Food for thought:
The immune system can be strengthened and maintained by simple measures such as:
1. Maintain a calm and positive mental state and environment (many would agree that management of anxiety to reduce anxiety is the most important factor)
2. Positive in person engagement with loved ones and peers (consider current local guidelines re social distancing)
3. Regular engagement in normative activities (please see earlier comments on normative activities)
4. Regular relaxation in fresh air with nature and / or animals (many report noticeable positive changes in blood pressure and general health when spending time with animals; animals are a life long (or sometimes 15 year long) responsibility, so opt for volunteering, animal rescue or pet sitting if you cannot make a longterm commitment to animals)
5. Regular exercise
6. Sufficient sleep
7. Adequate hydration
8. Healthy food options such as fresh fruit and vegetables
We have received many questions regarding which foods are ideal to support a healthy immune system and general health. We have asked our medical and para-medical colleagues, patients and their families what their favourite foods are to remain healthy.
We have only included thoughts from people who have reported that they have not presented with any symptoms of respiratory illness or any other infections in the last 12 months.
Favourites choices for:
Vit A: Eggs, oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and mackerel (once a week), fruit such as cantaloupe melon and mangoes, and vegetables such as carrots, spinach, butternut squash, broccoli, chilli peppers and tomatoes
Vit B1: Milk, some fortified breakfast cereals, yeast products (marmite is a favourite for many) and nuts such as peanuts (peanut butter is a favourite for many)
Vit B2: Milk, milk products, eggs, yeast extracts and some fortified breakfast cereals
Vit B3: Milk, eggs and meats such as chicken, pork or beef
Vit B6: Fortified cereals, bananas, nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts (Nutella is a favourite for many), and meats such as turkey, chicken or beef
Vit B7: Yeast products, eggs, nuts such as peanuts, and green vegetables
Vit B12: Milk, dairy, fortified breakfast cereals, eggs, fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies, and yeast products
Vit C: Kiwi, guava, citrus (oranges, lemons, satsumas, clementines, grapefruit), mangoes, papaya, black currants, strawberries, nectarines and vegetables such as sweet potatoes and broccoli
Vit D: Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and mackerel, and eggs and milk
Vit E: Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, peanut butter, pine nuts (pesto is a favourite with pasta) and vegetables such as sweet potatoes
Vit K: Leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli (good with lemon, garlic and anchovies), eggs and dairy
Folate: Some breakfast cereals, milk, yoghurt, eggs, spinach (good on pizza or with fish), broccoli, green beans, peas and chickpeas
Calcium: Milk, cheddar cheese, yoghurt and sardines
Magnesium: Cocoa, pine nuts, cashew, hazelnuts and walnuts
Phosphorus: Milk, dairy (except butter), fish and nuts
Selenium: One or two brazil nuts per week (we usually recommend no more than one brazil nut per day), eggs and fish such as tuna or sardines
Iron: Fortified cereals, cocoa, nuts such as cashews, meat such as beef, and vegetables such as broccoli (a favourite for many is pasta with salmon, pine nuts and broccoli)
Zinc: Milk, milk products, eggs, oysters, cocoa and nuts such as pine nuts and cashews, as well as leafy vegetables such as spinach
Copper: Nuts such as cashews
Manganese: Fruit such as pineapple and vegetables such as spinach
Additional thoughts: Honey, bananas and yoghurt drinks with live cultures (such as Actimel) are healthy favourites and make excellent milkshakes for children and adults.
Olive oil with garlic and onions make a good and healthy start to any dish, as most reported.
Mushrooms are also a healthy favourite for many in pastas or on pizza.
Salads with rocket, leeks, fennel and fish are a favourite for many French families.
Chillies and avocado are also healthy options and Mexican food is a favourite for many.
Desserts: Greek yoghurts with berries such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and honey. Dark hot chocolate drinks or sauces with spices such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon over fruit including berries, figs, apples, apricots and pears, or in pancakes.
Please know that this list only includes ‘favourite items’ of people who we have liaised with in the last few months, there are many more food choices available in every category.
Remember some vitamins or minerals are best absorbed when taken with certain food types such as with fats or orange juice, and some foods or drinks such as tea or wine reduce absorption such as tannins or caffeine, so avoid combinations where absorption is reduced if you can.
Some food choices such as grapefruit cannot be taken with certain medications, your pharmacist will be able to advise you. We always recommend that care is taken when new medications or food choices are introduced, please speak to your GP if you have concerns. We usually recommended ‘go low and slow’ with anything new, and have access to emergency facilities, in our work with children and families. Many doctors, nurses and pharmacists recommend for instance that you remain within 3 minutes of the office with emergency facilities after you have received vaccines or started a new medication for at least 20 minutes, and for some a bit longer.
Balance is key. Healthy fats such as olive oil, proteins and carbohydrates are essential for most bodily functions. Many food choices including herbs and spices are good for health, however, if you consume high amounts, health benefits change to health risks. Moderation is key.
Enjoy your favourite food such as chocolate, but in moderation, and ideally choose healthy options such as dark chocolate possibly with nuts and berries. Enjoy your favourite drinks such as coffee and tea, but try to limit intake to two cups per day.
Drink 1-2 litres of water or decaffeinated and unsweetened tea per day (camomile or thyme and peppermint ice teas are a favourite for some). Hydration is essential for nearly all physiological functions in the body.
We usually recommend that vitamins and minerals are received through food choices, rather than tablets or capsules, unless specific medical indications exist and medical recommendations from your doctor include medication or supplements.
We recommend that you always follow medical advice given to you by professionals including medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dieticians. No two people are the same and medical conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus or Ischaemic Heart Disease will likely mean that you likely have to alter your diet significantly to ensure reduced risk and improved health, which often means avoiding some food types in total. Discuss options with your treating doctor or medical team.
If you have medical problems or symptoms or if you are worried about your health, we would recommend that you book an appointment to speak to your GP without delay. The pandemic is not a good reason to postpone contacting your health service if you have concerns, even if your concerns appear ‘not serious’. Health professionals will advise you on next steps specifically detailed for your unique circumstances.
Please know that some doctors who offer services to the NHS report that they have not been less busy in decades, please therefore do not assume that your concerns are not important during this time. Health and mental health is important and prevention is key, therefore please liaise with your medical professional without delay if you have concerns for you or your family.
The content of our websites and social media accounts is intended for general information purposes only. These pages do not constitute any form of consultative or diagnostic tool or process, and is no substitute for assessment and recommendations by a medical doctor. The assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health or general health difficulties, particularly in children, but also in many adults, is a complex and specialised process and should only be undertaken by qualified mental health or medical professionals with appropriate training and sufficient experience.
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