Besides washing your hands, not touching your face and keeping your distance, there are certain foods you should keep away from because they won’t benefit your immune system, especially during these trying times.
Distance yourself from processed fats and anything with white sugar, along with too much caffeine and alcohol, suggests nutrition and wellness counselor Megan Pennington.
Avoiding COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind, and so too should be eating well to support the healthy functioning of your immune system. While there is no one elixir to optimise it, proper diet and lifestyle practices go a long way in immune defence.
“There are key nutrients such as vitamin D, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc which are significantly involved in immune processes,” says Pennington, of mpholisticnutrition.com.
When these nutrients are deficient, the immune system becomes compromised or dysregulated, she says, so support it by focusing on a wide variety of foods and ensuring adequate nutrition.
“Eating whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, superfoods, as well as good quality protein and high-fibre foods are key to keeping our body strong,” says nutritionist Andrea Donsky, of naturallysavvy.com. Fibre helps to keep our bowels moving and removes waste from our body.
“Our body needs nutrients in order to keep it strong so avoiding anything that has empty calories is important if you’re trying to keep immunity up,” she says.
Donsky advises building up your defence system with these foods:
- Lemon water helps to increase the activity of detoxification enzymes in the liver and helps to flush out the waste.
- Go for vitamin C rich fruits and veggies, like oranges, lemons, red peppers, broccoli, spinach. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is well known for its immune boosting properties, like scavenging free radicals in the body.
- Garlic contains allicin which helps to enhance immunity.
- Turmeric has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that protect and support the liver and helps to boost the immune system. You can eat or drink the root itself, in smoothies or cook with it.
- Ginger is an antioxidant contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols and shogaols.
- Green tea contains EGCH, which has been shown to boost immunity and help to cleanse the liver.
- Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in the body and enhance the function of immune B cells. Foods like sardines, herring, salmon, chia seeds, hemp seeds are all good sources.
- Dandelion stimulates the liver and has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also rich in nutrients and fibre so it helps to remove waste from the body.
- Fermented foods contain probiotics which help to boost and support immunity. Miso, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and organic tempeh are all good sources.
- Prebiotics are a type of fibre that feeds the probiotics in our gut (the good bacteria). Go for dandelion greens, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, bananas, leeks, asparagus, apples, and oats.
Avoid these foods, advises nutritionist Andrea Donsky, of andreadonsky.com:
- Sugar depresses our immune system for four to five hours after ingesting it.
- Alcohol reduces important immune cells therefore weakening our immune system, disrupts the gut barrier and alters the balance of good to bad bacteria in the gut.
- Anything “white” like white rice, bread and pasta.
- Trans fats are linked to heart disease and diabetes. No safe limit.
- Additives like glucose-fructose (aka high-fructose corn syrup), artificial sweeteners and food colouring as they put a stain on our body to work extra hard to process them out.
- Pop contains a lot of sugar and in many cases glucose-fructose and/or artificial sweeteners.
Be good to yourself
Be good to your immune system so you reduce the risk of a Cytokine storm – a severe hyperinflammatory reaction in which the immune system releases too many mediators called cytokines.
“Anything which stimulates the immune system to release cytokines – infections, autoimmune disease, food reactions to name a few – can contribute,” says nutrition expert Megan Pennington. Supporting the immune system to self regulate – through nutrition, adequate sleep, reduced stress – decreases the risk of a cytokine storm.”
Removing immune triggers, such as food sensitivities, also reduces the overall cytokine load, says Pennington, who specializes in immune system related conditions.
According to Pennington, serious complications and higher mortality rates have been seen in cases of viral pneumonia created by cytokine storm
A recent review by the Journal of Medical Virology concluded that “in CoV pneumonia cases, it is important to control cytokine production and inflammatory response, given that they are responsible for the accumulation of cells and fluids.”