Do you dread hearing that someone in the office has the flu because you just know that you’ll be the next one sneezing and coughing for the coming week? And why is it that whatever the latest epidemic, there are always those super human, lucky few who never seem to fall ill?
It seems that our immunity (or lack of it) is not merely dependant on the germs we come into contact with, but how effectively our bodies can deal with them.
Why Foods Can Help You Boost Your Immune System
Scientists continue to study why it is that some doctors can work in the most disease ridden of environments and still not succumb to infection, and yet other people with far less exposure to germs seem to go down with every bug going.
One thing’s for sure; a healthy, fully functioning immune system is dependent on good, regular nourishment.
It’s a well established fact that malnourished people are more susceptible to disease, so it makes sense that certain foods may have properties that can help to build your immunity naturally.
Here are four of the best foods that boost your immune system and can help kick those pesky bugs to the curb.
Boost Your Immune System With These 4 Foods
According to studies carried out by the Department of Surgery at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, oats were shown to significantly increase the immune response to bacterial infection. This is because the grain contains beta-glucan, a type of fiber which helps white blood cells locate the site of infection much more rapidly, and improves their ability to eliminate bacteria once they get there.
Because the immune system is the first line of defence against invading bugs, eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning can effectively gear up your lymphocytes into rapid response mode, giving you a helping hand to keep the bugs at bay. Oats are also high in arganine, an amino acid which plays an important role in maintaining immune function. Look for steel cut oats as they contain double the amount of beneficial fiber than the rolled, quick-cooking kind.
Chillies are rich in beta-carotene which turns to Vitamin A in the blood. Scientists have long known that this is essential for maintaining healthy mucous membranes which protect the body from invading microbes. Consuming foods that are high in this anti-infection vitamin are vital if you want to improve your defences.
Chillies also contain the chemical known as capsaicin (this is what gives chillies their fiery burn.) This clever substance reduces inflammation and helps to stimulate secretions which can clear congestion. Trials have also shown that eating chillies can help to increase antibodies, which inevitably means fewer infections.
Both red and green chillies are high in vitamin C. Raw, green, hot chillies have the highest amount containing more per gram than oranges. Vitamin C contains bioflavonoids, which the body needs to produce the white blood cells that help your body stop germs in their tracks.
You can boost your immune system with garlic, an immunity rock star. It effects are so powerful that it was even used to treat gangrene during both world wars. It contains up to 100 biologically active compounds which give the plant it’s amazing, immunity stimulating effects. There is some evidence to suggest that those who are brave enough to consume large amounts of garlic at the onset of a cold are likely to significantly speed up their recovery time.
Unfortunately if you want to get the full benefit from this wonderful plant it’s best to eat it raw. This is because cooking can destroy some of the volatile oils that give garlic its antibiotic properties.
If you don’t want to be a social outcast and can’t bear the thought of eating raw garlic at any cost, then odourless garlic capsules are a relatively inexpensive, although somewhat less effective alternative.
Oregano contains thymol and rosmarinic acid which are powerful antioxidants. In tests thymol has been shown to inhibit Staphylococcus aureus, a nasty bacteria commonly found in the respiratory tract. Oregano is also high in anti-inflammatory phenolic acids and flavanoids. Combine with garlic in food for a powerful, germ busting, knock out combo.
If you want to boost your immune system, you have to eat well. Including a “rainbow” of foods in your diet will ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients. Dark green, red, yellow, purple and orange fruit and vegetables are high in both antioxidants and essential vitamins to keep you performing at optimum levels.
Of course the immune system is really like a finely tuned orchestra with many instruments playing together in harmony. Nutrition plays an important role, but without fresh air, good quality sleep and regular exercise, it’s not going to function at its best. Maintaining a positive outlook, eating well and avoiding stress are some of the most effective steps you can take towards a stronger, happier and more vibrant you.
Sarah Murphy trained at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, England, where she specialized in Western Herbal Medicine and Ayurveda. She writes widely about natural health, and is passionate about empowering people to take better care of their own well-being.