• Building Your Immunity Naturally

          “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.”

         A wise prediction from Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th Century, but maybe one we have lost sight of.

         Modern medicines focus on destroying the invader once it has attacked, but surely a better approach is to build our immunity naturally to fight the bugs off before they take hold?

        So how does our immune system work?

        The thymus gland, located in our chest in front of our heart, produces T-lymphocytes or T-cells, which are a critical feature of our immune system. These immune cells create and mobilise a defence army within us which then identifies the foreign invaders and attempts to destroy them. The thymus gland relies on a number of nutrients:

        Vitamin C, sometimes referred to as the ‘master’ immune nutrient, is thought to nourish the thymus gland, in doing so helping immune cells develop and increasing our white blood cell count. It also has both anti viral and antibacterial properties and can act as a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory.

        Zinc also supports the thymus gland and helps increase white blood cell count, increasing the defence army and so reducing the duration of an infection.

        Vitamin A supports the mucous linings found in the nose, throat, lungs and digestive tract, and can therefore help prevent viruses from taking hold. (Note: Pregnant women should beware Vitamin A rich foods since high levels in the diet can harm the foetus.)

        Herbal remedies can also be incredibly powerful for both boosting the immune system and fighting infection

        Echinacea has anti viral properties which stimulates production of immune cells. Trials published in The Lancet in 2007 indicated that those taking Echinacea were 35% less likely to get a cold when directly in contact with rhinovirus than those not taking the supplement. It also reduced duration of colds by 1.5 days. Trial participants saw greatest effectiveness when taken Echinacea alongside Vitamin C (reducing infection by 86%)

        Golden Seal has antibiotic properties; Garlic and Calendula are both antiviral and anti bacterial.

        Tea Tree oil works against staphylococcus, the bacteria responsible for infections ranging from a simple boil to MRSA which is now resisting conventional antibiotic treatments; hence the rise in popularity of Tea Tree hand washes and wipes.

         The importance of probiotics:

        With an increase in virulent infections such as the Norovirus vomiting bug over the winter, it is particularly important to try and improve the balance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Our gut provides a home to billions of bacteria , and the ‘good guys’ form a large part of our immune defence system; particularly from pathogens ingested through food. ‘Friendly’ or good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, L-Bulgaris and Bifidobacteria are key to helping us fight infection, acting as nature’s antibiotic by consuming the nutrients that can feed and encourage ‘bad’ bacteria. They also proliferate to fill the receptor sites that harmful bacteria need to replicate infection.

        Sugar is an important food source for all forms of bacteria, so best to avoid a sugar rich diet (white bread and pasta, refined carbohydrates, sweets and cakes, and sugary yoghurts)  and instead include prebiotic foods (also known as Fructooligosacchaides or FOS)  in your diet which will specifically help  feed the good guys. Foods rich in prebiotics include chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, legumes and whole grains.


        A diet rich in a variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and essential fats (oily fish, nuts and seeds) should give you a good supply of all these vital nutrients, but avoid too many processed foods and sugary foods. Go wild with the herbs and spices;  a win-win since they are not only nutrient-rich but also to add flavour and interest to your cooking.

        Good quality sleep is also vital for your immunity since much of our repair and rebuilding takes place whilst we are asleep, so try  to ensure you get a good night’s rest as often as possible.

        Drinking plenty of water will also not only help flush toxins through, but is required for every chemical reaction in our cells, so water is also an important immune support. Aim to drink around 2 litres or 6 large glasses a day, and for an extra immune boost, start your day with a glass of hot water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.