Last week when I was hosting our Digestive Health Masterclasses here in Sydney, I mentioned my long battle with my own gut issues, dealing with a suppressed immune system and healing from bouts of pneumonia. My personal health issues were the catalyst that started my own functional foods range, and during this time I began to really understand the power of certain foods and nutrients to help my immune system function properly.
While winter may be a time we seriously consider warding off colds and flu, I believe building a strong, healthy immune system is something we should think about year-round.
FOOD AS MEDICINE
Every time I sit down to a meal, I always consider if I’m nourishing my body with nutrient-rich foods or if I’m just satisfying my taste buds. A good diet has always played a vital role in supporting health, which is why it is so important to think about what you put into your mouth every time you eat and drink. Is what you’re consuming making a positive or negative difference to your body?
Eating according to the seasons is a great way to support and strengthen our health, nourish our bodies and improve our immunity.
For the winter season, I like to eat warming soups and broths that nourish the body and I love using antimicrobial aromatics like ginger and turmeric to combat inflammation and boost circulation.
The healthier our gastrointestinal tract is, the healthier we are. The gut plays an imperative role in immune function. It is our link to the external world and our first line of defence against any pathogens that may cause harm. In fact, the majority (about 70 per cent) of our immune system resides in the gut, ready to fight against any ingested nasties that don’t belong there. Probiotics are especially helpful in supporting our immune systems, which is why I focus on eating these foods daily.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms (good bacteria) that reside in the gut. They support our immune system, aid digestion and assist with nutrient absorption into our bloodstream.
THE SUPER IMMUNITY REMEDIES TO FIGHT COLDS + FLU
Protein + Amino Acids
Research studies have shown that a deficiency of high-quality protein can result in depletion of immune cells, the inability of the body to make antibodies, and other immune-related problems.
In a nutshell, protein helps repair the body, assists in recovery from illness and sports injuries, prevents muscle wastage, keeps blood sugars stable, supports weight loss and a healthy metabolism.
Good sources of protein and essential amino acids include bone broth, fish, organic chicken, grass fed meats, cultured natural yoghurt, organic eggs, nuts and seeds, nut butters and milks, quinoa, hummus, tahini, tempeh, green peas and Healthy Chef Protein. Every process in the body requires protein, as our body relies on having an adequate pool of amino acids available to function properly.
Because turmeric has high antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, it assists in reducing the symptoms of cold and flu. Researchers at George Mason University have found that turmeric shows promise in combating certain viruses as curcumin strongly down-regulates the levels of extracellular infectious viruses.
Not only is turmeric a powerhouse of nutrients, it makes an incredibly healing and delicious drink when combined with cinnamon, ginger and vanilla bean.
These key ingredients can be found in Healthy Chef Turmeric Latte, as I absolutely adore these ingredients as they take me back to my much-loved childhood drink my Aunt used to make to help me sleep.
Recipe to try: Life-Changing Golden Mylk
Studies have shown that ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It helps to boost immune function and combat cellular damage. This warming spice stimulates digestion, gut motility and bowel function while helping to relieve bloating, cramping and nausea.
Because of this, I love to make restorative soups and juices using ginger. The addition of other immune-boosting spices such as turmeric, further support digestion and boost immune function.
I also love to sip on Healthy Chef Gingersnap Chai Tea during the cooler months as it is an incredibly healing drink that tastes divine with nut milk and a dash of Manuka honey.
Recipe to try: Organic Chicken Bone Broth With Ginger Aromatics
Honey has been widely accepted as food and medicine by all generations, traditions, and civilisations, both ancient and modern. Studies show that manuka honey, in particular, has the power to combat numerous species of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant varieties. Manuka honey is antimicrobial and antiviral. It is the presence of Methylglyoxal (MGO) within Manuka Honey that has special antibacterial effects, which help alleviate the cause of a range of colds and flu symptoms such as blocked sinuses, sore throat and coughs.
Recipe to try: Make SWITCHEL – a cold and flu remedy to ease inflammation and support digestive health. Combine 1 teaspoon of Manuka honey with 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar and 3 cups of filtered water and a little muddled ginger. Mix through until honey is disolved and drink. I also love to add a spoonful of Manuka honey to Healthy Chef Lemon + Ginger tea to help support my immune health on daily basis.
Garlic is also an immune system warrior, protecting the body from infections and illness because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic contains allicin, a potent phytonutrient that is great for cardiac health. It has been shown to help to lower blood pressure, inhibit blood clotting and promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Recipe to try: Immune-Boosting Congee
Probiotics + Fermented Foods
Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that reside in the gut. Probiotics support our immune system, aid digestion and assist with nutrient absorption into our bloodstream. If you have intestinal dysbiosis or poor gut flora such as yours truly, you’ll be more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections (and colds and flu). I make sure to take probiotics and eat fermented foods daily. Fermented foods are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria – we’ve been making loads of sauerkraut and kimchi in the office and eating a spoonful each day with our soups and salads.
Examples of probiotics include kefir, kombucha tea, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables and Healthy Chef Green Smoothie.
Vitamin C acts as your personal bodyguard, helping to protect cells and assist in healing. Studies show the use of vitamin C reduce the duration and symptoms of colds. Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and limes are a great source of vitamin C which helps maintain the body’s defence against bacterial infections. Lemons, in particular, are wonderful for your digestive system and I’m always squeezing lemon juice into 2 big glasses of room temperature water every morning to help start the day. Additional Natural Immune Support or Cold-Pressed Wheatgrass adds an extra boost of Vitamin C, D and chlorophyll – particularly useful when I’m stressed and run down and need to recover quickly. I recommend making an Immune Boosting Smoothie with oranges, limes, turmeric, ginger and leafy greens that will make you feel wonderful straight after drinking it.
Lemons, oranges, grapefruit and limes are great sources of Vitamin C, which helps maintain the body’s defence against bacterial infections.
Recipe to try: Rescue Remedy
SLEEP + REST
Make getting 8 hours of restful sleep a night your number one priority! Just a few nights of not sleeping well can elevate inflammatory markers and reduce the protective capability of your immune system. That’s why it is a good idea to go to bed earlier, sleep longer and rest more, especially during the winter season.
Chronic stress and not giving your body enough time to recover from an illness can make you more susceptible to infections. Research shows that people who are under severe stress have lower white blood cell counts and are more vulnerable to colds and flu. Once a person catches a cold or flu, stress can make the symptoms even worse.
Research shows that people who are under severe stress have lower white blood cell counts and are more vulnerable to colds and flu. I like to wind down for the night with a mug of Relax + Renew Tea, which promotes a restful sleep.
To ensure you are giving your body the best defence to ward off colds and flu, you need to consider the quality of your lifestyle habits as well as your diet.