Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Protecting our immune health

Written by Laura Currie   Posted in:Nutrition   September 30, 2018

Protecting our immune health
Our immune system is a very complex system. It protects us from a wide range of potentially harmful invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungus and cancer cells.  Not many people know in fact that each area within the body has its own immune activated defence mechanisms.  We need to help protect them all.
 
Gut Immunity
Our beneficial gut flora is part of our first line defence against potentially harmful microbes. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most commonly known probiotic strain. It produces lactic acid and other anti-microbial substances which helps to keep the unfriendly, pathogenic bacteria at a manageable level – not allowing them to over colonise and cause illness. Bifido lactis inhabits the large intestine and has been found to inhibit the adhesion of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria.
 
Eating foods which feed our good bacteria is important for their survival. Fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS) are the main source of nutrition for our friendly little helpers.
Some foods which contain FOS are:
  • Apples/Bananas                              
  • Leeks/Onions/Garlic/Asparagus                 
  • Asparagus/Flaxseeds/Oats
There are many strains of probiotics and each seems to have a slightly different beneficial action from aiding the digestive system to enhancing the immune system and assimilating certain vitamins. This is the reason why having a well balanced, healthy gut flora is so important for a strong healthy immune system. 

As a side note here; It is highly beneficial and advisable to take a course of probiotics after completing any antibiotics or you may be weakening one of your first line of defence against illness.
                                                                
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for the immune system.  While there are foods that contain vitamin D such as mushrooms, fatty fish and eggs, they do not contain enough to support your immune system through winter so supplementing in this country from September to April is a must.  It is best to get your levels checked so that you are not taking too little (so not having an effect) or too much (that it becomes toxic).                                     
 
Vitamin C
Vitamin C is vital for a fully functioning and healthy immune system.  It helps the immune system by helping the body to produce a chemical messenger called an Interferon. Interferons help to activate immune cells.  They also interfere with the replication process of virus’s inhibiting them from replicating. Vitamin C is found in large amounts in immune cells but is also used up very quickly during infections making it vital to increase your vitamin C intake around cold and flu season. It is also necessary for white blood cells to function efficiently.
 
Vitamin C is rich in the following foods:
  • Oranges/Lemons/Kiwi/Cherries  
  • Sweet Potatoes/Broccoli/Tomatoes/Bell Peppers
  • All Green Leafy Veg
Zinc
Zinc deficiency will cause a number of issues in the body. Often a sign of a low zinc status can be low immune function. Clinical trials have shown that zinc deficiency reduces antibody and cell activated immune response. Good zinc status is important for optimal functioning of white blood cells and an important part of the immune system.
Foods rich in zinc include:
  • Shell Fish
  • Nuts/Seeds/Lentils          
  • Eggs
As a recommendation, my favourite drink around this time of year is manuka honey with ginger and lemon.
 
These three items are highly antibacterial and anti-viral. Lemon is rich in Vitamin C, whilst manuka honey contains something called Unique Manuka Factor, which is why you always see ‘UMF’ on a jar of manuka honey. The higher the number, the stronger it is for the immune system - and the more antibacterial it is.
 
In summary I advise that you:
  • Consume foods which contain high levels of Vitamin C
  • Eat nuts and seeds (rich in Zinc)
  • Have more Oats – they are amazing! They are a prebiotic as well as containing beta glucans which strengthen the immune system
  • Enjoy foods rich in FOS and add garlic to everything (or almost everything) as it is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial.
Also, in case you didn’t know, we offer Vitamin D tests and Zinc Status Testing at Bridge to Health.
Contact me for details if this is of interest to you and of course contact us if you have any questions related to your nutritional wellbeing. 


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