When it comes to fighting off infections naturally, these potent nutraceuticals found in natural remedies could give boost your immunity and keep you feeling your best…
With Autumn in the air, there’s an increased risk of catching coughs and colds. That’s because lower temperatures allow some viruses to spread more easily and can dampen your immune response. While ‘boosting’ your immunity is a bit of a misconception, you can keep your immune system balanced, strong and healthy, so it reacts well to infections.
Vital ways to strengthen immunity include getting plenty of sleep, lowering stress, regular exercise, good nutrition, being a healthy weight, not smoking and cutting back on alcohol. Although there’s no one solution toward off bugs, research has uncovered fascinating facts on how some natural substances may help…
1. Boost your immunity with NAC (N-ACETYL CYSTEINE)
Essential for strong immunity, NAC helps create one of the most powerful antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants mop up excess oxygen-containing molecules (free radicals) to prevent oxidative stress, which can lead to multiple diseases such as cancer or heart disease.
‘NAC is a supplement form of amino acid, cysteine. Your body uses cysteine with other compounds to make essential antioxidant, glutathione, which is present in almost all your cells,’ says scientist Dr Tim Bond. ‘Glutathione is crucial for DNA repair and for the adaptive immune system, including antibody response and immunological “memory”, which means you can fight off previously encountered infections.’
Glutathione as a supplement gets broken down by the digestive system, however, you can supplement with NAC to boost levels, as well as eating cysteine-rich foods, such as eggs, garlic, red pepper, chicken, turkey, broccoli, oats, yoghurt, cheese and beans.
NAC is attracting scientific attention, with multiple clinical trials underway to investigate its immune-strengthening potential for a variety of illnesses including Covid-19, flu, pneumonia, mental health disorders, addiction and autism.
It’s used in hospitals to relieve inflammation and loosen mucus in chronic lung diseases, such as bronchitis and COPD, a chronic lung disease. A one-year study found 600 mg of NAC taken twice a day significantly improved lung function in people with controlled COPD. Always consult your GP before taking.
Try this…N-acetyl cysteine 600mg, (£15.95 for 90 capsules).
2. Let Pine Needle Tea give your immune system a boost
Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, this plant has huge potential to boost your immunity. Native American and Asian cultures traditionally used it to treat respiratory conditions.
‘Conifer needles are high in essential oils that contain compounds such as alpha and beta pinene. These probably have antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,’ says tea expert, Dr Bond. ‘Pine needles also contain a range of flavonoids, which can support the immune system. However, it’s not known yet whether there’s enough in a cup of pine needle tea to have a big impact.’
A study found water extracted from pine needles had high levels of antioxidants and protected DNA against oxidative stress. Pine needles are thought to be high in vitamins C and A, too. These can protect eye health as well as strengthening general immunity.
‘Add pine needles tea to slightly cooled, boiled water and you’ll have a refreshing pine and citrus flavoured infusion after about four minutes of brewing,’ says Dr Bond.
NOTE: More than 100 species of pine tree exist and some are toxic to humans. Make sure you buy from a trusted source.
Try this…The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company White Pine needles tea (£2.75 for 50g).
3. Support your immune system with Pterostilbene
Every juicy blueberry contains a potent phytochemical called pterostilbene. The plant produces it as an antimicrobial to fight disease. In a lab analysis of 446 compounds for their ability to strengthen immunity, pterostilbene stood out as the most potent in stimulating immune response, along with red grape phytochemical, resveratrol.
In fact, pterostilbene has similar benefits to the better-known resveratrol, having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties. Unlike resveratrol, your gut can absorb pterostilbene much more easily. Pterostilbene has 80 per cent bioavailability, compared to resveratrol’s 20 per cent.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietitian at Fruit Juice Science Centre says: ‘Lab studies show blueberry extract has an antioxidant effect and helps to protect body cells from damage. Researchers are investigating it as an anti-cancer substance.’ One meta-analysis suggests pterostilbene has potential to become a tool in reducing tumour growth. Dosage is not established but 100-250mg was shown to be well-tolerated in a study.
Try this…Pterostilbene 50mg (£17.99 for 90 capsules).
4. Try Shilajit to boost your immunity
A sticky black mineral-rich resin formed from decaying plant matter layered between rocks of mountain ranges, such as the Himalayan and Tibetan mountains. Ayurvedic medicine calls it the ‘destroyer of weakness’ indicating how it’s traditionally prized for increasing vitality.
It contains 84 health-improving minerals, peptides, lipids and amino acids. But its main ingredient is fulvic acid. Lab tests indicate this may strengthen immune response, reduce oxidative stress and fight inflammation. Fulvic acid may also help transport other nutrients into your body tissue so they become more bioavailable. However, more research is needed to assess the benefits of this nutraceutical.
A study suggests taking 300 – 500mg per day. Buy from a reputable source as unpurified shilajit can be toxic. Check with your doctor before taking this supplement.
Try this…East Meets West Immune Formula, (£14.99 for 30 capsules containing 75mg shilajit extract).
5. Give your immune system a helping hand with Hesperidin
The bright pigments of citrus fruit, like orange, lemon and grapefruit, contain the bioflavonoid (active plant chemical) hesperidin. This has beneficial effects for your immune system due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Dr Ruxton says: ‘Research increasingly suggests hesperidin can target immune health. A new UK trial, called Phyto-V (13) will test supplements of probiotics, hesperidin and other polyphenols on patients testing positive for Covid-19.
‘Hesperidin is believed to strengthen immune function by supporting healthy gut microbiota as well as having an anti-viral effect. It’s also thought to reduce levels of inflammation in the body to help healing after infection.
The best dose for immunity is not yet known. But you can get 78mg in a glass of fresh fruit orange juice. Eating citruses, like grapefruit and limes, are also a rich source of hesperidin.’
Try this…Solgar Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex, 1,000 mg, (£14.50 for 100 tablets).