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Strengthen Your Body with Natural Immune System Boosters 

Experiencing the pandemic has taught the world to be mindful and stay healthy. Learn how to thrive mentally and physically with these immune system boosters.

An Asian woman working out by running across a field.

With COVID-19, influenza and other viruses going around, it’s important to take care of yourself and stay healthy. Eating right and being mindful of how you use your time is integral, but so is stocking up on vitamins and supplements for the long run. Here are the natural immune system boosters to add to your grocery list to strengthen your body’s defence against pathogens and viruses. 

Vitamin C and Probiotics

A bowl filled with dried goji berries on a wooden table.
Goji berries are rich in vitamin C for immunity and are essential for both children and adults.

There’s a reason parents require their kids to take a daily dose of vitamin C. It stimulates the body to produce interferon to strengthen the immune system and prevent viruses. Foods to keep in mind are citrus, kiwi, guava, broccoli, and berries.

Often called a superfood, goji berries (gou qi zi, 枸杞子) are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and are rich in vitamin C. They also work well as hypoglycaemia, immune-modular, anti-hypertensive, hepatic, anti-ageing, anti-fatigue, and antioxidant treatments. 

In addition, probiotics are another immune system booster to add to your list. They stimulate immune cells to secrete interferon and increase antibody production to enhance immunity.

Yoghurt is one of the best sources of probiotics, but if you aren’t a fan, kimchi, miso, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, and sauerkraut are other alternatives. There isn’t a recommended daily intake for probiotics, but it is suggested to add foods like yoghurt powder with probiotics to your daily diet because lactobacillus and bifidobacterium – are both considered good live bacteria. 

Vitamin A, Manuka Honey, and Propolis 

A scoop of propolis with honeycomb and honey on an old wooden slab.
Bee products are rich in vitamins and immune-boosting foods.

Vitamin A is an important immunity booster for maintaining the structure of mucous membranes. Tomatoes, pumpkins, spinach, papaya, carrots, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers are foods rich in vitamin A that can help the immune system and provide a good defence effect.

Cooking or frying these options will improve its absorption since vitamin A is fat-soluble. Examples of this would be in the form of papaya milk, sweet potato fries, tomato scrambled eggs, a spinach and bell pepper omelette or frittata, and more – the recipes can be delicious and are endless!  

Honey is another source of vitamin A as well as vitamins C, D, and E, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamine, and niacin. In TCM, the sweet substance is associated with the Lungs, large intestine, Spleen, and stomach meridians and is used to restore qi. Its antioxidant, antiviral, and antibiotic abilities make it a perfect addition to steering clear of ongoing infections.

In addition, bee glue or propolis is the other bee product to learn about. A study from the National Library of Medicine found that it has various health benefits related to gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, and gynecological, oral, and dermatological problems. 

Their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties moisturise the oral mucosa and maintain the health of the first line of defense against viruses. 

Whole Grains, Mushrooms, and Cordyceps 

Whole wheat bread, farro, oats, quinoa, bulgur, and brown, red, and black rice are examples of whole grains. They are rich in vitamin B group and various minerals such as iron, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These are important compounds that allow cells to proliferate, oxidise and reduce, maintain the health of cell mucosa, and produce immune functions such as antibodies.

Slices of turkey tail mushroom in a person's right palm.
Turkey tail mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, which activate the immune system’s defences.

Similarly, mushrooms are filled with B vitamins, specifically riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. In modern TCM, mushrooms are prescribed to clients in the form of powder, capsules, or tea, but can also be added to soups. Another study in the National Library of Medicine found that turkey tail mushrooms (popularly used in TCM) contain large quantities of beta-glucans that stimulate the immune system.

Further research has also confirmed that the polysaccharides in mushrooms can improve the ability of human macrophages to phagocytose bacteria and viruses, and increase the number and activity of natural killer cells. However, if you suffer from gout, it’s good to take note that the quantity of mushroom intake should be limited. 

Want to enhance your immunity even more? Take health supplements such as Ganoderma lucidum or Capsules Of Cordyceps Sinensis Mycelia to enhance immunity and strengthen bronchial and lung functions. 

Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onion on a black stone table.
You may not be aware that garlic and onion are not only staples in the kitchen but for your health.

In TCM, garlic is used to prevent or fight infections. TCM practitioners may prescribe it to clients for relieving cough and diarrhoea for killing parasites. It’s safe to say that adding it to your diet will act as an immune system booster because of its healing properties.

A research paper published in the Nutrition journal found that garlic has anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antitumor, anticancer, antidiabetic, and cardioprotective features because of its compounds. 

Another TCM remedy that is also part of the Allium family is the onion. Popularly used as food sources, onions and shallots can be used as medicine too. Their original use was to treat tumours, but their warm, dispersing, and pungent qualities are good for alleviating coughs and problems with phlegm.

Information from the Food and Scientific Reports confirmed the importance of adding onions to boost your immune system because of their organic compounds such as organosulfur compounds, flavonoids, and fructans, that may prevent your body against certain microbial pathogens. They’re also rich in vitamin C, selenium, zinc, and sulfur. 

Along with including these immune system boosters in your balanced, healthy diet, it’s important to get an ample amount of sleep, stay physically active, avoid consuming heavy amounts of alcohol, hydrate, and keep stress at a low level. Continue to stay safe and be at your healthiest. 

Have alternative immune system booster suggestions to share? Let us know below.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Boost your immune system and protect yourself!”, which first appeared on the Health123 website.

References

  1. Food and Scientific Reports. 2020. Importance of Fruits and Vegetables in Boosting our Immune System amid the COVID19. [online] [Accessed on 8 March 2023] 
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. 2021. Want probiotics but dislike yogurt? Try these foods. [online] [Accessed on 7 March 2023] 
  3. Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies. 2014. Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) as a source of trace elements in human nutrition. [online] [Accessed by 7 March 2023] 
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2017. Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits. [online] [Accessed on 7 March 2023] 
  5. National Library of Medicine. 2012. Recent progress of research on medicinal mushrooms, foods, and other herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine. [online] [Accessed on 7 March 2023] 
  6. Nutrition Journal. 2020. Garlic (Allium sativum L.): a potential unique therapeutic food rich in organosulfur and flavonoid compounds to fight with COVID-19. [online] [Accessed on 8 March 2023] 

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