With cities reopening, and people going back to an (almost) regular routine, how can we ensure we have an optimal immune function? The Gaggler quizzed Wellness Coach Bernadette Abraham on how to boost our immune systems to cope with an increasingly stressful existence, as Dubai navigates its new normal.
“When it comes to viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxicity, everything that isn’t within our environment, if you strengthen your inner defence system, you will be able to fight back against these things, and feel protected, not fearful of the current situation,’ explains Bernadette, a certified wellness coach with over 20 years of health and fitness experience under her belt.
‘I’ve recently been delving into the world of functional medicine. Adding that to my knowledge toolkit aims to focus on the root cause of disease by looking at the interconnectedness of a person’s symptoms and trying to address those foundational issues that may be missing in the body; nutrients that might be deficient, or systems and organs that might need to be supported.”
So what can we do to ensure that our immune systems are working to the best of their abilities?
GET LOTS OF SLEEP
“The number one best thing you can do to boost and prime your immune system is prioritizing your sleep and circadian rhythm. It’s not a matter of how many hours of sleep you get, it’s a matter of when you get to bed. Because we are connected to the sun, naturally as the sun rises and sets, we have hormones that shift in our body to match.
Lack of sleep makes us more prone to viruses and it weakens immunity. When you sleep, you produce proteins called cytokines, which help to boost immune function. As a general recommendation, what has been found to be a healthy circadian rhythm in line with the sun is getting to bed around 10-10.30pm and waking between 6-6.30am.”
THINK WITH YOUR STOMACH
“Having good strong stomach acid is actually a form of first-line immunity defence from any pathogens coming in orally through food, water or air. For anything that enters the body through the mouth, having strong stomach acid acts like a cleansing tank that will kill off pathogens and prevent any future pathogen from going in.
One of the root causes of why someone can have low stomach acid is chronic stress. So it’s important to make sure you have optimal thyroid function to keep stress to a minimum. Optimizing zinc, for example, can also help with increasing stomach acid because we need zinc to produce it. Zinc is really rich in animal proteins, beef specifically. You really do need to have a large quantity to get sufficient amounts, so if you are vegan or vegetarian, supplementation may be needed.”
BE VIGILANT ABOUT VITAMINS
“Vitamin C-rich foods are usually bright red or orange in colour. A lot of people think an orange contains the most vitamin C, but half a cup of red pepper or a cup of broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange does.
This is another food product called Camu Camu, which is really rich in vitamin C – in fact, it’s probably the highest vitamin C-containing food there is. It comes in a powdered form, and tastes very sour, so you can mix it into coconut yoghurt or regular yoghurt if you don’t have any dairy issues.
Vitamin-A is not very often talked about, but is critical for immune health. Vitamin A, D and Zinc are usually my go-to’s. Vitamin A is found in a lot of orange-coloured foods, like carrot and sweet potato. But if you eat meat, liver is wonderful source – not only because it’s very rich in vitamin A, but packed with vitamin B too – it’s a superfood. Eggs are also high in vitamin A.”
WATCH YOUR MOUTH
“90% of our immune system is in our gut, so gut health is critically important – but oral health is where gut health begins.
The status of your mouth and your dental hygiene is critically important to boost your immune system. So if you are not already brushing your teeth twice or three times per day, start doing so first thing in the morning right before bed, and even before food.
You can also do some coconut oil pulling to really help to draw out any bacteria, because what has been found is that those who develop pneumonia from COVID 19 had a certain type of bacteria in their mouth.
Oral hygiene is so critically important to our overall immune health – if you can get rid of that bacteria from the mouth with good oral hygiene, it will prevent anything from going in.”
LOVE THE SUNSHINE
“The sun is absolutely the best source of vitamin D you will find. Get good amounts of sun very early on in the day until late afternoon. As long as the sun is within 30 degrees of the Equator, you’re getting ample amounts of vitamin D. But try to avoid using sunscreen unless you’re going to be out in the sun all day. What goes on the skin goes into the system, because the skin is our largest organ, and like another mouth. You have to be careful with what you’re putting on your children’s skin. I much prefer to use protective clothing, like UV-protective shirts and hats and things like that to protect them.”
DON’T BE AFRAID OF DIRT
“There is a benefit in grounding. So letting your kids actually go outside barefoot in the sand and in the grass can help heal the body and boost immune function.”
SAY GOODBYE TO SUGAR
“The other thing with children specifically is to keep sugar, sweets and desserts to a real minimum. There was a study carried out that showed that a certain amount of sugar-reduced the immune system for up to 5 hours. What sugar does is use our body’s calcium and nutrients to fight the immune system – it basically uses calcium as ammunition. So for children especially, sugar is not only weakening the immune system, it can also weaken bones too.”