Your top 10 natural immunity heroes
Looking for natural ways to stave off the winter sniffles this season? We’ve put together a quick and easy guide to supporting your immune system without ever opening the medicine cabinet. And it involves eating garlic and power-napping – what more could you ask for?
1. Olive Leaf Extract
You know how health gurus are always going on about the Mediterranean diet? Well, it turns out you can bottle its benefit in the form of olive leaf extract. The not-so-secret ingredient is oleuropein – a polyphenol known for being anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Studies have shown it acts effectively against a range of microbes, like the ones that cause certain strains of flu. Comvita are such big fans that they’ve packed 20 times as many polyphenols into their olive leaf extract as you’ll find in extra virgin olive oil. Plus, they’ve decided to double-down on the immune support – well, triple-down, actually – with the addition of zinc and copper.
If you’re looking for an all-natural way to support your immune system, you can’t do much better than regular exercise. As well as contributing to overall health, which helps your body stay at its peak, exercise can promote circulation, which keeps your immune system’s cells moving. It also prompts your body to react to the physiological stress by sending out your all-important white blood cells, which are at the front line of your body’s natural defences.
3. Vitamin C
There’s a reason your mum always told you to drink orange juice when you got a cold – although it might not be exactly the one you think. While vitamin C hasn’t been shown to prevent you from getting colds in the first place, it has been shown to shorten the amount of time you’re ill for (if taken regularly rather than just once your symptoms start). Fortunately, it’s easy to incorporate into your diet, with plenty of foods such as peppers, strawberries and even potato being rich in Vitamin C.
4. Pineapple Juice
Another Vitamin C-packed food is pineapple juice – and that’s not its only benefit. Pineapple is a rich source of bromelain, which is an enzyme with strong anti-inflammatory properties. It’s often used to help ease coughs, and studies have found that eating pineapple may reduce the likelihood of infections – or at least shorten their duration. It also contains manganese, which is known for its antioxidant properties. And there is, of course, the added benefit of it being delicious.
Propolis is the bee’s lesser-known production, but it’s jam-packed full of benefits! This compound is used by hives to repair their home and to prevent bacterial, viral and parasitic infections from getting inside. Worker bees make it using the natural resin that trees produce when they’re wounded, combined with beeswax. Known for its cellular and immune support, Propolis is a great way to give your body an extra boost and Comvita have popped it into easy, on-the-go capsules, oral sprays and elixirs.
It might be annoying to have the ‘Happy Birthday’ song permanently stuck in your head, but it’s a small price to pay for the many benefits of hand-washing. Keeping your fingers clean can stop you from spreading bugs to other parts of your body as well as the surfaces you touch and the people you interact with. And, while hand sanitiser can be useful when you’re on the move, the best method is classic soap-and-water, which dislodges viral cells from your hands and can make it easier to cover a greater surface area.
A nutrient-rich diet is an important part of keeping your body at its best, and zinc is one you’ll want to stay stocked up on. This essential nutrient helps your immune system fight off viruses and bacteria by breaking down their proteins. Zinc also helps with repairing your cells and making proteins. Your body doesn’t make zinc, but you can get plenty of it through your diet by picking foods such as oysters and red meat or, for the plant-based, beans, nuts and whole grains.
As if you needed an excuse to add extra garlic to your food, it also contains allicin, which is a natural antibiotic. It helps support your body’s natural cells when they’re fighting off viruses, and some studies have suggested that garlic can reduce your risk of developing colds, as well as helping to ease symptoms once you’ve got one. All of which means you should definitely get that extra side of garlic bread with your dinner – heavy on the garlic.
Fibre is best known for its benefits for your digestive system – but did you know it can help boost your immune system as well? In particular, soluble fibre plays an important role in helping your body recover from infections thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Dried beans, oats, rice and potatoes are all high in soluble fibres, are as plenty of greens such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
If all else fails, there’s always a power nap. Getting enough sleep is essential to supporting those all-important T-cells, which are a central part of your immune system. While you’re asleep, your immune system releases cytokines that help to fight off infections – and even more so when your body is under stress. So, if you want an easy way to keep your body fighting fit with no over-the-counter capsules required, try and grab an early night tonight (or a late morning tomorrow, depending on how flexible your boss is…).
Unfortunately, there’s no way to skip over flu season altogether – but good food, a bit of exercise and plenty of rest can help make sure your body is at its best when it does roll around.
For more natural support for your immune system, find the Comvita range in Holland & Barrett stores and online at hollandandbarrett.com