Foods to Boost your Immune System and Improve Gut Function

May 26, 2018

Why do I seem to catch every cold, flu or gastrointestinal bug more than other people?

Your immunity to bacteria or viruses starts in your bone marrow where lymphocytes are made.B cells produce antibodies and T cells kill off your own cells when they become infected. These two types of lymphocytes then move to the thymus (the gland between your lungs) and to the gut to mature. As we age the thymus shrinks, so this can affect our immunity. Caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar and stress can cause disturbances in our gut that may also affect immunity. You can’t get younger, but dietary changes may help boost your immunity.

So, there are foods I can eat that may boost my immunity?

Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and even yogurt can boost your immunity as they introduce beneficial microbes into the gut. So they benefit the immune system in a similar way to taking probiotics in that the ‘good bacteria’ fight the ‘bad bacteria’. But it’s actually a more complex process, with specific immune responses (lymphocyte, antibodies etc) all being boosted by the proteins in the fermented foods.

There are many publications that have recorded the benefits on the immune system of β glucans which are found in Shiitaki and Reishi mushrooms as well as seaweeds and Brewers Yeast.

A 2017 study on rats published in the Journal of Agricultural Sciences showed that the herb Echinacea purpurea (i.e. root) increased boosted certain immune cells and reduced inflammatory chemicals. Although most Herbalists (like ME!) know that combining the root and leaf/flowers of Echinacea is the best for boosting the immune system.

What about any practical things I can do to help my immune system?

Bacteria, viruses etc can be spread by indirect contact. Many germs can linger on an inanimate object, such as a table top, doorknob or bathroom tap. When you touch a doorknob handled by someone ill with the flu or a cold, for example, you can pick up the germs he or she left behind. If you then touch your eyes, mouth or nose before washing your hands, you may become infected. So, make sure you wash your hands with hot soapy water regularly.

Sunlight is anti-bacterial and it boosts vitamin D in your body which is good for the immune system. Even in Winter, if it is sunny, try and spend time in the sunlight with your skin exposed.

If you’ve been suffering with recurrent infections, or an auto-immune condition and it’s impacting your work and home life, email Anita on or call her now on +447757 540 436 to book a Naturopathic consultation. If you can't see her in person in Balham or Tooting, Anita can see you via SKYPE/telephone for a 1 hr consult and your personally tailored liquids herbal medicines, nutritional supplements and flower essences can posted to your home or work address.


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