THE IMMUNE SERIES
Our immune systems are truly amazing. Every day they have to keep constant vigilance for foreign pathogens in the body and on occasions at the drop of a hat they must identify and respond correctly to any of the countless enemy microbes that may be trying to invade! Our immune systems are so incredibly clever because they have to distinguish between what is good and what is bad in our bodies (our own cells and foreign cells) kill what doesn’t belong but being careful to leave behind what does.
Split into 2 halves really, the first part of your immune system is the defences you were born with. These form before birth and are what are known as the innate system, the innate system spreads all over your body, through your blood, cells, and organs.
The second part of your immune system is known as immunity and it develops as you grow/age once you’ve been introduced to a pathogen (bacteria, illness etc.) Because it develops as we age there’s always opportunity for making it stronger! Your ‘immunity’ gives you protection against specific pathogens but both systems work together to attempt organisms from entering and causing damage within the body. These immune mechanisms also help eliminate abnormal cells of the body that can develop into chronic disease like cancer for example. Your body puts up a good fight for any pathogens looking to invade; our immune cells if strong are typically quite brilliant at recognising altered or foreign cells and then swiftly getting rid of them.
Your skin and mucous membranes are the first line of defence but if anything does manage to get past them then pathogens will be met by white blood cells, white blood cells are found in your bloodstream and are a collection of different cells that work together to destroy and engulf bacteria, viruses etc. This mechanism that the body uses to protect itself against disease and infections is known as the immune response. Every day in our busy lives were surrounded by viruses, bacteria, pathogens, and our wellness and overall health really depends on having a system that’s well enough to fight off these forms of infection. A person with a healthy immune system that may rarely get sick is protected by several lines of defence that include physical barriers, cells that secrete proteins to destroy pathogens, and strong fit cells that ingest pathogens.
Connection between immune system and gut
All of the symptoms associated with allergies like eczema, asthma and hayfever are signs of internal inflammation: redness, swelling, and itching, for example and to get rid of allergies, you have to get rid of inflammation and hyper-reactivity in the body. The place to start like so many things is in your gut and caring for your gut is essential for a strong and healthy immune system!
The gut walls house the cells which make up your immune system, so any help you can give your gut will make a world of difference to your overall body and general health. You may have heard so many times that a huge proportion of our immune system is found in the gut so you can understand the important connection here.
Protocol to manage
• Probiotics – These can be a huge help with the good bacteria contained in a quality probiotic I like symprove or reknew life. They can help to maintain a balance of good and bad gut bugs, preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Research has shown the potential for probiotics to improve intestinal conditions like diarrhoea, IBS and ulcerative colitis, as probiotics can reinforce your protective intestinal barrier, making your immune system so much stronger! Digestive health goes hand in hand with gut health and a probiotic may improve digestion, as they can break down indigestible fibres that would otherwise maybe causing you gas or bloating.
• Pre biotic and pro biotic foods – Diet truly is medicine in some cases, be sure you’re eating a variety of foods for your gut microbiome and including lots of pre and probiotic foods to help find that balance by feeding the good and bug bugs. Fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir, are great for the gut and reduce inflammation. Food sources to include would be: kimchi, miso, tempeh, coconut yoghurt, garlic, onions, leeks, banana flour (Banana flour is an incredible source of resistant starch which is a prebiotic fibre. This prebiotic acts as a substrate for our good gut bacteria, great to use when baking as lots of grains and flours can cause irritant to the gut, it’s a brill alternative)
• Herbal teas– Peppermint, dandelion and fennel are all wonderful and soothing for the gut as well as boosting your immunity at the same time! Sip throughout the day and make a cup about 20 mins after your meal to help aid digestion.
• Chew well – I know it sounds so simple! But the first step in the digestion process is chewing our food properly. When we chew our food, our saliva coats the food and sends signals to the brain to prepare for the digestive process. Once the food enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes work to break it down into small particles, which travel to the small intestine and allow the nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
• Eliminate stress – When released into the body in high amounts, the stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) can cause havoc and cause the digestive system to shut down, thereby bringing damage to the body. I recommend taking at least 20 minutes each day to rest without distractions such as your phone or emails. Try calming practices such as getting to bed early, stretching, walking and meditating.
• Eat well – I simply can’t emphasize this enough. Eat wholefoods, avoid processed packaged foods, refined sugars etc. and stick to lean, organic proteins; healthy fats, plenty of greens, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and pulses.
Recipe to help
BANANA FLOUR PANCAKES
- 1/2 cup banana flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 organic eggs
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar, raw honey or oranic/good quality maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp avocado oil or any neutral cooking oil
- Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend for several seconds until smooth.
- Add oil to pan, and warm on low to medium heat.
- Begin cooking the pancakes. Wait for the batter to bubble and then flip.
- Serve with gut healing stewed apples and pears, chopped banana, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup
Immune supporting diet
I talk about nutrition and diet a lot and I am always amazed by the power of nutrients we can get from our food. The food we eat massively impacts a whole host of bodily functions, including our immune systems.
It’s really important to consume a nutrient rich diet that can support your immunity all year round not just in the colder months. The ideal immunity diet would be that of an anti-inflammatory one but with a focus and conscious effort to include lots of my favourite immune boosting superfoods.
Immunity foods to focus on:
Garlic: A natural antibiotic due to its anti-microbial properties. I love to add it to salad dressings, soups, stir-fries and roasted veg.
Turmeric: Is a spice that not only adds a lovely flavour to foods but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. I love to add a teaspoon to soups, stir-fries, scrambled eggs, turmeric lattes and cauliflower rice/brown rice.
Greens and citrus fruits: Full of nutrients and antioxidants that can support the immune system year round. Broccoli and kale are two examples of greens rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is key when it comes to supporting immune function. Our bodies can’t make its own vitamin C so it’s important that we get it through our diet.
Organic free range eggs: High in protein, B-group vitamins and essential fatty acids which along with supporting immune functioning, they are also very energising.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A household staple and a true simple superfood! Rich in nourishing fatty acids and antioxidants which can help to reduce inflammation. When picking olive oil opt for extra virgin olive oil where possible as it means no heat has been added during processing. Perfect for roasting veggies and is yummy drizzled straight onto salads/grains like quinoa and millet.
Recipe to help
IMMUNE BOOSTING FRITATA
- 8 organic eggs
- Himalayan sea salt
- Black pepper
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 handfuls baby spinach, shredded
- ¼ cup chopped basil leaves
- ¼ cup black olives, pitted and sliced
- 50 g organic smoked salmon, finely sliced
- 50 g organic feta cheese
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- ½ cup of baby cherry tomatoes
- Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (Once cooked)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a baking dish with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, crushed garlic and salt and pepper.
- Spread the baby spinach, basil and half of the olives across the base of the lined dish. Pour over the egg mix.
- Sprinkle the smoked salmon, remaining olives, tomatoes and crumbled feta on top and season with chilli flakes, if using.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the frittata is cooked through. To check if the frittata is cooked, insert a skewer. If it comes out clean, the frittata is ready.
- Allow it to cool and slice into 6