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  • Writer's pictureDr. Angela Palmer

Support your immunity

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

As the world goes into lock down, this month we will re-cap how important good food and traditional methods of cooking and eating as well as many common herbs and spices can make a massive difference to your immune system. The nature of the Covid19 virus is a damp toxin that primarily attacks the ACE2 receptors of the lungs. It’s important to note that Hypertension medication inhibits ACE2 receptors which may explain why older people are more vulnerable to the virus than the young. There are many things you can do some of the most important factors include diet, stress and sleep.

It seems our ability to fight infection is directly related to adequate sleep, while increased stress levels also depresses our immune response. Trials have shown that 20 minutes of meditation helps fight infections, so relax and get plenty of sleep if you’re run down. Recent studies on type 2 diabetes have found that eating sugar has a measurable decrease in immune function, so keep sugary foods to only a treat, not every day.

Supplementation to boost immunity depends on what you take when, vitamin A (think carrots), C and E work best when taken prior to getting a cold. This includes cod fish liver oil for the kids (eg. Hypol) as this is full of vitamin A and D that is vital for immune function. Astragalus is a Chinese herb that has shown real promise in clinical trials in supporting immune cell count, as does Shitake and Reishi mushrooms. Zinc and selenium are important for fighting infection and is effective taken as a preventative as well as when you have a cold. Echinacea has shown repeatedly to be most beneficial when taken during the early phases of a cold, as well as Koran ginseng, while both are useful to take as winter takes hold to boost what we know of in Chinese Medicine as your ‘defensive Qi’.

Food is the most important daily medicine. Research shows that one of our most common vegetables is very important. Carrots that have been boiled for around 15 minutes release in an absorbable form high levels of interferon that interferes with viral replication. Soup is the easiest way then to boost your immunity daily. During the research for this article there were may articles on Science Direct and Google Scholar that showed immune boosting aspects to many herbs and vegetables. Very prominent herbs/foods include, sage, thyme, oregano, celery, cinnamon, barley and Gou Ji Berries. Warm soups are clearly an ancient remedy that is fully supported by research.

Try and avoid a lot of raw foods as they are difficult to digest when your body is adjusting to a colder season and cold drinks also put cold in our tummies while the body is trying to keep warm so drink warm water, hot teas and lots of healthy soup. Keeping yourself warm inside and out is paramount as it ensures your immune system can resist the invasion of pathogens so adding warming spices such as a good 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon on your brekky each morning really boosts inner warmth, as does ginger which you can have a few fresh slices with lemon and honey as a tea, and add ginger to your stir-fries and curries. Tumeric, chilli, garlic and black pepper are all very warming and directly fight cold and flu. The trick is to eat these things daily in which ever way takes your fancy. Stewed fruit is an easy way to incorporate warming spices, a great excuse to eat warming apple crumbles with cloves nutmeg and cinnamon or poached pears and cinnamon and ginger are really lovely ways to get that inner cosy going.

Remember antibiotics do nothing to viruses, only bacterial infections, while they kill your good digestive bacteria which has been clinically shown to assist in immune function. Anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen suppress the immune system and thus allow viruses to sink deeper into the body so avoid them and use simple cooling methods such as tepid water and lavender as a compress and peppermint/chysanthemum tea to cool a fever. We understand people are struggling this year so boosting your intake of leeks, onions, spring onions, garlic etc are very good for warming lungs and clearing phlegm. These are best in soups such as chicken vegetable or minestrone or add to any soup or stew.

So get into some immune supporting herbs now, and eat well and heed professional advice.

Until next time

Stay well

Dr Angie Palmer

Registered Chinese Medicine doctor.

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