrease our chances of falling ill. To coronavirus. To the flu. To any infectious disease. Plus, we’ll feel infinitely better in the process.
To break it down, we all have two key types of immunity defence – barrier and innate.
The barrier is our first line of defence. Things like skin, the lining of the eyes, ears, mouth and respiratory tract, the gastro-intestinal tract, and urinary and reproductive tracts, all act as a physical barrier to external noxious agents that can cause illness. It’s the job of sweat, saliva and other bodily fluids to flush these noxious agents out of our body.
Innate immunity is the body’s non-specific cells that respond to the presence of a noxious agent. Like an army, they engulf and destroy threats by producing inflammation and other immune system responses.
While we’re all cooped up in self-isolation, there are some simple lifestyle tweaks we can make each day to naturally boost our immunity. Best bit? They can all be done easily from home.
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1. Eat well, be well
Nutrition is an important part of ensuring the body has all of the nutrients required to make the cells, excretions and chemical messengers that support immunity. The easiest way to eat well is to ‘eat the rainbow’ every day, and focus on plant foods not packaged foods.
Colourful fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of carotenoids that help support a healthy immune system. Try adding oranges to salads, making a fresh mango smoothie, snack on carrots and eat roasted pumpkin alongside a good protein source for dinner.
2. Spice it up
Raiding the spice rack is another simple way to boost immunity at home. Aromatic herbs and spices don’t just add flavour to a meal, they are antimicrobial. Try adding some culinary herbs and spices, along with plenty of vegetables, to a slow-cooked meal to deliver some of the required nutrients for healthy immune support.
3. Tea is the best tipple
Regularly sipping herbal tea is one of the easiest ways to support immunity. Tea has antimicrobial properties, and depending on the herb, may have other useful properties such as aiding sleep and boosting energy. Try adding a ginger and lemon (both plant-based antivirals) tea to your daily routine.
Here’s a simple lemon ginger tea recipe, using a few pantry staples:
- 1 lemon – skin removed
- A 5cm knob of ginger
- 1 litre of water
- 1 tablespoon of unprocessed honey
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- In a high speed blender, pop the ginger and lemon into the blender and blitz well.
- Move to a saucepan on low heat, add water and cook on a low heat until gently simmering, to make a tea. Add honey to taste and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
4. Get your dose of sunshine
Vitamin D is essential to a healthy functioning immune system yet sadly many Australians are deficient. The best way to get a daily boost of vitamin D is with a good old dose of sunshine. Even just exposing some skin for half an hour in the morning will help you reach your vitamin D quota.
5. Rest up
Adequate sleep supports appropriate immune responses. To aid a good night’s sleep, limit electronic device use before bed, especially blue light from mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. The blue light has been found to reduce melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. If you must use a device, set it to night mode to decrease the blue light.
Gloria Cicchini is a Senior Lecturer of Naturopathic Medicine at Endeavour College of Natural Health and runs a Naturopathic consulting business online and in Perth. For more information on natural health or becoming a natural health practitioner, visit www.endeavour.edu.au