Things You Can Do To Boost Your Immune System
If you’ve ever made healthy changes to your diet in the past, one thing you would have probably noticed is the fact that you you’ve developed a stronger immune system, and you’re not getting sick as often. It’s not uncommon for adults to develop between two to four colds each year, which can cost people time off work and just make you feel quite miserable for days to weeks. If you talk to people doing long term calorie restriction, you’ll hear many of them say that they’ve not been sick in years, maybe a decade or more.
Over the years I’ve been doing this diet, there’s been times when I seemed completely immune to developing a cold or the flu, and other times I would seem to just catch anything that was going around. Now that I’ve had enough time (14 years) to experiment, I’ve learned ways to either minimise the symptoms or to try and speed up recovery time.
I’ve also learned from mistakes that I’ve made, which seemed to have resulted in poor immunity at times. One major issue I ran into was developing a Zinc deficiency, which was mostly likely caused by the high intakes of copper I get from my plant-based diet. I had to supplement 50 mg Zinc Picolinate to correct it. My main symptoms were frequent infection (one after another), dry / painful skin on my toes and hands. I also developed acne again! Something I hadn’t experienced to this degree since before I stared doing CRON.
Almost immediately upon supplement the Zinc, my symptoms started to disappear and have not come back. I think Zinc deficiencies might be more common among vegetarians and vegans. There’s no great way to test for it, but you can get a liquid solution to taste and that can give an indication of you’re deficient.
If you feed your body all the essential nutrients, and you have good sleeping habits (lack of sleep can significantly increase the chance of getting sick) then you’re already going to do a lot better than would’ve in fending off these bugs. The first priority should always be to make sure that you analyse your diet and you’re getting over 100% of everything, and in the right amounts. And then on top of that, you can work on using other things either as a preventative at certain times of the year or even to nip it in the bud before it develops beyond the early stages of infection.
5 THINGS TO IMPROVE AND SUPPORT A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM
Garlic is great ingredient that can be added to many different foods and has many health benefits, not just immune system boosting effects. Garlic’s man active component is called allicin, which is created when the cloves are crushed and ailliinase reacts with alliin.
When using garlic, I recommend that you crush the garlic and leave it for a few minutes, and then consume it with something. From my experience, when I felt I was developing a scratchy throat (sign of a cold), I crushed at least 4 gloves of garlic and spread it on some bread with some olive oil. It can be strong, so be careful not to burn your mouth! But it’s very effective.
If you don’t fancy smelling of garlic by eating then all day, you can additionally take one capsules of Allicin per day which is equivalent getting the same amount of allicin as you’d get by eating 25 cloves of garlic, but now without the smell. One study showed that these capsules reduced the incidence of colds and significantly improved recovery time.
Garlic is one of the best natural remedies to boost your immune system and cure early stage infections, buy not effective for colds if the infection has gone too far. There are many studies published on the antimicrobial effects of garlic and allicin on pubmed for the prevention and treatments of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections either alone or in combination with antibiotics.
If there is one food or supplement I’d recommend everyone take, or have close at hand, it’d be garlic.
Other benefits: garlic lowers blood pressure, reduces AGE’s, lowers glucose, improves the gut by altering gut bacteria (which is also part of our immune system).
Ginseng has been touted to have many medicinal properties. It’s a treatment that has been used for many years for colds and flu in countries like Korea and China. North American Ginseng appears to be the most powerful in the treatment of acute respiratory infection.
Studies have found that this common herb can significantly shorten the length of colds by 6.2 days, and the best effect is when it’s taken preventatively for two to for months. You can find it here if you want to give it a go this autumn / winter. Ginseng reduced the number of colds by around 25% in five trials examining the effects of North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).
Tips: Ginseng can be added to hot water to make ginseng tea, add to smoothies. It’s available in many different forms.
Other benefits: Helps boost metabolism to lose weight, increases stamina, and lower blood sugar.
3. GREEN TEA
Green tea is one of my favourite drinks. There’s an old Chinese proverb which says: “Rather three days without food than a day without tea”. I think drinking tea has almost become a ritual for me. First thing I do in the morning is make a cup of green tea.
Green Tea contains many different compounds or polyphenols which promote health. Two of the main components in helping boost the immune system are EGCG and L-Theanine. Studies suggest that the compound EGCG directly inhibits entry and replication of viruses like the common cold, influenza, and others. Tea primes the immune system so it can more quickly fight off infections before they have a chance to take hold.
Tips: Add some ginger and lemon to your tea to make even better. Citrus fruits may boost the benefits of driniking green tea and ginger contains gingerols which help block inflammation, and also decrease nausea, which some people get from the tannins in green tea. Adding Manuka Honey to the tea is also a great idea if you have a bad throat and want to prevent bacterial throat infections. Gargling the tea might be more effective in preventing infections.
Other benefits: Boosts metabolism for weight loss, protects against diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and more. In a study from Japan, researchers found that drinking 5 cups of green tea or more reduced all cause mortality for women by 23% for Women and 12% for Men.
4. SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
There are many different types of mushrooms, but Shiitake mushrooms proven to be one of the most powerful in boosting immune function. Mushrooms contain Beta Glucans which stimulate parts of the immune system as well as decrease the level of inflammation in the body.
They help us to better fight of viral and bacterial infection. Shiitake mushrooms boost natural killer cells which destroy abnormal cells, whether they are cancerous or been infected and viruses.
In a randomised study looking at human immunity with the consumption of mushrooms, researchers noted significant and beneficial changes in the immune system after just consuming 5 to 10 g of mushrooms daily. If you don’t like Mushrooms, you can alternatively take a Beta Glucan Supplement.
Beta Glucans have been studied for years looking at its immune system modulating effects, and to date there’s been over 6000 studies published looking at prophylaxis and treatment of infectious disease (read about some of them here). A trial involving 162 people, researchers gave participants of the study beta glucan and found that people in the treatment group experienced 25% fewer colds.
Tips: Don’t continually take the supplement. I recommend that you take a beta glucan supplement or consume mushrooms intermittently. So consider taking the supplement during times when you’re stressed, lack sleep, or surrounding by sick people. There is some evidence that some of the immune system benefits / changes decrease with continued use.
Other benefits: May lower cholesterol, lower risk of cancer, and well being in general. Mushrooms also provide vitamin D.
Elderberry can be used to help support a healthy immune system and protect you from developing colds. Elderberries contain anthocyanins which are strong antioxidants that help block free radical damage in the body. Studies have shown that elderberries are anti-inflammatory and immunostimulatory.
In 2016 a study was published looking at the development of colds and cold duration in Air-Travellers. The study was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial and it confirmed previous findings that this fruit protects against colds and reduces cold symptoms. The placebo group had a much longer duration of symptoms compared to the treatment group (117 vs 57, p = 0.02). Symptom score was also significantly higher in the placebo group vs treatment (583 vs 247, p = 0.05).
Tips: Use Elderberries in jams, sweets, pies and other foods. Do not eat them Raw! You can alternatively get some Gummies, which also contain vitamin A, C, D, E and Zinc for improved immune system.