A healthy immune system is our body’s defence against colds, flus and other infections that may stop us enjoying life. Keeping healthy is one way we can make sure our immune system is working properly. Making sure our defences are strong to resist viruses, like COVID-19, and the usual seasonal flu, coughs and colds.
Our skin is an important part of our immune system, creating a barrier between viruses and bacteria outside and our organs and tissues inside. The moist membranes in our mouth and nose are also an important barrier in our immune system. The rest of our immune system includes immune cells and organs including our lymph glands, tonsils, adenoids, bone marrow and digestive system.
What we eat and drink, and our gut health and stress levels can all affect our immune health. Being stuck at home, at easy reach of the kitchen, or worried about work, friend and family it’s likely that you need a little bit of tender loving care to boost your immune system naturally.
Food to boost your immune system
If you’re staying at home try to make healthy food choices.
Make sure you’re still eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. If you can’t get hold of a regular supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, stock up on frozen. They’re nutritionally just as good as fresh. Choosing different coloured fruit and vegetables will give you a range of immune boosting plant-nutrients.
It’s easy to snack when you’re stuck at home. Boost your immune system by choosing fresh fruit, nuts or seeds and keeping away from high sugar and fat processed snacks like biscuits and potato chips. As processed snacks can increase inflammation in your body, putting stress on your immune system.
Fruit, nuts and seeds are filling snacks (high in protein and fibre) full of important vitamins and minerals.
Choose foods from a wide range of groups: dairy or non-dairy alternatives, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds, fruit and vegetables. Making sure your body has all it needs to keep healthy and support your immune system.
Have a Manuka Honey-boost
Manuka Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it one of the ultimate immune health boosters.
New Zealand Manuka honey contains a unique compound, Methylglyoxal (MG or MGO). Research has found that at certain concentrations MGO has been shown restrict bacterial growth. Choosing Manuka Honey products with MG250+ (or UMF10+) means you’re getting the minimum anti-microbial boost. The higher the MG/UMF rating, the more healthful compounds in the Manuka Honey.
Manuka Honey may boost gut-based immunity
It also seems that Manuka Honey may be beneficial for gut health. And gut health is thought to be a major influence on our immune system. Manuka Honey contains oligosaccharides, an important food for healthy gut bacteria.
Relieve a cough with Manuka Honey
It’s not just the super-food effects, honey has been found to be just as effective as over the counter cough medicines for both children and adults (but remember not to give honey to infants aged one year old and younger).
Protecting our skins immunity barrier
Keeping our skin clean is one thing we’re all encouraged to do. Especially when trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But, the more we wash our hands, the drier they become. This puts the important barrier of our skin at risk of becoming rough and damaged making the physical barrier weak.
Using protective hand creams and lotions after we wash our hands is how we can keep our skin immune barrier healthy.
Having plenty of fluid to drink keeps us hydrated, allowing our skin, nose and mouth to perform their immune function to the best of their ability.
Try to have 8-10 glasses of water a day. You can include tea, herbal tea, coffee, milk or non-dairy milk in your daily fluid goals.
Manage your stress to support your immune health
Well, one thing is for sure and that is for many of us the next few weeks and months are going to be stressful.
Having to stay at home or having our movements limited. Working from home with family around us. Not being able to hang out with friends and family. And not being able to participate in our usual activities. It’s all piling on the stress.
Trying to managing the stress we experience is another thing we can do to help support our immune health.
Try using a meditation apps, like Headspace
A walk outside tops up vitamin D levels (important for your immune system) from the sunshine and helps us relax. If you can’t get outside, sit by an open window
Accept these are highly unusual times, and give yourself permission to grieve for the routine you’re familiar with
Connect with people online if you can’t connect in person.
Keep safe and be kind
We don’t just pull our information out of thin air. We make sure that all the information we share with you has been carefully fact-checked. If you want to read more about the topics we covered in this blog, here are our sources.
Alvarez-Suarez, J., Gasparrini, M., Forbes-Hernández, T., Mazzoni, L., & Giampieri, F. (2014). The composition and biological activity of honey: a focus on Manuka honey. Foods, 3(3), 420-432.
Childs, C. E., Calder, P. C., & Miles, E. A. (2019). Diet and Immune Function. Nutrients 2019, 11, 1933
D’Acquisto, F. (2017). Affective immunology: where emotions and the immune response converge. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(1), 9.
Fung, T. C. et al (2017). Interactions between the microbiota, immune and nervous systems in health and disease. Nature neuroscience, 20(2), 145.
Mavric, E., Wittmann, S., Barth, G., & Henle, T. (2008). Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand. Molecular nutrition & food research, 52(4), 483-489.
Oduwole O et al 2018. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4
Bogdanov S. et al. 2008. Honey for nutrition and health: a review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27. 677-89.
Thank you to Manuka Honey of New Zealand for writing this blog post.