Why is it that at times of crisis we’re all flocking to the supermarket to stock up on loo roll rather than raiding the aisles at the health food store for immune boosting foods? Luckily, the best defence against a virus that we all (already) own, is our potent and incredibly complex immune system. In addition, adhering to a few of the guidelines in this blog post on how to boost and support your immune system will certainly help! So here goes…
Support your gut health to boost your immunity
Perhaps it’s because gut health is a slightly un-glamorous topic, but personally we don’t think that it’s getting enough air time in response to Coronavirus. Excessive hand-washing aside, 70% of your immune system lives in your gut, so optimising its health and function is a fantastic way to boost your immunity and protect yourself against contracting a viral infection. Let’s recap how the immune system works - bear with us, this bit gets a bit sciency!
So, how does the immune system in the gut work?
When we’re attacked by a virus it attaches itself to our bacterial cells and begins to replicate. This replication happens extremely quickly unless it’s stopped by our immune cells, such as T cells and NK (Natural Killer) cells which hunt out and destroy viruses. Annoyingly, viruses can hide themselves pretty well from our body’s natural defence systems. We know, it all begins to sound a bit sci-fi at this point! Because viruses can adapt and evolve so quickly, they can be rejected by our immune system but come back within 2 weeks1 looking like something else and mount a successful attack!
1. Short Chain Fatty Acids Are Your Friend
We have many, many layers of defence within our gut, and one of those is our commensal bacteria which help to produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) like Butyric acid. These SCFAs are incredibly protective and we can boost our production of them via increasing the diversity of our diet. The more fibrous plant foods on your plate the better! Overly processed and sugary food is your gut flora’s nemesis - so, ‘eat the rainbow,’ as they say. In particular, stewed apples with the skin on are a fantastic source of butyrate. We like ours with lashings of tahini and cinnamon.
2. Immune Cells in the Gut
Inside the Lamina Propria we have many different types of protective cells that make up our immune system: T cells, Macrophages, Dendritic cells and Cytokines to name a few. If a pathogen (oh hey virus) makes it through the first line of defence and through the intercellular junctions to meet this wall of immune cells, then, in an ideal world, it will be engulfed, destroyed, zapped and eradicated!
3. Intestinal Damage Decreases Immune System Function
Now, you might be thinking ‘but why should a pathogen make it through the first line of defence anyway?”
There are numerous factors that cause intestinal damage and, therefore, make it more likely that your body will be calling on your immune system for constant protection – which weakens it, and you.
Undigested protein molecules (chew your food folks!), low digestive enzymes, antibiotics, infection, issues with blood sugar, stress and food allergies all cause damage to the intestinal mucosal cells triggering inflammation, leaky gut and decreased immune function. This is not what we want at a time like this. So, what can you do?
4. Consume a diet that is low in sugar.
Controlling your blood glucose levels (i.e. maintaining them at a nice, even level rather than spiking up and down throughout the day) is key to good immune system function. And yes, you guessed it, a ketogenic approach is amazingly beneficial in this regard. At Cru8 we’ve seen first hand how beneficial a low sugar diet can be for the health of our customers, so we’re dedicated to providing you with low sugar, keto-friendly treats, breads and snacks to fuel and nourish you.
5. Calm down!
When we’re stressed we’re more open to attack from invading pathogens. Taking up a daily practice of breathwork or yoga/meditation at a time like this is a really good defence mechanism.
6. Avoid allergens.
If you know that you react to certain foods (gluten or dairy, for example) don’t throw caution to the winds, avoid them for the time being to keep yourself in peak health.
How else can you boost your immunity?
- Good quality sleep is crucial for optimum health and immune function. Whilst Covoid-19 is a threat,skip the 6am gym class and make sure you’re getting a non-negotiable 8 hours. Invest in some blue light blocking glasses too and pop them on when the sun goes down - this helps to regulate melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy.
- Eat immune boosting foods: Ginger, garlic (antimicrobial), oregano (antimicrobial), and cruciferous, leafy greens like kale which are high in vitamin C.
- Other anti viral supplements to inquire about are colloidal silver and red-algae. Head on down to your local health food shop and have a browse, but remember, you can’t out-supplement a bad diet, so make sure you’ve got your gut health on track via a diverse, plant-based diet, before spending your hard earned pennies on lots of supplements.
- Take a daily probiotic. Look for one with multiple different strains of beneficial bacteria.
- Include prebiotic foods into your diet daily to feed your good gut bugs: leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and artichoke are a few great ones, or you can pick up a prebiotic supplement.
- Get creative in the kitchen and start fermenting some veggies! Kimchi and sauerkraut are full of beneficial probiotics to support your gut health and therefore your immune system.
But, above all else, don’t panic! We’re all right to be concerned, of course, but rest assured - if your body is in constant fight or flight mode then it certainly won't be protecting you adequately from viral attack. So, think calm thoughts and don’t go crazy buying loo roll-focus on your diet, sleep, stress and gut health instead!