How to boost your im­mune sys­tem

Dr Libby an­swers reader ques­tions – this week, on stay­ing well over win­ter, and look­ing af­ter your bones if you go dairy-free.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Ques­tion: How can I boost my im­mune sys­tem? I have had colds off and on in the last few months and can’t get back to feel­ing 100 per cent. Thanks, Sharon. Hi Sharon, it sounds like your im­mune sys­tem needs some on­go­ing sup­port through the win­ter months.

The first place to start is to en­sure that you are get­ting enough vi­ta­min C. Vi­ta­min C helps to re­duce in­flam­ma­tion and stim­u­late the im­mune sys­tem to help fight off bugs. Try in­creas­ing your in­take of broc­coli, kale, cit­rus fruit, ki­wifruit and as­para­gus, and en­sure that you are con­sum­ing vi­ta­min C rich food each day as this is not a nu­tri­ent the body can store.

B vi­ta­mins are found in whole grains like quinoa, mil­let, brown rice and oats, as well as dark-green leafy veg­eta­bles. B vi­ta­mins help to reg­u­late the im­mune re­sponse and amount of an­ti­bod­ies pro­duced to fight an in­fec­tion. If you fol­low a gluten-free or grain-free diet, you may like to con­sider a B vi­ta­min sup­ple­ment to en­sure ad­e­quate in­take.

You may also like to con­sider us­ing echi­nacea as it has been used as an im­mune sys­tem sup­port­ing herb for cen­turies. It is best-used long term and helps to mod­u­late the amount of white blood cells present, which are what fight in­fec­tion in the body. I ad­vise that you con­sult with a med­i­cal herbal­ist for guid­ance with dosage and use of echi­nacea.

Other things to try dur­ing long pe­ri­ods of not feel­ing your best in­clude the ad­di­tion of bone broth to your diet. Sim­ple chicken or beef stock con­sumed over the day helps to boost your im­mune sys­tem as it is full of min­er­als to sup­port re­pair. The ad­di­tion of some spices like turmeric and gin­ger can make it a very warm­ing and nour­ish­ing drink to en­joy over the cooler months.

Re­duc­ing stress is crit­i­cal to help your body re­pair. Sched­ule time to di­aphrag­mat­i­cally breathe each day to help lower stress hor­mone pro­duc­tion, as this sig­nals to the body that it is safe (not in dan­ger – which is what stress hor­mones can com­mu­ni­cate), and can fo­cus on rest and re­pair work – which in­cludes good im­mune func­tion. Ques­tion: I don’t eat dairy prod­ucts – how can I eat for strong bones? Thanks, Jayne. Hi Jayne, nu­tri­ents to keep bones healthy and strong as we age in­clude vi­ta­mins C, D and K, mag­ne­sium, cal­cium and boron.

Cal­cium is es­sen­tial for build­ing and main­tain­ing a strong foun­da­tion of bone, while mag­ne­sium and vi­ta­min D help the cal­cium we con­sume to be ab­sorbed.

Vi­ta­min K is es­sen­tial for the for­ma­tion of os­teo­cal­cin, which is a pro­tein uniquely found in bones, help­ing to main­tain over­all bone strength. Vi­ta­min C is a su­per star nu­tri­ent and even has a role to play in the health of our bones.

Vi­ta­min C is crit­i­cal for the pro­duc­tion of col­la­gen, and col­la­gen al­lows the struc­ture of bone to have enough flex­i­bil­ity to with­stand stress (like ex­er­cise or falls) with­out break­ing.

Peo­ple choose to ex­clude dairy from their di­ets for a range of rea­sons, and if you do this it is im­por­tant to en­sure that es­sen­tial bone nu­tri­ents are ob­tained from else­where in the diet. A diet high in a va­ri­ety of plant foods pro­vides a range of nu­tri­ents.

Spe­cific sources of cal­cium in­clude tahini (ground sesame seeds), broc­coli, kale and other green leafy veg­eta­bles, al­monds, salmon with ed­i­ble bones, and figs,to name just a few.

Your body makes vi­ta­min D via the ac­tion of sun­light on the skin. This will be the main way you ob­tain vi­ta­min D. Foods that con­tain small amounts of vi­ta­min D in­clude or­ganic but­ter (if you tol­er­ate this), some oily fish types and eggs yolks.

Mag­ne­sium is found in nuts, seeds, brown rice, quinoa and leafy greens. Vi­ta­min K is found most densely in dark leafy greens like kale, sil­ver­beet, spinach and broc­coli. Vi­ta­min C rich foods like kiwi fruit, berries, cit­rus fruit and pars­ley are best en­joyed raw to pre­serve as much vi­ta­min C as pos­si­ble as heat can de­stroy some of the to­tal vi­ta­min C con­tent.

A sim­ple chicken or beef broth is full of min­er­als to sup­port body re­pair.

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