How to boost your immune system naturally: part 2

So in part one of this series you’ve read up on antioxidants and how to power-up your lunch to boost your immune system.

But what else does your body need, and generally not get enough of with a typical Western diet?

I’ll tell you – probiotics.

Our gut is full of bacteria. There are the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. Good bacteria help you turn food into energy, ensure your immune system works properly, and regulate your hormones.

Our gut bacteria are a reflection of our environment. Toxins in our environment (air pollution, chemicals, etc.) and a repetitive, processed diet, affect our gut bacteria, and this in turn affects the way our hormones, organs, our entire body works, as well as our mental health and particularly our reactions to stress. It has even been suggested that reversing the reduction in gut bacteria over our lifetime could slow the ageing process.

Interestingly, depending on where in the world you live, the types of bacteria living in your gut are different. This is because of the different foods available that our bodies have had to adapt to using.

The problem we have with a typical Western diet is that it is full of things that damage our gut bacteria, stopping them from being able to effectively break down the food we eat in order to fuel the different processes in our bodies.

Try to avoid:

These are the top good bacteria killers to avoid to help boost your immune system :

  • Sugar,
  • Gluten and white flour,
  • Chemical additives (specifically e-numbers),
  • Trans fats, and
  • Large amounts of alcohol.

We need to feed our good gut bacteria. And we do this with probiotics.

Introducing probiotics

You can take probiotics to boost your immune system in supplement form – either a drink or a tablet. But, as with most of the things our body needs, the best way to ensure a balance in your gut bacteria is to include probiotic foods in your diet. Your body absorbs probiotics from food sources better than just downing a load of yoghurt drinks.

Fermented foods are a really simple way of eating for your gut. Most cultures around the world have fermented foods as part of their diet. Before we had the luxury of fridges, we would pickle things to preserve them by covering them with water and salt and leaving them at room temperature for a few days until they were full of bacteria that fed on the sugar from the vegetables. So it was this that was so beneficial. Pickling now is done in vinegar, and not as many of the helpful probiotics make it into the food we eat.

Foods high in probiotics

However the following foods do contain the probiotics we need:

  • Kefir: a fermented milk drink made with Kefir grains, this can be a bit sour by itself, but it’s great in a smoothie with frozen berries.
  • Kombucha: a fermented sweet tea, slightly fizzy. You can get this in all sorts of fruity flavours.
  • Sauerkraut: thinly sliced cabbage fermented with lactic acid, perfect with your roast dinner or as part of a salad.
  • Miso: a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans, we may have mentioned how much we love this in marinades or just mixed in things!
  • Yoghurt: fermented milk, you’re probably aware that you can flavour this however you like and add it to all sorts of meals.
  • Fibre: (Now, this isn’t a fermented food, but it’s vitally important to the good bacteria in your gut (as well as for keeping you “ahem” regular….). You can find fibre in all fruit and vegetables, and in whole grains and pulses. Steer away from refined carbs and processed foods and you’ll be getting loads of the stuff.  For further reading here’s a guide on How to get more fibre into your diet
  • Almonds: Another non-fermented food but our lists wouldn’t be a list without a bonus extra! These super-nuts have good probiotic properties which are high in fibre, (see above), and are also full of fatty acids and polyphenols. A handful of almonds will make for an excellent snack when you’re feeling the 4 pm munchies.

Try to eat at least one of these every day for a few weeks. It takes a while for our good bacteria to build back up to a healthy level. And then they should be part of your regularly scheduled diet (And we’ll do our part by including them regularly in our recipes here).

You can really delve into this topic if you wanted to. If so,  I’d recommend “Happy Food” by Niklas Ekstedt & Henrik Ennart. The Deliciously Ella podcast and Madeleine Shaw’s “Get Your Glow Back” podcast talk about this sort of thing often, and are worth checking out while you’re running, walking, making dinner.

Please click here to read part 1 of this guide to find out the antioxidant vitamins that you can easily fit into tasty lunches and fire up your immunity to infectious viruses over the coming months!  Alternatively please keep checking back into the website for more healthy lunch ideas that will give you an immune system boost.