The festive season is just around the corner and so begins a month of late nights, Christmas parties and frantically rushing about grabbing last-minute gifts. This can be a time of year when our health takes a hit, as factors like stress, diet and lifestyle affect the health of our immune system and our ability to fight off whatever cold and flu strains are going around.
Our immune system works overtime to stop and remove pathogens in their tracks whether bacteria, viruses, abnormal cells or environmental toxins. We have an innate immune system, containing various immune cells that help to neutralize infections quickly, and an adaptive immune system, which constantly adapts and learns how to respond to new pathogens that it encounters, so it can respond effectively. The two systems work together to enable our immune system to do its job, and when they are firing correctly this should help to protect us from getting sick.
We are constantly bombarded with potential pathogens from our environment and in the food and drink we consume. Our immune system is vital to protect us from the damage these pathogens could have on our body, but even with our immune systems in tact we occasionally do fall sick. Our immune systems can be compromised due to a range of factors which can lead to us feeling run down and suffering recurrent infections. A strong immune system will ensure you rarely get sick, but how can we support our immunity.
Tips for Immune Support:
- Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, refined sugar and processed foods as these can suppress immune function and open you up to infection.
- Regular exercise has been shown to support the immune system, though there is a tipping point as strenuous or excessive exercise can actually lower our defences.
- Aim for 7-9 hours per night of good quality sleep. Lack of sleep compromises the immune system.
- Manage stress with yoga, meditation and time outdoors. Chronic stress can lead to adrenaline and cortisol release which act as immune suppressants.
- Many herbs and spices have been well researched and show benefits for immune support. Echinacea, garlic, ginger, oregano and thyme have all been shown to have benefits from supporting the immune response, to containing anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
- Mushroom supplements support so many functions in the body, but their adaptogenic nature means they help to regulate and stabilise immune function. They contain many nutrients like vitamin D, Iron, Selenium and Vitamin C which are important for the body and overall health.
Mushrooms 4 Immunity
Mushroom supplements are also rich in antioxidants, polysaccharides and polyphenols which have been shown to support the immune system. They are also rich in beta-glucans which is a polysaccharide that helps to modulate the immune system and bring it back into balance if it is under, or over active. Beta-glucans have been shown to enhance macrophage and natural killer cell function- two important cells for our defences.
Many mushroom supplements contain a wide variety of compounds that are anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants to protect and defend the body. Mushrooms produce many strong antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds in order to be able to survive in their own environment and many of these compounds have been isolated and used to form common antibiotics and other medication.
Shiitake is a great choice for the winter season, known as the “elixir of life” traditionally, it has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Studies have shown that Shiitake killed only pathogenic microbes- leaving beneficial bacteria in tact- unlike antibiotics which don’t distinguish the good from the bad. Regular shiitake consumption has been shown to improve immunity and the production of immune cells.
Reishi mushroom powder may provide antiviral support and help production of T-cells which form part of our adaptive immune system.
Cordyceps powder has been shown to support the bodies innate immunity (our front line of defence). Cordyceps supplement is also an excellent choice for respiratory conditions and recurrent illness and infection to restore energy and health.
Whichever shroom you choose you will be helping to support your immune system so you can stay fighting fit this winter, as well as gaining a whole host of other health benefits alongside.