When I’m tired and run down, a room full of people can easily turn into an overwhelming blur of faces. It’s only if someone is wearing shocking pink or luminous lime that I can focus on an individual. This is similar to how a pharmacist once described what can happen to your immune system. If it’s taking strain it doesn’t immediately notice a foreigner – such as a virus – unless it looks like an alien. But viruses are cunning things and are generally very good at disguising themselves … So how can your immune system seek and destroy them before they cause damage and make you sick?
The secret is to keep your immune system fighting fit, ready for rapid response and sharp enough to recognise the enemy – even if it infiltrates your body like an undercover spy.
There are some basics that are non-negotiable and good nutrition is one of them. Food can provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that work together to enhance immunity – especially if your palate is guided by a palette of brightly coloured foods. Choose foods from each colour of the rainbow and you’ll be getting a wonderful range of bioflavonoids – water-soluble pigments that have a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
Red – strawberries, cherries, tomatoes
Orange – carrots, pumpkin, oranges
Yellow – corn, yellow peppers, bananas
Green – lettuce, avocado, spinach
Blue, indigo and violet – blueberries, plumbs, black grapes, brinjals, beetroot
Other immune boosting non-negotiables are:
• Exercise – 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week is ideal for maintaining a healthy immune response.
• Destress – breathe deeply, go for a walk or try a visualisation technique … find a stress-buster that works for you, because long-term stress is a serious immune suppressant.
• Get enough sleep – it’s your body’s time to repair itself and time for your infection-fighting cells to regroup.
If your immune system is in tip-top shape, you should be too.
Gillian Warren-Brown is a specialist health journalist and the Health Editor for Reality magazine.