As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in it’s natural for us to shelter from the elements by staying indoors. Experts say that as a consequence we’re more likely to pick up a virus like a cold or flu from those we spend time with. This is primarily because our homes are not as well ventilated through the the winter months. In this post we’re exploring natural ways to support your immune system. Our suggestions include:
- Healthy foods which support immune function
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Herbal remedies
- Propolis for immune support
In this blog post we’re exploring wide a range of easily-accessible remedies which support the body’s immune system. These include foods which contain important nutrients, vitamins, minerals and immune-boosting herbs. Finally we’ll share with you our a short-cut to a healthy immune system.
Healthy Foods Strengthen Your Immune System
The importance of a healthy and balanced diet is well known. We’re regularly reminded to eat 5 a day, or to eat the rainbow. Both of these are great tips. Eating a wide variety of different foods is vital as it gives our bodies access to the broad range of nutrients we need to remain healthy.
Choosing organic fruit and vegetables and locally grown produce also helps. Research shows that fruit and veg grown organically can contain up to 68% more antioxidants than non-organic options!
Below are a few foods which have proven health benefits during the winter months.
Dark Green Vegetables
‘Remember to eat your greens!’ It’s a bit of a cliche, but in terms of nutrient-rich foods, green veg is hard to beat. Broccoli, for example, is packed with vitamins A, C and E. It’s also a great source of fibre and other antioxidants.
Spinach is similar. It’s high in vitamin C but also contains beta carotene, which has been linked to our body’s ability to fight infection.
It’s important not to over-cook vegetables, and this can strip them of their nutritional value. Stir-frying or steaming veg is a great way to retain the vitamins and minerals. Or, enjoy them raw with a dip like hummus or as part of a winter salad!
Garlic adds a zing of flavour to cooking, but it’s also widely used a natural remedy. It has been used to fight infections for thousands of years. It may also slow down the hardening of arteries and is thought to lower blood pressure too!
Garlic is rich in a compound called alliin. This turns into another compound called allicin when when it’s diced up or chewed. Allicin triggers white blood cells to kick into action – fighting infections like colds.
Fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clemantines and limes are often used to treat colds. This is because their high in vitamin C which is important for immune defense mechanisms.
The human body doesn’t produce or store vitamin C itself. This is why it’s a good idea to include a good source of vitamin C in your daily diet. A 200ml serving of orange juice contains about 50% of your recommended daily intake. Other types of fruit as well as vegetables like red and yellow bell peppers and broccoli (mentioned above) are also high in vitamin C.
Turmeric is often used as an ingredient in curries. It’s vibrant yellow colour gives a pleasing glow to fragrant and spicy dishes, all year round! But did you know that turmeric has also been used as a natural remedy for millennia?
This is because it’s packed with a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to help the body repair exercise-induced muscle damage. It’s also thought to be an immune-boosting and antiviral nutrient.
Honey is a great source of antioxidants. These chemicals are responsible for helping the body defend itself against free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to cells and are linked to various chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
Honey has also been shown to be antibacterial and antifungal. It contains hydrogen peroxide which is an antiseptic. Honey is also acidic, even when diluted. Experts say that this property means honey is a great defense against bacteria and microbes which might be harmful.
Lots of people think chicken soup is a bit of an old wive’s tale. But actually, poultry contains vital nutrients such as vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is a vital nutrient, responsible for helping the body generate new red blood cells. Onions, garlic and other vegetables used in the soup also contain important phytonutrients. These are important for fighting infection and supporting the body’s natural immune system.
Chicken soup is useful for supporting gut health. This, in turn, ensures our bodies can absorb other vital nutrients useful in fighting infections. Chicken is also high in a compound call carnosine. Carnosine has been shown to reduce that stuffy and congested feeling in your nose and throat.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements can Support Immunity
Alongside healthy food, sometimes it can be useful to take vitamin or mineral supplements. These come in the form of capsules or tablets and are readily available from high street pharmacies and health shops.
Depending on your diet and other aspects of your health and lifestyle you might benefit from taking some of the following supplements.
B vitamins are responsible for several metabolic functions within the body. This includes energy production. Most B vitamins are available from plants. However, vitamin B12 is only found in meat, fish, dairy products and eggs. For this reason most vegans and many vegetarians are advised to take vitamin B12 supplements.
As mentioned above, vitamin B6 is vital for helping the body create new healthy blood cells. These are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body and help fight fatigue.
Vitamin C provides lots of important benefits for the body. It’s a powerful antioxidant which can help defend the body against chronic disease. Taking vitamin C has also been shown to help reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.
Interestingly, vitamin C is important because it helps the body absorb iron, another vital nutrient. Iron is essential for the creation of red blood cells. People with an iron deficiency can suffer with anemia, but taking vitamin C has been shown to increase iron absorbtion by up to 67%.
This vitamin is required to help us absorb calcium from our diet. In turn this strengthens bones and teeth. Vitamin D can be produced by the human body, when exposed to sunlight. However, during the winter as light levels reduce and we spend less time outdoors it can be difficult for the body to create enough vitamin D.
The NHS recommend taking vitamin D supplements throughout the winter months. This is especially true for people with darker skin.
Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. They are also important for brain memory, performance, healthy skin and behavioral functions.
Deficiencies in Omega 3 can cause a number of problems. These include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, mood swings, depression and poor circulation . During winter these symptoms tend to worsen, so it might be a good idea to take an Omega 3 supplement. Alternatively, you could eat plenty of oily fish like mackarel or from nuts and seeds such as chia seeds and walnuts.
Zinc is one of the most essential nutrients in our diets. It is responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system as well as promoting healthy growth and wound healing. Zinc supplements have been found to reduce the length of a cold. Zinc is also thought to reduce the number of respiratory infections in children. Taking a zinc supplement can give your body a vital boost through the winter!
Herbal Remedies – Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System in Winter
For thousands of years people have used remedies produced from various kinds of plants and herbs. Sometimes this can simply mean adding particular ingredients to a meal, such as ginger and turmeric in curries. It can also be beneficial to consume herbal remedies in other forms, such as herbal teas or tinctures. Some of these can be easily made at home or bought from regular supermarkets. For example, herbal teas of various kinds are available from most grocery shops. For other herbal remedies you may need to visit a specialist health shop, or contact a qualified herbalist.
Below are a selection of herbs which have been used to support the immune system through the winter.
Thyme – in tea or a natural cough syrup
Thyme is a herb commonly used in cooking. According to a study, it has been shown to be antibacterial – even fighting off bacteria which has become resistant to antibiotics!
Thyme can be used to make a simple tea, by simply steeping a few sprigs of the plant in hot water for a few minutes. It can also be used to make a simple home-made cough syrup by combining with honey.
Ginger – in warming meals or in hot drinks
Ginger is well known for its soothing effects on the stomach and digestive system. But it also acts an an anti-inflammatory, reducing throat pain. It’s warming flavour is widely enjoyed in the form of herbal teas, often paired with lemon. Ginger is also available as an essential oil which can be inhaled, or used in a hot bath.
Root ginger is readily available in most supermarkets. It keeps for a long time in the fridge and is a great addition to meals such as curries and stir-frys. Why not try adding a few thin slices of root ginger to a mug of freshly boiled water, along with a slice of lemon and a teaspoon or two of honey!
Liquorice – as a herbal tea or ingredient in natural remedies
Liquorice is another common food which is more medicinal than it first appears. It is thought to be one of the world’s oldest natural remedies! Liquorice is known to have anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. As such it is commonly used to treat respiratory tract infections, such as coughs, colds and sore throats.
Liquorice is available in various forms such as liquorice tea. It’s also used as an ingredient in natural cough remedies and made into tinctures. A tincture is a plant extract, produced by combining plant matter with a combination of alcohol and water. Tinctures are commonly used by medical herbalists in the natural treatment of illnesses and disease.
Fennel – highly nutritious to eat and a delicious tea
Fennel is another herb regularly used in cooking. As an ingredient in cooking or salads, fennel is highly nutritious. However, all parts of the fennel plant are also rich in powerful antioxidants. These include chlorogenic acid, limonene, and quercetin. Studies have also demonstrated that fennel may have powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a great ingredient in natural winter remedies.
Elderberry – packed full of vitamin C and antioxidants
Elderberry is the fruit of the Elder tree. The trees flower in the summer and then go on to produce dark purple fruit in the autumn. Elderberries are commonly made into jams and preserves, so they can be enjoyed throughout the winter. Elderberry has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth. Elderberry contains the antioxidant flavonols quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin. It is also rich in anthocyanins. These compounds give the fruit its dark color and are a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. Elderberry extracts have been shown to reduce the length and severity of colds and flu.
Peppermint Oil – a powerful decongestant
This is a powerful decongestant. Peppermint essential oil can be used to clear sinuses and nasal passages. Add a few drops to a bowl of hot water, then lean over the bowl and cover both the bowl and your head with a towel to create a tent. Close your eyes and inhale. Essential oils should not be inhaled directly, although it’s fine to at 2-3 drops to your pillow before bed.
Propolis – The Beehive’s Immune Support System
Propolis is a natural product created by bees. It protects the hive from infection and has amazing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Propolis is available in several forms including tablets, tinctures and as an ingredient in natural remedies.
At BeeVital we create amazing natural remedies using propolis. Our Propolis Syrup with Elderberry & Honey is our short-cut to winter immune support!
This delicious syrup is produced from a blend of elderberry, ginger, liquorice and thyme tinctures combined with peppermint essential oil, honey and propolis.
This combination is packed full of natural goodness. Each ingredient brings its own unique combination of healing properties. The honey is antibacterial and sooths sore throats. Peppermint oil helps relieve congestion and clear stuffy heads. Elderberry is packed with vitamin C. Liquorice, ginger and thyme are all high in antioxidants, helping the body fight infection and suppress inflammation.
If you’re looking for an easy way to boost your body’s natural immunity through the winter months, this is it.
This is by no means a conclusive list. We hope it illustrates just how many natural remedies are available, and that their use is backed by credible scientific data. Natural remedies come in a wide variety of forms.
A healthy diet is key to supporting your body’s natural immunity – but sometimes we need a little helping hand. This might come in the form of a vitamin or mineral supplement. Or a targetted herbal remedy such as an antibacterial throat spray might be required.
Our Propolis Syrup is formulated from natural ingredients which have been proven to fight infection and strengthen immunity. Why not give it a try this winter.