Can you Support Your Immune System with Food? Yes, you can, and these 3 steps will show you how!

Dr Indra Barathan

MBBS, DRCOG, DFFP, MRCGP, IFM (2018)

November 27, 2020

Our amazing bodies have the intelligence to support us through whatever we encounter in the world. When we come up against a threat like an infection, a toxin, an allergen or stress, our bodies support us and then bring us back to balance.

You might have heard the statement “food is medicine”. This is a quote from the Greek physician, Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food”.

Our nutrition serves to nourish our body and support our body’s tools to help it heal naturally.

Figuring out what to eat, however, can be a minefield. At our practice, we suggest to our patients that they break things down to the most basic of levels and take one small step at a time. Supporting our immune system is more than just about the food we eat, but this is central to supporting the body.

My top tips to support the immune system are:-

  • Acknowledge the stress / pressure
    Chronic stress triggers the body’s defence mechanism and, over time, this can reduce our
    body’s capacity to defend itself. We were built to run away from a sabre-tooth tiger and now
    we are trying to run away from our emails and thinking about the worst-case scenario.
    Finding ways to understand our reaction to stressful situations is key to healing. We often
    react automatically but what if we stopped and became curious about our reaction and
    our thinking?
  • Add different colours of vegetables to your diet
    There are 7 colours of vegetables in the world: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown and
    white. When out shopping, why not try a different colour or add a rainbow of vegetables to
    your basket?. Each colour contains phytonutrients that support a myriad of functions in the
    body. Some of the phytonutrients that we need come from vegetables and others come from
    the balance of carbohydrates, good fats and clean lean proteins on our plates.These are some of the nutrients we need for a healthy immune system and examples of the
    foods that contain them.

    • Vitamins: A,C, D to support a healthy immune system and help ward off infections.
      Some of our favourite foods are salmon, eggs, beef liver, shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers,
      broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, kiwis, berries, mangoes and citrus fruits like oranges,
      lemons and limes.
    • Minerals: Zinc and selenium play a significant role in supporting natural immunity. Zinc
      and selenium-rich foods are oysters, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, eggs, red meat,
      beans, pulses, Brazil nuts, lentils, poultry, salmon, haddock, oats and brown rice.
    • Antioxidants: Eating nutrient-dense foods such as fresh, colourful fruits and vegetables, nuts,
      seeds, and good-quality fats will supply our immune system with a range of antioxidants to
      help repair the body and protect it against chronic infections and disease.
  • Give yourself permission to rest, stop and heal
    Healing comes when we are in the parasympathetic zone, and this for me is when we’re
    in ‘flow’ – when we’re in the moment and there is no thinking. I like to do a deep-breathing
    exercise (like 4,7,8 breathing) or I might sing at the top of my voice. When I began to realise
    that I needed to change the way that I worked, I decided that I needed to sing. I had never
    sung before and was scared to even consider joining a choir. But I did it and it has been the
    best thing for me, helping me to manage those times when things seem a little overwhelming.
    What gets you in flow?