Like every temple meant to stand the test of time (you guys know we’re all about longevity here at SuperFeast HQ), it also needs a strong foundation. A powerful structure that wards off both internal and external damage. Taking our metaphor even further, our temple at times may need an army of little fighters — antiviral and antibacterial agents — to protect us from our surroundings.
While we may not be able to control everything in our environment (even though sometimes we’d love to ;P), we can help our little fighters and make their jobs easier, by ensuring our foundations of health are in place. This includes eating well, moving our bodies, hydrating with high-quality (ideally, spring) water and avoiding toxins and chemicals where possible.
The following list of 10 natural immunity boosters includes known, as well as slightly left of centre ways to enhance your immunity. All of them are able to nurture your body in the right way, so you have a strong defense against a whole world of diseases.
These will never go out of style, as they are vital for your health:
You already knew this one (unless you’ve been living in a cave, like our ancient Daoist / Taoist teachers) but it bears repeating — a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to ensure your body recovers from the day, allows your mind to rest, and supports the incredible array of repair and maintenance that must occur during those Zzz’s. We know sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of cortisol, which after prolonged periods can cause your immune functions to be suppressed. A minimum of 6 hours is recommended, up to 9 hours, depending on your body, as well as your daily activities and energy expenditure.
Furthermore, if you have constant disruptions of your sleep cycles (which usually take about 90 minutes, each cycle) it doesn’t just lead to tiredness, but it also activates the inflammatory immune response. Same for chronic sleep deprivation. New parents know this pain all too well! Our immune response can be affected by lack of sleep, as the efficiency of our T-cells, an important type of white blood cells, is decreased with bad sleep. So, we know it’s an oldie, but please, make sure to get your Zzz’s every night.
Again, obvious, but we had to say it. Smoking usually kills you in the long run, but it also diminishes your various immunological defenses (and damages your Lung Qi), while raising the risk of dangerous diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis. If you struggle with quitting, some common methods include chewing gum whenever you get a craving (so pack lots of gum!) and hypnotherapy, which interestingly has proven results. Strengthening your Lung Qi with herbs can also help you kick the habit - we like cordyceps and astragalus, which are also immune herbs (yay!).
In terms of drinking, there are multiple long-term studies showing that drinking a glass of wine or two for dinner, like the French and Italians, will help you live longer. Organic wine is great since it doesn’t have preservatives (we love the odd glass of biodynamic vino too, here at HQ). However, excessive consumption of alcohol is known to impair your immune system, as well as increased vulnerability to respiratory infections. Well, that and about a dozen more risks.
Sunlight is life for plants, as well as for us; sunlight provides essential nutrition to our skin, bones, and immune system. We may not be able to photosynthesise, but the sun’s rays do provide us with valuable vitamin D. Lack of Vit D can lead to a greater risk of autoimmune disease and infection, especially in our respiratory systems. The good news is studies have shown that supplementing Vit D lowers your risk of influenza.
We are big believers here at SuperFeast that full-body responsible sunbathing (aka D’s on your B’s - that is, sunning your downstairs regions for happy health benefits) is a beautiful way to increase your natural immunity. If you add the fact that feeling the sun’s warmth and light are natural antidepressants, especially if it involves some type of exercise, your immune system will thank you twice.
The easiest way to increase your natural immunity might be by just eating better because as we all know, we are what we eat. Studies have shown that eating more fruits and veggies can enhance your body’s antibody response toward certain vaccines. Meanwhile, a poor diet of processed foods (the foods you find in plastic containers and bags, or cardboard boxes) contain additives that compromise your health and immunological responses.
By eating plenty of antioxidant-rich natural foods like berries, peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, pumpkin, and green leafy veggies, your body’s organs will be strengthened. Try switching to healthier oils too, such as avocado, olive or coconut oil, instead of using vegetable oils, which are toxic for the body. Similarly, try ditching refined sugar, which drastically lowers your body’s immune response and prolongs illness, via inflammation.
What about when you’re feeling sick? Well, apart from avoiding sugars and vegetable oils, the following ideas will help to fortify your body’s immune system: Lemon water — Starting your days with a glass or two of lemon (or lime) water will instantly hydrate you while bolstering your immune system. For sweetness, it’s better to consume raw honey, especially from local bees, known to build our allergic immunities.
Honey, an antioxidant superfood, can offer a multitude of health benefits, especially if you replace sugar recipes with it. It has antibacterial properties that boost your immune system. Finally, if you can consistently drink green tea, which has antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral and antifungal properties, your body will naturally strengthen its immunological defenses. Two cups a day can go a long way.
Exercising regularly to get healthier is like drinking water to quench your thirst, or breathing pure air to clean your lungs. If we’re honest with ourselves, often we could probably move a little more. This also means that, if you don’t exercise at all, even just a small improvement can, fortunately, do wonders for your entire wellbeing - physically, mentally and emotionally.
Regular movement can be anything from primordial movement and yoga in the morning, walking your dog for 30 minutes a day, cycling to work or school, or using the stairs instead of the elevator each day. Many people love going to the gym, while some of us prefer sports, others prefer doing their moving at home. Each of these has multiple benefits, helping us improve our sleep, strengthen our body and its immune system, increase antibody response to infections, and make you feel amazing (helped by the hormonal and chemical cascades).
Exercising is almost always a good thing, but you shouldn’t overdo it, balance is always key. Constant strenuous exercise without days of recovery is associated with an increased likelihood of getting infections, as well as susceptibility towards injuries. Same goes for almost anything — eating well doesn’t mean eating just kale and sweet potatoes every day, but finding a balance in your food, with a variety of naturally-sourced nutrients. Extremes lead to imbalances and degeneration, so go gently and work on finding your own sustainable rhythm and culture of health.
That said, living a busy life can be healthy. It’s good to have many things to do, especially when we’re in flow between them all. This doesn’t mean we go hard or go home - it’s also crucial to manage our stress when things don’t go our way, or if there is too much to be done. Meditation is a fantastic way to lower stress, which can be done virtually anywhere. We love sharing our personal ways of finding this spaciousness.
Reducing our stress levels is particularly important because chronic stress can suppress our immune response, by releasing cortisol. This hormone interferes with our T-cells’ ability to get signals from the body and proliferate. In fact, cortisol also lowers important antibodies, such as lgA, which are particularly useful against defending our bodies from invading pathogens. Exercise and meditation are ideal, to help lower stress.
Try them once and you may even get addicted (in a good way):
Garlic has been used for millennia to heroically fight microbes (not just those pesky vampires), as well as an immune booster. Having said that, its use has recently been mostly relegated to Italian pasta, Mexican sauces, and Asian seasonings. There are many other ways to use this near-magical superfood to enhance flavours. However, one of its key active enzymes, allinase, is deactivated with heat, so it’s recommended to eat it raw, when possible.
Indeed, raw garlic is fantastic at warding off infections, boosting the immune system, and fighting the common cold. If you add fresh garlic to your everyday dishes, you can get all of its health-improving benefits. It also has a powerful compound called allicin, which is known to treat serious gastrointestinal infections, as well as killing parasites and treating yeast infections. Two garlic cloves a day is a great starting point if you’re infected and dealing with these health issues.
The word ‘probiotic’ literally translates as ‘pro-life.’ These super-friendly organisms are live cultures of beneficial bacteria, usually present in the colon, that assist your body in producing our immuno-heroes — white blood cells. A study of a group that took probiotic supplements reduced their likelihood of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections. Fermented milk products are known to have similar effects. We dive deep into probiotics and overall gut health in our podcast here.
Other ways to increase immunological functions and improve your gut health via fermented products are vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, along with beverages like kombucha and kefir are also rich in probiotics. Delicious AND nutritious!
Unless your body really needs it (which your doctor will tell you), try as much as possible to avoid pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter medications, such as painkillers, antidepressants, and antibiotics. In the West, we have suffered from the ‘A pill for every ill’ mentality for quite some time and the rise of poor gut integrity is linked with our overdependence on antibiotics and the like. Eating well and following the above tips will go a long way in helping your body fight off illness, as well as strengthening your system in a preventative model.
Of course, some circumstances may require taking a pill or a visit to the hospital, but keep in mind that it can take your microbiome up to six months of recovery, after just one week of antibiotic treatment. Most common respiratory infections are viral too, meaning antibiotics won’t make it any better — in fact, taking these chemicals will only do more damage. As mental health issues rise globally, so has the use of antidepressants, which are also known to diminish your body’s ability to heal itself, while painkillers weaken your immune health and damage your gut. Once again, work with your healthcare provider on what medication you may need.
What’s pretty frightening is in this day and age of animal husbandry, most of us consume artificial medications (and fake hormones) indirectly, via our food. If you include red meat or chicken in your lifestyle, try to buy organic (or directly from farmers), so that you don’t ingest antibiotic and hormonal residues from animals that have been chemically treated.
You knew this one was coming! How did we wait patiently until number 10?! Medicinal mushrooms (also known as ‘health shrooms’ or medicinal mushies) have been observed to enhance immune functions, we’ve been banging on about this forever! Some of the greatest immune-boosting substances around the globe for fighting viruses, regenerating the body’s systems, strengthening gut integrity and aiding the body finding homeostasis are found in mushrooms. Reishi, for example, the most revered mushroom in history, is a supreme protector on all levels of health.
Other medicinal mushies, like maitake, can increase our immune cells’ ability to get rid of bacteria (by eating it). Medicinal mushrooms all have powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing effects, some of our faves are shiitake, lion’s mane, and turkey tail. These can help bring the body into homeostasis, by fortifying our hormonal and immune functions. The mushies are also the network and immune system of the forest, and this is similar to the role they play in our bodies, helping to unite our systems for higher function.
Best found in the wild, most medicinal mushrooms are born out of China, where they are found growing on trees (this sourcing of mushrooms from their spiritual homeland is Di Dao and it is the only way we source at SuperFeast). Mushrooms grown in their natural habitat have lived through the seasons, experienced nature’s weather patterns and are bursting with antioxidants, triterpenes, and many other health-enhancing compounds. Thanks to ancient Daoist herbal knowledge, combined with the latest science, the world is now catching on to the epic benefits of incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your daily lifestyle.
To get your hands on the most potent, trusted and highest quality medicinal mushrooms in the world, check them out here.
We hope this article helped you remember or discover some simple steps to great immunity and top-notch health! Humans have survived as a species by being adaptive and our immune systems are intelligent, creative and responsive so long as we take care of ourselves and live in alignment with the rhythms of Nature. Yours in health sovereignty, SuperFeast Team.
A really interesting one today community. Mason talks about which tonic herbs are your ally during Spring.