We are pleased to welcome our resident Nutritional Therapist and owner of City Survivor, Daisy Connor to share her thoughts with us on the importance of strengthening our immune systems. You can visit her It Won’t Cost The Earth storefront here.
Immunity is the top of our health concerns at the moment. Of course, there are no proven remedies for avoiding or treating corona specifically, because it’s a novel virus. But at this time of year when colds and ‘flu prevail, we should anyway focus on strengthening our immune systems by getting optimal intakes of essential immune nutrients, managing stress, and making use of traditional respiratory system remedies.
An Elderberry and Beta-glucan complex is particularly useful in winter when colds run riot. Elderberry is a natural anti-viral that people have traditionally gathered to make wonderful purple syrups. It has been shown in clinical studies to lessen duration and symptoms of both influenza and the common cold. There’s an increased risk of picking up a respiratory infection when flying. A study of Elderberry extract in air travellers showed that those who got a cold and were taking elderberry had significantly milder symptoms and on average a 2 day shorter illness duration, compared to placebo. Hence I like to take Immune Support for at least a week before travelling.
Beta-glucans are a polysaccharide naturally found in medicinal mushrooms such as reishi – long renowned for their immune-stimulating properties. For immune support, we need Beta-glucans 1,3/1,6 (other types are used for cardiovascular health) because these are found in the cell walls of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, so our immune system gears up after recognising them.
Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Zinc are essential nutrients that help maintain the normal function of the immune system.
Zinc supports immune function and anti-viral activity, and oysters are an excellent food source. When fighting a cold I like to supplement a low dose (4mg) regularly throughout the day, every time I’ve eaten, as Zinc tends to cause nausea on an empty stomach!
Vitamin C is involved in many immune system functions. When there’s an infection, it can be depleted due to greater demand, so increase your intake through fresh fruit and vegetables as well as supplementation. I recommend taking small amounts regularly throughout the day; it’s water-soluble so more than you can immediately use gets lost in the urine. I use Ester‑C in my formulas; it’s buffered with calcium to make the Ascorbic Acid gentler on the stomach, and it’s also taken up well by immune cells and lasts longer than basic Ascorbic Acid.
Vitamin A increases resistance to infection. It’s found primarily in animal products such as butter, eggs and liver, though you get Beta-Carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A, from orange/yellow/red fruit and veg. I take natural Beta-Carotene in my multi, but when immune health needs a boost I add a Vitamin A too.
Stress and Immunity
When under stress, your immune defences are ramped up. After a short time, the immune response should get suppressed by glucocorticoids and go back to normal. But if the stress continues chronically, the immune suppression stage could continue for too long resulting in immune function falling below normal, leading to that common scenario of being stressed and run down and catching every cold that goes around.
It’s also common for the sudden removal of stress to result in illness – you go on holiday, wind down, and immediately get a cold.
So take steps now to reduce your stress levels:
Get more sleep. So many people aren’t getting enough hours and it’s bad for stress and immune health. If you struggle to sleep because of stress and a busy brain, there’s no harm in a quick-fix such as a Night Support supplement. But do try to implement longer-term strategies such as relaxation and mediation before bed.
Detaching from devices. We can all do with less screen time but in particular the constant connection to social media/messaging/news. Increase focus and calm by putting your phone aside during other activities.
Eat for calm energy. Avoid ultra-processed food and snacks – fluctuating blood sugar levels are another stress to the body, so eat proper meals regularly to avoid getting “hangry”. Get away from your computer and phone while eating lunch.
If you have a cold, symptom suppression with over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants may help you through the day at work, but won’t help your immune system speed up your recovery. So use them if you need to, but remember the best way to get better quicker is increasing your essential immune nutrients.
Daisy Connor is a Nutritional Therapist and founder of City Survivor supplements.
City Survivor Immune Support won Best Immunity Supplement at the 2020 Beauty Shortlist Wellbeing Awards. Immune Support is an Elderberry and Beta-Glucan complex with Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Zinc.