Blog

Food and Immunity

Throwback Friday

Here are my girls before lockdown preparing rainbow coloured fruits and vegetables which are great for the immune system.

🦠When our body is faced with an intruder such as a virus we want a harmonised immune system response which is prompt and effective but does not go into overdrive.

🥗Why are plant foods good for the immune system?

🥙Fruits and vegetables contain fibre which feeds our good gut bacteria. These bacteria help modulate our immune system to respond in an appropriate way.
The greater our variety of plant foods, the more diverse our gut bacteria and this is key to overall good health.

🍇Plant foods contain phytonutrients (plant chemicals), some of which also help modulate our immune system to respond in the correct way. These include quercetin (apples and onions), resveratrol (grapes) and curcumin (turmeric).

🥦Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals which are critical for a healthy functioning immune system such as vitamin C (peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits); zinc (nuts, legumes), selenium (brazil nuts, spinach).

🥕Vit C, along with Vit E (nuts, avocados) and beta carotene (carrots, sweet potato) also act as antioxidants which help protect cells from damage.

Take home facts:

🌈Add rainbow coloured plant foods to your diet– aim for at least 8 servings a day!! YES 8!!
🧄Use herbs and spices such as turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, oregano and garlic
🍠Eat foods which improve good bacteria such as keffir, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables
🍭Avoid sugar, processed foods and foods high in saturated fats

Sleep…makes us stronger!

Wonderful Sleep 😴👊💪❤️

This week we are considering how we can optimise our immune systems, using evidence based lifestyle measures.
The wonder of sleep is often overlooked, and now more than ever we should be raising its profile.

Long term poor sleep is proven to have many negative associations:
👉reduced daytime activity
👉mood disturbance and irritability
👉memory impairment and slowed thinking
👉headaches
👉anxiety

It affects metabolism:
👉increases leptin levels (appetite control hormone) which increases food seeking behaviours
👉increases our core body temperature
👉increases insulin resistance, leading to associations with type 2 diabetes
👉increases nighttime cortisol levels

*But did you know poor sleep also leads to immune system suppression??*

😷Pathways associated with the immune response become slowed after sleep deprivation.
😷This association is played out in studies that have looked at our response to being vaccinated – the level of antibodies created to a vaccine are improved in people with healthy sleep and reduced in those with poor sleep!
😷Chronic short sleep has been shown to be associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold.
💪💪💪Healthy sleep improves the ability of some immune cells to attach to their targets

How much sleep do we need? 🕢

No test exists to look at how much each individual needs, but 7-8 hours is thought to be optimal.

So…what can we do to get better sleep?

If you feel you have significant problems with sleep, a detailed assessment and individual management plan would provide the best results.

But there are several things that we can all do to improve our sleep quality, our ability to get to sleep and our sleep duration;

👉Establish a routine, have a regular sleep time and wake time and try not to deviate from this by any more than one hour
👉Try to reduce stress levels at nightime – gentle music, meditation, mindfulness.
👉Don’t look at blue light (screens!!) at least one hour before bed.
👉Caffeinated drinks – limit to 2-3 during day and eliminate completely in the evening. Try herbal teas
👉Warm your extremities at nighttime – healthy sleep needs a cooler core temperature and cosy peripheral temperature
👉Ensure adequate fluid intake, especially late afternoon, as this helps with blood flow to your extremities
👉Increase daytime exposure to sunlight, especially late afternoon and evening ☀️☀️☀️
👉Increase physical activity
👉Try not to drink alcohol at least 3 hours before bed

As I am writing this, I am all too aware how difficult many of these things are in the midst of this pandemic 🤓
Of course, most of us are taking in more stressful news than normal, looking more frequently at phones and gadgets, getting out less and drinking more alcohol than normal!!

But if we know the things that help at least we can make adjustments in the right direction as best we can. 🙏💪👊

So for now, stay safe, social distance, follow public health guidance, keep our NHS going!
And try and get yourself a good nights sleep 😴😴😴😴.
Your immune system will thank you ❤️😷