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Andrea Bayles Nutritional Therapist
ND, Dip Nutr, Dip Herb, MBANT, MURHP, MCNHC

Beat the cold and flu season: eat your way to immune health

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Over half of your digestive system is responsible for your immunity. So what you eat and what you can do to increase immunity is important.

Winter is around the corner and with the cold and flu season nearly here it's time to look after your immune health.

With over half of the digestive system responsible for immunity, it is especially important to look after your digestion. The gut wall of our digestive tract secretes mucus that traps invaders and protects the body from infection. Stomach acid and saliva do the same job to a certain extent. So watching what you eat and drink is important for helping the immune system fight off infections.

We all know that when we are stressed, overworked, when we over-eat or just eat the wrong things, we feel lethargic, apathetic and low in energy. When we consume foods high in fats, processed, sugars and refined carbohydrates, this adds to the load on the digestion and affects immunity. Drinking colas, sweetened juices, alcohol and caffeine takes its toll too.

Good vs bad bacteria

The good news is there is an entire ecosystem of bacteria that lives in your gut, doing everything from digesting food into usable vitamins to regulating your hormones. These bacteria play an important role in your immune health and help to protect the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

When the digestion becomes overgrown with bad bacteria, this is known as 'Dysbiosis.' Dysbiosis causes symptoms of bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, wind, pain and distension as well as diarrhoea or constipation. Dysbiosis is associated with food intolerances or sensitivities and other inflammatory problems.

Immune-boosting foods

So can you eat your way to a immune health? The answer is 'Yes.' You may have heard about foods containing probiotics. Probiotics help to promote the growth of our 'friendly' bacteria in the gut and the most popular ones are Lactobacillus and Bifidus bacteria.

There are a number of natural probiotic-containing foods such as bio-live yogurt, kefir (which is a fermented milk drink), sauerkraut, tempeh and miso (a soy product). These can be found in health food shops.

Along with pro-biotics we need to ensure we consume pre-biotics foods which help the friendly bacteria to grow and proliferate within the gut wall therefore providing a stronger immunity.

Foods that are rich in prebiotics are bananas, soybeans, Jerusalem artichokes, whole oats, wheat, barley, garlic, flaxseeds, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), tomatoes and green vegetables.

If you have recently taken a course of antibiotics, then supplementing your diet with a probiotic will help to re-establish the levels of good bacteria within the gut wall. Antibiotics eradicate both friendly and bad bacteria.

With winter ready to launch its offensive, your immune system will thank you for it.

Five ways to boost your immunity

  • Eat a tub of organic yoghurt or a bowl of miso soup.
  • Drink a smoothie full of alkalising green vegetables.
  • Try a probiotic drink such as kefir.
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine and soft drinks.
  • Choose healthy oils such as olive oil and healthy fats such as oily fish and avocados


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