Eating for Immunity

Eating for Immunity


Last week I spoke to a lovely group of Mothers about 'When to take your child to the Emergency Department' and what signs and symptoms to be alarmed by, including measures to take to help manage their child's illness at home. I'm obviously very passionate about sharing advice to help Mum's through this tough time, but it got me thinking about proactive steps we could all take to avoid sickness this winter.


Many of us assume that falling ill over the winter months is just a given, but what if we could strengthen our immunity so that we had more ability to fight off the common viruses that cause winter colds and flus? 


In simple terms, our immunity if facilitated by our antibodies, white blood cells and other proteins and chemicals that attack invading bacteria and viruses. But did you know that about 70 to 80 percent of your entire immune system is stationed in your gut? (Hartwig, 2012). Therefore, the effectiveness of your immune system depends on how well our gut functions and therefore how healthy our gut bacteria is. 


With the over-consumption of processed foods, use of antibiotics, and lack of antioxidants in modern day diet most people lack healthy gut flora and therefore have a weak or compromised immune system.


So how can we eat for immunity?


Firstly we can decrease or ideally eliminate any inflammatory foods from our diets; these include processed foods, all forms of sugar, vegetable oils and dairy for most people. These inflammatory foods make it harder for our bodies to fight foreign invaders because our good bacteria are already using their energy trying to destroy and detoxify the 'food' like substances we consume.


At the same time as reducing our intake of inflammatory foods, we need to increase antioxidant foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables especially all green leafy vegetables.


Thirdly we need to build and repair the gut lining with fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and cultured greek or coconut yoghurt. 


Another great immune booster I advocate is bone broth. Many of you who follow blogs about real food and the paleo lifestyle will have heard talk about 'bone broth' and the claims about it's amazing health benefits, including being anti inflammatory and having gut healing properties.


So is it too good to be true? Or did our Grandparents have it right all along?


Bone broth (aka stock) is basically what it sounds like; left over bones (feet, heads, necks and backs, knuckles, or tails are all good) thrown in a slow cooker with some water and seasonings if you like, and cooked on low for 8-24 hours.


So why all the hype?


The simmering process of making broth causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen (broken down into gelatin), proline glycine and glutamine. These proteins and amino acids are excellent for bone remodelling and joint health, they help with digestion (through stimulating acid production and also by healing 'leaky gut' and maintaining the function of the intestinal wall), they aid in detoxification (helps the liver in its role), can speed wound healing, promotes sleep and on a more superficial level, improves skin appearance (Paleo Leap, 2016). 


What a huge number of benefits from such a simple and cheap process!

I like to drink bone broth by the cup full with some Himalayan sea salt, turmeric and cumin, but you can also use it as a base for curries, stews, soups, chilli's and bolognese.  

If you don't already own a slow advise is to use the winter sales to invest in one and get simmering. Here's to happy gut health. 




Paleo Leap. (2016). What's in a bone? Retrieved from

Hartwig, D & M. (2012). It starts with food. USA: Victory Belt Publishing Inc.


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