Wellington Chiropractic Clinic Discusses Nutrition
As Covid-19 (coronavirus) continues to spread globally, the focus on the value of health and our immune system has become a hot social media topic. Whilst a vaccine may give us some protection, is there more you can also do to boost your immune system and decrease your chance of getting or fighting off this virus?
To answer this we need some understanding of what happens to our body when we are exposed to a virus.
What happens when a virus gets into the body?
When a foreign bug gets into your body like the one that causes COVID-19, your body puts up its defence army. That defence army is your immune system which is made up of special organs, cells and chemicals that fight infection (microbes). The main parts of the immune system are: White blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow.
What you may not know is that your immune system begins in your gut. There are trillions of bacteria in your gut that detect foreign bugs and then order your body to begin making these specialised immune cells to fight the bug.
The bacteria in your gut is called the gut microbiome. When you look after the health of these bacteria, you have a much better chance of activating a strong immune defense to fight off the bug. Research states that 80% of our immune system is related to the gut. Therefore to strengthen our immune system we can focus on our gut microbiome and the great news is that these can be found in our food.
Once our immune system has been activated, it needs ‘fuel’ to keep the defense army going and ‘building blocks’ to make more immune cells. The fuel is generally particular vitamins and minerals, and the building blocks are protein. The great news is that these can also be found in our food!
Can food really boost my immunity?
Researchers have the same question, and due to the complexity of the immune system there isn’t definitive evidence of exactly what makes the immune system go above and beyond. However there is strong evidence of which foods support and which foods hinder healthy immune function.
What foods help keep my Immune System strong?
The essential combination is
- Eating foods that support our gut-microbiome
- Eating foods that give our immune system fuel
- Eating foods that give our immune system building blocks
- Avoiding foods that damage our microbiome or inhibit our immune system
Seven Immune Boosting Food Tips
1. Stay away from processed foods: Most processed foods are filled with ingredients that your body cannot use, they become toxic and can damage your gut microbiome and immune system. Focus on making at least two of your daily meals at home. If time is a challenge there are many unprocessed food box options that can help. We have been using Kai Box for four meals a week which is a plant based option.
2. Eat foods from your local farmers market: As soon as fresh food is picked it begins losing goodness and nutrients, the more local the more likely it will have the highest nutrients and goodness for your immune system. Also local foods will be seasonal giving your body variety. The Wellington region has many farmers markets as well as fresh produce delivery services. We get an organic box delivery weekly from the Wairarapa Eco Farm.
3. Eat small amounts of grass-fed meats, wild fish and free range chickens: Meat contains nutrients including zinc, selenium, and vitamin B6. It also contains a high amount of protein. When the animal has been grass fed, free range and as wild as possible, these nutrients are at their highest as well as the toxins at a minimum. Once you have eaten the meat, use the bones to make broths and drink these or make soups and stews. Bone marrow also contains very high nutrient levels. Aim to consume broth at least weekly. Meat takes longer for your digestion to break down, therefore smaller portions are recommended and having some meat free or broth days.
4. If you love your dairy, try and buy as organic and local as possible: If you are feeling a sniffle coming on, these foods are not wise to eat. The fat clogs up the immune system and creates a sluggishness that will not be helpful in preventing the cold or flu. But if you are feeling well, then good quality unprocessed dairy is a wonderful accompaniment to your diet. Fermented dairy is the best – natural yogurts, yoghurt kefir, soft cheeses and most types of white cheeses. Also try different types of dairy, like buffalo, goat and sheep. Eketahuna Meats is a local company that delivers unprocessed milk in glass bottles weekly. It is also available at Bin Inn.
5. Fermented foods: Fermented foods are foods and beverages that have undergone controlled microbial growth and fermentation. During this process microorganisms like yeast and bacteria break down food components (e.g. sugar) into other products (e.g. organic acids, gases or alcohol). These products feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Please see our entire article on fermented foods. We will have a full article on this during the month. Check out Dr Roz making her own Sauerkraut for the first time.
6. Daily consumption of foods that are high in Antioxidants: Antioxidants are molecules that help to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds formed when our bodies convert the food we eat into energy. People are also exposed to increased free radicals from cigarettes, air pollution, high blood sugar, high stress, ultraviolet light from the sun and when fighting infections. Some of the major antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and carotenoids. That is why it is often recommended to consume these antioxidants when you have a cold. Most of these antioxidants get destroyed when food is heated, therefore eating some raw food everyday can increase the amount you are absorbing. Consuming a wide variety of colours of vegetables (especially green), fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds and spices will give you a great advantage. Many people benefit from additional supplements of antioxidants, there is evidence that Vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of contracting Viruses. We have a full article on supplements later this month.
And although this is all about nutrition, there are two more areas that have huge immune boosting benefits:
8. Sleep in the winter is very important, it is a time for the body to heal. Bright lights after 9pm should be dimmed and try not to put monitors close to your eyes. A dim TV as opposed to a bright laptop will help your melatonin (the sleeping/healing hormone) to increase after sunset.
9. It is important to exercise. If you have a desk job, every hour just get up and stretch for a couple of minutes. If you are constantly on your feet, keep up the wonderful movement. Try our 30 second Chiropractic Balance posture break.
In summary, we have a very powerful ability to massively enhance and strengthen our immune systems through the choices we make everyday with our food. What is one habit you can add (or remove) from your life to begin boosting your system today?
Chicken soup strengthens the immune system
Grandma was right! Here’s my favourite chicken soup recipe.
Immune Boosting Chicken soup
- 4 chicken thighs with bones
- 1 large brown onion – peeled and chopped finely
- 1 celery stick, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves – finely chopped
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves picked, stalked discarded
- 1 tsp Peppercorns
- 3 tbs finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 litres of filtered water
- 1 tsp Salt
- Place the chicken, onion, celery, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, thyme and water in a large saucepan with a lid, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes. Using tongs transfer the chicken onto a clean work bench and cut the meat away from the bone.
- Discard the bones.
- Finely chop the chicken and add back to the pot. Taste and season with salt. Pour into bowls, garnish with parsley and serve.