How Liz supports her immune system
Looking for ways to help support your immune system? We’ve asked Liz to share her top tips for doing just that.
A strong and healthy immune system is key for being better able to fight off all kinds of bad bugs. Obviously, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to staying well, so taking a broad approach to wellbeing is the best way support stronger immunity.
Here Liz explains the personal measures she’s been taking to support her immune system – from upping her vitamin C intake to herbal remedies, better sleep and enjoying moderate exercise too.
Interesting new research has been linking very high doses of vitamin C to fighting off viruses for a while now – especially in recent weeks. I’ve often wondered why the double Nobel Prize winner Professor Linus Pauling should stake his entire reputation on taking unusually high doses of vitamin C. Perhaps he really was onto something when he was slated for advocating 2,000 milligrams daily back in the early 1970s.
Recently, I’ve been taking 6-8 grams of sodium ascorbate vitamin C daily. I spread this throughout the day as it is water soluble (so excess doesn’t get stored in the body). Any excess that the body is not actively using will have a laxative effect – interestingly not something I am experiencing at the moment despite the high doses. Sodium ascorbate is less likely to cause stomach upsets than ascorbic acid.
The powders, liposomal and chewable form of vitamin C supplements are great and I take these at different times during the day.
Another firm favourite of mine during the winter months is garlic capsules. I’ve taken them throughout the winter for years and tended not to get colds or flu.
It’s always hard to pinpoint which supplement is working the best, but several studies show that the anti-bacterial activity for garlic is sound. I feel better for taking them and I take two high-strength capsules daily right now. I particularly like the ‘aged’ garlic extracts. These don’t have the aroma yet retain the antioxidant sulfur compounds needed for potency.
Elderberry extract or an elderberry supplement is something I’ve given my children for literally decades now, since first exploring its anti-viral properties back in the 80s.
Right now, I’ve also added in a daily spoonful of thyme extract to my personal bug-busting regime. I’ve actually just doubled our doses of each at the moment. The whole family is enjoying a couple of spoonfuls of both elderberry syrup and thyme extract every morning.
Both traditional herbal remedies have been shown to have anti-viral properties. Thyme is especially highlighted as a herb helpful for supporting the upper respiratory tract.
Another botanical I’ve started to add into my daily regime is olive leaf extract. Used for centuries to help support a healthy immune system, this natural elixir is packed with potent polyphenols from oleuropein, a highly effective free-radical scavenger. As well as supporting the immune system, olive leaf extract has also been shown to be helpful for heart health as well as help regulate blood sugars.
I especially like the Comvita range of olive leaf extracts, made from fresh leaves and not dried extracts or powders, which have more potency. By using fresh leaves, harvested at sunrise before the sun overly dries the leaf, more of its natural goodness is retained
Research shows that this immune-system-supporting mineral is better absorbed through our mucous membranes, i.e. when chewed or sucked in the mouth. The combination of zinc with vitamin C also seems to be the most highly researched. These are the chewable tablets or lozenges I have with me at the moment.
Lab research shows zinc can stop some viruses from multiplying and may also help shorten the duration of a common cold. Given the immune-supporting properties of zinc it seems sensible to ensure we have plenty in our daily diet. Sources of zinc include red meat, chicken, baked beans, chickpeas and nuts (such as cashews and almonds).
Fresh ginger tea with local honey
A traditional favourite that is just so delicious to drink too! Fresh ginger has been found to be anti-viral (albeit in a test tube trial), specifically against a human respiratory virus. It’s also been shown to help support our natural immune system response.
As in most cold and flu seasons, I keep a teapot with a chunk of peeled root ginger cut into slices on the go most days. I top up with hot water and a small spoonful of local honey to infuse throughout the day. It’s even delicious to drink when the pot has gone cold…
This is an essential nutrient to supplement. It’s so very important for us right now as we spend more time indoors and don’t have the opportunity to synthesise through the sun on our skin.
Vitamin D plays an important role in modulating our innate and adaptive immune responses. A lowered amount increases our susceptibility to infection.
I have now doubled my daily dose and prefer the liquid form that’s sprayed into the mouth or dropped under the tongue for faster absorption. I also make sure my children are topped up with this essential nutrient too, following UK government guidelines on this.
Another super-useful antioxidant nutrient that helps support the immune system by protecting macrophages (white blood cells) and which also works to support and enhance the efficiency of vitamin D.
I take a Vitamin D formula that also includes K2, mostly for bone and heart health, but appreciate its valuable immune support too.
The Omega-3 group of essential fatty acids are perhaps best known for brain health and cognitive function, but also play a clear role in supporting our immune system too.
It seems the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids may help to boost the immune system by enhancing the function of our immune cells, especially DHA, and by having an anti-inflammatory effect. My children have grown up with a daily supplement each morning (for eye and brain health) and I have now doubled and extended to the entire family, myself included.
It’s so important to stay hydrated and avoid the headaches that so often come with dehydration. This is especially the case if we are running a temperature. Drinking plenty of water is also important to help keep our body systems functioning well.
I keep a water bottle on the go at all times and carry this around the house with me. I’m constantly pouring glasses of water for others in my family too and handing them out whenever I see them!
A good night’s sleep
I’ve long championed the importance of getting a good night’s sleep each and every night. It’s a vital, but often overlooked, part of our immune system. We can only fight disease if we are well-rested and our body has had many hours of high quality rest to restore and repair itself.
During sleep, our immune system releases anti-inflammatory proteins called cytokines that help promote better sleep. We need sleep to help fight infectious diseases and studies show that patients who sleep well recover faster. Conversely, those who are continually sleep deprived or who have poor quality sleep (perhaps spending too much time late night scrolling on small screens?) have impaired immune responses that could be highly detrimental in the long term. My rule is to put the small screen down and switch it off after 9pm…
Staying active is so important for keeping our lymphatics moving (among other things) to clear away the waste matter the body needs to rid itself of on a daily basis. Exercise also decreases stress levels which in turn, helps reduce anxiety and protect our immune system.
A bit of balance is important here. Some researchers have found that intense exercise can actually decrease our immune response. Perhaps now is not the time to start training for a marathon?
Keeping the body moving little and often is the message for better immunity. A variety of moves and activities help to keep all our muscles strong and working well through the entire body, top to toe.
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