How To Strengthen Your Immune System After Illness

The last couple of years have encouraged all of us to take better care of our immune systems and understand the important role they play in protecting us. Whether you’re recovering from a virus or bacterial infection, we asked a functional health coach and two nutritionists how best to give yours a helping hand…
By Tor West /

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Energise From The Inside Out

“It takes a lot of energy to fight an infection. Energy is produced in the mitochondria of our cells (often referred to as the powerhouses of our cells) which can themselves become damaged during an illness, so not only is more energy required, but less energy is being produced. This explains why we feel weak and exhausted when we are sick – rest really is essential and trying to push through an illness will only ever prolong it. Following an illness, our bodies need additional support to repair and boost mitochondrial action to clear up any oxidative stress that has been caused by the natural inflammatory response to infection. A good-quality supplement can help – I rate Nutri-Advanced Mitochondrial Resuscitate, which contains a range of vitamins and minerals to support the body and aid recovery.” – Frances McElwaine, functional health coach 

Load Up On Antioxidants

“The body needs antioxidants to help heal from illness – you can find these in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Try juicing celery, carrots, apples, parsley and lemon with a pinch of turmeric to boost recovery, and make sure you’re eating plenty of nourishing soups containing chicken stock and a range of vegetables such as asparagus, tomatoes, courgettes, beans, onions and herbs. For breakfast, you could try a smoothie made with coconut milk, mango, banana, ginger and turmeric, a combination that’s both anti-inflammatory and soothing for the gut. Protein is key to promoting recovery, so opt for protein at lunch – grilled chicken or fish with a chopped raw salad including red cabbage, celery, broccoli, red peppers, grated carrot and nuts and seeds is great. In the evening, prioritise easy to digest foods such as soup, ideally made with chicken stock to support gut health.” – Frances 

Stay Hydrated

“The body needs a lot of water when we are unwell to help flush out an infection and reduce the inflammation caused by our immune response to it. Try adding mineral drops and a squeeze of lemon to your water to keep electrolyte levels topped up. Green tea is also an excellent choice when you’re unwell as it’s full of phyto-nutrients and antioxidants to aid recovery. Try to avoid alcohol when you are ill and recovering – it is toxic to the body, full stop. If you drink alcohol when you’re unwell, the body has to expend unnecessary energy detoxing the alcohol instead of focusing on the healing process. The same goes for sugary drinks.” – Frances 

GREEN TEA is jam-packed with phyto-nutrients and antioxidants that AID RECOVERY.

Be Careful With Caffeine

“Caffeine may be beneficial due to its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to modulate the immune system. However, it should only be used in moderation, as it can overstimulate the body and give a false sense of energy when your body actually needs to rest to repair and recover.” – Melanie Dixon, registered nutritional therapist from Vitaminology 

Take A Supplement

“The immune system relies on several nutrients to function properly. These include vitamins A, C and D, zinc, selenium, iron and protein. B vitamins and magnesium are also vital for energy production, which is depleted during illness, while supplementing with glutathione (the body’s most powerful antioxidant) can help clear an infection quicker. Omega-3s found in oily fish will also keep inflammation in check, so the immune system doesn’t become overactive. If you are unwell, supplement with vitamin C twice a day and eat vitamin C-rich foods, such as broccoli, red peppers and strawberries. Your Zooki’s vitamin C, D and glutathione supplements are great, as are Nutri Advanced Immune Protect, NAC by Allergy Research Group (which also contains glutathione) and quercetin with nettles by Designs for Health, which has anti-viral properties.” – Victoria-Jain Hamilton, registered nutritionist & founder of The Autoimmunity Nutritionist

Eat To Support Gut Health

“Research shows the microbiome in your gut plays a role in a well-functioning immune system. You should nurture your gut bacteria to benefit your immune health and protect you from infections. Gut bacteria thrive on fibre, so ensure you’re eating plenty of fibrous foods such as wholegrains, legumes, vegetables and fruit including avocado, pears and artichoke. At every opportunity, eat nutrient-dense foods like organ meat, colourful vegetables, seafood, seaweeds, extra virgin olive oil, oily fish, and lots of herbs and spices – coriander, parsley, ginger, turmeric and garlic are great. Remember, each cell in our body can only be as good as the raw materials we provide it with.” – Victoria-Jain 

Have An Early Night

“Feeling tired when you’re both poorly and recovering is a perfectly normal body response, so listen to your body – it’s your body’s way of asking you to slow down. The immune system tells the brain to immobilise you so it can conserve energy to fight an infection. Most of us need around eight hours sleep every night to function optimally when well, although there are no set figures for how much sleep we need when we’re ill, so listen to your body.” – Melanie 

If you never catch a COLD, it could indicate your body isn’t mustering a STRONG ENOUGH IMMUNE RESPONSE, allowing pathogens to slip under the radar.

Get Outside

“Light exposure in the daytime is beneficial for many reasons, especially your opportunity to absorb vitamin D through your skin and create the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. Vitamin D plays an essential role in a healthy immune system. And to produce melatonin – the hormone required to sleep well – you need to make plenty of serotonin during the daytime. Melatonin may increase the immune system’s strength, too.” – Victoria-Jain 

Think Positively

“With our hectic schedules and constant stress, more often than not we’re in fight-or-flight mode (the central nervous system’s response to stress). This triggers the body to release hormones, which over time can wreak havoc on your health. Healing only happens when the body is out of this fight-or-flight mode. In fact, chronic levels of stress will dramatically interfere with the healing process and may indeed be sufficient on their own to promote sickness. Rest, deep breathing, meditation and sleep are all essential for recovery, and anything you can do to shift yourself into a happy, positive or grateful mindset will radically improve healing.” – Frances 

Finally, Being Unwell May Actually Be A Good Sign

“The body is designed to fight off infection and, in fact, being exposed to germs keeps the immune system balanced and effective. If you find you are getting colds or other infections very frequently, or have sensitivities or allergens, perhaps your immune system is overactive and needs additional support to calm it down. Counterintuitively, it is also not necessarily a good sign if you never catch a cold. This could indicate your immune system is at the opposite end of the scale, lacking in vigilance and not mustering a strong enough immune response, allowing pathogens to slip under the radar.” – Frances 

 

For more immune-supporting tips or to book a consultation with one of the experts, visit RealHealthAndWellness.com & TheAutoimmunityNutritionist.com. Also visit Vitaminology.co for information on choosing and finding supplements.


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DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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