Archive for Immunity/Infections

Food Sources for Immune Enhancing Nutrients

Food Sources for Immune Enhancing Nutrients
Below is a list of foods containing some of the major nutrients needed for healthy immunity. However, all nutrients play a role including the macronutrients – protein, fats and carbohydrates.
The secret is to have a healthy diet containing lots of fresh vegetables, some fresh fruit, lean animal foods (if you are not vegetarian/vegan), some nuts and seeds, and some whole grains especially the high nutrient grains such as quinoa. A variety of healthy foods is the key. It is also best to avoid the health damaging foods such as refined sugars and flours, packaged/processed foods, artificial food additives, also excessive alcohol and caffeine.

Check out my other blogs related to the immune system – Twelve Tips That Will Improve Your Immune System, Effective Everyday Actions to Improve Immunity, Herbs and Nutrients for Optimal Immune Function, Treat Flu Symptoms

Vitamin A
• Liver
• Paprika, Red Pepper, Cayenne
• Orange Sweet potatoes
• Carrots
• Dark leafy greens
• Pumpkin

B Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
• Whole grain cereals and breads, wheat germ
• Pulses/legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, chick peas
• Dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli
• Animal foods including fish, egg, milk, meat, pork
• Nuts such as almonds and pecans.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
• Chicken, fish, eggs
• Pulses/legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, chick peas
• Milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese
• Nuts
• Dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
• Chicken, salmon and in fishes like canned tuna
• Pulses/legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, chick peas
• Whole wheat, quinoa

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
• Potatoes
• Red meat, poultry, eggs
• Quinoa

Folate, folic acid, or folacin
• Leafy greens such as spinach, fenugreek, turnip greens, asparagus, etc and other fresh fruits and vegetables are all excellent sources of folate
• Liver
• Pulses/legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, chick peas

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
• Fish, shellfish
• Red meat, poultry, eggs
• Milk, milk products, cheese

• Liver
• Egg yolks
• Salmon
• Pork
• Avocado
• Most fruits and vegetables contain some biotin, as do cheeses and whole grains

Pantothenic Acid
• Yogurt
• Avocado
• Smaller amounts in legumes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and broccoli

Vitamin C
All fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C. Some may be lost during cooking
• Berries, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, mango, pawpaw, pineapple
• Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, tomatoes

Vitamin D
There are very few foods in nature contain vitamin D
• Fatty fish including salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain some
• Fish liver oils

Many soils are low in zinc and some modern agricultural practices add to this depletion. The foods listed below will only be high in zinc if the foods are gown or the animals are raised in areas that have adequate zinc.
• Shellfish, particularly oysters
• Beef, lamb
• Nuts and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds
• Whole grains

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Twelve Tips That Will Improve Your Immune System

Twelve Tips That Will Improve Your Immune System

When your immune system is functioning well, it is more capable of fighting infections, whatever the cause. There are also plenty of things that you can do in order to improve the strength of your immune system. Read on to discover twelve of the most effective tips.

1) Monitor your vitamin intake:
If you want to boost your body’s defenses, try to make sure that you have a balanced and adequately high vitamin and mineral intake every day. Studies suggest that resistance to disease is influenced by our nutritional status. All nutrients will have either a direct or indirect impact on the health of your immune system. Some specific nutrients include vitamin A, B Complex vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc. So, try to ingest more foods that contain these vitamins and minerals (or consider taking a multivitamin on a daily basis).

2) Be sociable:
Interesting new research has revealed that people who sustain close, affectionate friendships and relationships tend to have better health and longer lifespans. As a result, maintaining an active and fulfilling social life and trying to make new friends may help to improve your immune system.

3) Reduce your stress levels:
A range of studies on susceptibility to infection suggest that people who suffer from chronic stress end up with weaker immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to infections like the flu. If you want to improve your own immune function, do your best to avoid stress and to find effective ways to cope with any stress that you do encounter. Try explicitly setting aside a regular block of time in which your only goal is to relax by reading, taking a bath, going for a walk or simply doing nothing.

4) Have more sex:
If you are in an intimate relationship, there are some surprising perks for your immune system. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections. If you are not in a sexual relationship, all is not lost! Go back to 2) Be Sociable, and make sure this is a priority in your life.

5) Stop smoking:
In addition to making you more likely to suffer from cancer, strokes and heart attacks, studies show that smoking cigarettes can dramatically reduce your immune system’s ability to fight viruses and bacteria that you encounter.

6) Exercise more often:
Regular cardiovascular exercise improves the immune system and also helps to keep your cardiovascular system healthy at the same time. Ideal examples include swimming, cycling and using a rowing machine. Caution – over-exercising can deplete your immune system. Regular moderate exercise is best for most of us.

7) Practice good hygiene:
If you keep your hands clean by using a good quality antibacterial soap or hand wash, you will be less likely to end up falling ill after coming into contact with people who are carrying potentially dangerous viruses or bacteria.

8) Boost your intake of antioxidants:
There are promising studies that suggest that your immune system will be improved if you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (due to the antioxidants that they contain). Although work on antioxidants remains somewhat contentious, they may protect you from toxins and help to improve your resistance to infection.

9) Adopt a good sleep pattern:
Your immune system is weakened if you sleep for less than eight hours most nights or if you regularly go to sleep in the early hours of the morning. Insomnia is a problem for many people but the good news is, there are many natural solutions that will improve the duration of sleep and also the quality of sleep.

10) Watch your alcohol consumption:
Excessive consumption of alcohol reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. If you drink alcohol try to have no more than 1 drink 4 to 5 times a week.

11) Work to improve your mood:
Recent research suggests that people who have an optimistic outlook also enjoy improved resistance to disease. This interesting result should prompt you to try and focus on the things that make you happy and grateful for the life you have.

12) Laugh often:
Finally, one interesting study found that participants had stronger immune systems shortly after watching video clips that elicited sincere laughter. This result warrants further investigation, but it may be the case that frequent laughter is correlated with a decreased likelihood of regularly falling ill.

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Effective Everyday Actions to Improve Immunity

Reduce Stress

Close your eyes. Count to ten. Whatever you do, stay calm. Stress can weaken the immune system transiently but significantly. Employ a number of different stress reduction techniques to help you stay healthy and vital:

  • Abdominal breathing
  • Meditation classes
  • Read books focusing on positive thinking
  • Go out for a walk or jog
  • Hang out with people you love and whose company you enjoy
  • Think of something pleasant that makes you happy! Laugh a lot.


Even a moderate lack of sleep can put you at greater risk of infection. In one study, adults who consistently had less than 7 hours of sleep per night were three times more likely to experience a respiratory infection. 


It can be hard to motivate yourself to exercise, especially in winter, but think about this. Even short bursts of exercise give your immune system a temporary boost.

When 500 adults were tracked for 12 weeks, those who were the most physically active had only half the number of days sick with a respiratory tract infection, compared to those who were not active.

A word of caution

Over-exercise can deplete immunity. Your exercise regime needs to be right for YOU. Moderate exercise is always best.


Like most parts of the body, the immune system weakens with age. That is why older people are more susceptible to infections, are more likely to get cancer and other chronic conditions. You can’t stop yourself from growing older but that doesn’t mean you have to just sit there and take it! There is much you can do to improve immunity and slow down the ageing process with herbs, nutrition and lifestyle choices.

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Immunity 101

Getting sick with any type of infection, be it a cold or a stomach bug can be very disruptive in our busy lives. Many people seem to be ‘lucky’ and rarely get sick whilst others seem to be sick frequently, catching anything that is going around. Why the difference? It’s all about our immune system…

Why is The Immune System so Important?

The human immune system is an amazing, complex mechanism that works 24/7, yet mostly we don’t notice its hard work. It is extremely complex and we are still discovering new aspects of immunity almost on a daily basis.

We all know that our immune system helps protect us from infection but it does much more. It also helps protect us against damage from free radicals and cancer. A healthy immune system is also important for wound healing. There is emerging evidence that the immune system is involved in depression, ageing, obesity, metabolic syndrome and a number of other chronic diseases.

So What is the Immune System?

To keep it simple we can say it is primarily made up of two parts – innate immunity and acquired (or cellular) immunity. Innate immunity is our first line of defence against infections and comprises many different types of immune cells, all with different functions. In order for acquired immunity to work well, innate immunity must be working efficiently. The cells of innate immunity also function as our first line of defence against cancer cells. One of our most important immune herbs (Echinacea) works, at least in part, by enhancing innate immunity when it is deficient. This makes Echinacea one of our most important immune herbs.

Acquired immunity is exactly what its name implies, it is acquired in response to specific infections. For example, when we come into contact with an infection our body develops antibodies against that specific infection. Once the infection has passed, the levels of these antibodies reduce but the body retains a ‘memory’, so that next time we are exposed to the same infection the levels of these antibodies increase quickly and we fight the infection much quicker than when we were first exposed to it. In many cases the immune system is so efficient we will not even know we have been infected.

Unfortunately, things can sometimes go wrong. When different aspects of the immune system are not in balance there is a risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases developing in susceptible people. Many chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis are caused by an imbalance or dysfunction of the immune system. As in case of infection, these conditions are also well treated and/or managed with natural medicines.

So, you can see how important it is to keep your immune system healthy. Not only to keep you free from winter infections but also to prevent more serious, chronic health issues.

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Herbs and Nutrients for Optimal Immune Function

Overall good nutrition is essential for general well-being, including a healthy immune system. However there are a number of herbs and nutrients that stand out for their role in supporting immunity.

Until relatively recently we thought that the role of vitamin D was limited to ensuring healthy, strong bones. However, we now know that it has many, more diverse functions including protection from some cancers. It also plays a vital role in immunity and helps protect against autoimmune diseases.

Vitamin D is hard to get through the diet. We rely predominately on sunlight on the skin, which initiates the production of vitamin D from cholesterol. Even in very sunny climates, such as Queensland, vitamin D deficiency is very common.

Vitamin C appears to protect against infection and can reduce many symptoms of colds such as runny nose, sore throat and improves recovery from an infection.

An essential mineral, zinc is vital for an efficient immune system and is often deficient in our diet.

A number of B Complex vitamins are also important, as is sufficient protein. Many of the infection fighting cells in the body, such as antibodies, are made from protein. So a diet deficient in protein can lead to reduced immunity.

Out of all the immune herbs I use in my clinic, Echinacea is probably the most important. One of my colleagues describes Echinacea as immune ‘insurance’ because it is so good at priming the immune system so that it is ready to fight invading infection. So, it is best taken as a preventative and if an infection does occur the immune system is more efficient at fighting it.

Echinacea has been used in Western herbal medicine since the late 19th century, when the Native Americans introduced it to the early settlers. In their culture it was considered to be “a remedy for more ailments than any other plant”. One of their prime uses for Echinacea was for the prevention and treatment of any type of infection.

There are two species of Echinacea used in herbal medicine, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea, and it is the roots of these plants that appear to have the strongest effect on the immune system. The Native Americans told the early settlers, “When chewed the root, if of good quality, imparts a persistent tingling sensation.” We now know from modern science that this tingling is caused by the major active constituents called alkylamides, and it is indeed an instant indication of strength.

There are a number of studies showing that Echinacea is effective for both preventing and treating respiratory tract infections. Most people will also have heard of studies showing that Echinacea is not helpful – these are the ones that get the most publicity in the mass media. However, many of these studies were done before we had a good understanding about how the constituents work and on close inspection we see that many studies used Echinacea products that contain NO alkylamides. It is not surprising that it did not work!! So, what this tells us is that Echinacea has to be of high quality and prescribed in the correct dosage to have its immune enhancing activity.

Andrographis is another wonderful herb that is very effective in supporting immunity. It is traditionally used in the ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of medicine.  There are a number of clinical studies showing its effectiveness in treating respiratory tract infections, particularly common cold and tonsillitis, including in children.

Holy Basil is a beautifully fragrant herb from the Ayurvedic tradition of medicine. It is considered as sacred and is often grown at the entrance to houses and temples. Clinical trials support its use in respiratory tract infections, including in children.

Pelargonium is a native of South Africa and was introduced to Europe by Charles Henry Sevens, an Englishman who experienced relief from tuberculosis whilst visiting South Africa in 1897. There are many clinical studies supporting its use for the treatment of many tupes of respiratory infections including acute and chronic bronchitis, common cold, sinusitis and tonsillitis including in children.

Other herbs that are very effective include Cat’s Claw which improves immunity and Elder Berries that have an anti-viral activity.

It is important to use the correct combination of herbs at the appropriate dosage. This varies between individuals depending on the state of their immunity and the symptoms they experience. The treatment also often changes during the course of treatment as symptoms change.

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Treat Flu Symptoms

If you have a cold or flu infection you need to take precautions that will prevent its spread and reduce its severity and duration.

  • Speak to your healthcare practitioner at the very earliest signs of an infection. If you begin taking the appropriate herbs and nutrients immediately, you can often prevent the infection from taking hold.
  • Wash your hands frequently throughout the day with soap and warm water.
  • Always cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
  • Avoid close contact with other people as much as possible and avoid crowded places.
  • Take time off, rest and stay warm. This gives the immune system a good chance to deal with the infection quickly and efficiently.
  • Include in your meals nutritious foods and plenty of fluids. Homemade soups with plenty of vegetables, ginger and garlic are great. They are very nutritious but do not take lots of energy to digest, leaving more energy for the immune system to do its job.
  • Avoid cold drinks and foods, fatty foods and foods containing sugar and artificial additives.
  • Excessive dairy foods may increase mucus production.

If you feel feverish make a cup of Flu Tea, rug up and sweat it out. You can repeat this as often as needed until the feverish symptoms have passed. A hot bath can also help to induce sweating.

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Ross River Virus – Part II – How I treat RRV successfully in my clinic

Ross River Fever – Part II

What are the Medical Treatments for Ross River Fever?

There is no specific medical or drug treatment for Ross River Virus. Most commonly patients are simply advised by their doctor to go home and rest. Sometimes in cases of severe joint pain drugs are used to manage these symptoms or drugs such as paracetamol may be recommended to reduce the fever.

My Treatment Approach for Ross River Fever

The doctor’s advice to rest is extremely valid and it is important to do so as much as possible.

The most important thing to do in any infection is to improve immunity. My favourite herbs for this purpose, particularly in the case of RRV are Andrographis and Echinacea. Hypericum can be used for its antiviral activity, however only specific preparations will be beneficial. Hypericum may interact with some drug so should always be prescribed by a health care professional. These herbs need to be prescribed in the correct proportions and at the correct dosage to suit the individual person and their symptoms. I will often prescribe a high dose of Vitamin C and other nutrients to improve immunity depending on the person’s underlying nutritional status. Symptoms change over time and in accordance with this, the naturopath treatment and dosage also changes. This is important to achieve the best health outcomes.

In naturopathic medicine fever management is a fundamental component of helping the body to fight an infection. After all, fever is one of the ways that the body does this. It makes good sense to support this process, rather than trying to reduce or suppress the fever with drugs such as paracetamol. I prescribe diaphoretic herbs which help to optimise the fever process and make it much more efficient in dealing with the infection. Naturally, great care must be taken when managing fever in children and should only be done by an expert in the field.

Managing the various symptoms such as joint and muscle pain can be achieved very effectively with a number of different herbal medicines. The particular herbs I prescribe will depend on the degree of the inflammation and the degree and nature of the pain.

Follow-up Patient Management

I cannot stress the importance of follow-up management enough.  Ross River Fever is one of the conditions that is reputed to recur and it commonly precedes chronic fatigue syndrome and other post viral syndromes.

For these reasons it is not only important to manage and treat the acute infection very efficiently and quickly, it is absolutely vital that follow-up post infection treatment is given. This minimises the risk of a recurrence and certainly reduces the risk of long-term fatigue and general ill-health.

Immune enhancing treatments need to be continued for a period of time after symptoms resolve. This is because the symptoms disappear long before the actual virus is total out of the system. As mentioned previously the virus can exist at low levels, causing no symptoms at all, until a person becomes run down, stressed or has reduced immunity for some reason.

I have a wide range of different herbs and nutrients that I choose from to ensure that complete recovers occurs. I also discuss with my clients many dietary and lifestyle factors they will remain symptom free and be able to experience good health into the future.

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Ross River Fever-Part I

Ross River Fever – Part I

I have treated many people over the years in my clinic for Ross River Fever and the majority of them respond very well and quickly to the treatments I offer. I do not have a ‘one treatment suits all’ approach. I prescribe natural medicines on an individual basis for each patient.

What Causes Ross River Fever?

Ross River Fever (sometimes also called epidemic polyarthritis) is caused by Ross River Virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes. It cannot be spread from human to human like common cold and flu viruses.

There are a number of different types of mosquitoes that spread the virus and these depend on environment and geographical location. Some types breed in salt water such as salty pools in mangroves and salt marshes after flooding by spring tides and heavy rains, whilst others breed in permanent areas of fresh water. One type of mosquito, Aedes notoscriptus, breeds in containers close to homes and other human activity such as bird baths, pot plant saucers and backyard rubbish holding water1. It is important that you do not have containers around you home that can hold still water.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms and severity of Ross River Fever can vary from one person to another. In some cases no symptoms are experienced at all. The most common symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms with fever, fatigue, headache and swollen lymph nodes
  • Painful and swollen joints
  • Sore muscles, aching tendons

Less common symptoms include:

  • Sore eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Tingling in the palms of hands and soles of feet

Sometimes symptoms can recur after a period of time. This probably means that the virus has not been totally eradicated from the body so that during times when a person is run down or has reduced immunity the virus once again takes hold and the following long-term symptoms can occur:

  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Depression       


Based on my many years of clinical experience I know without doubt that the way Ross River Fever is treated at the time of infection, not only impacts on the initial symptoms but also impacts on long-term health. Once the initial infectious stage is resolved it is extremely important to continue with a longer-term herbal/nutritional treatment protocol that will help to prevent recurrence and ensure that the person does not develop fatigue syndromes in the future.

Watch for my next posting where I will discuss how I treat Ross River Virus successfully in my clinic.



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Avoid Winter Infections

Avoid Winter Infection

It is inevitable that an unexpected strain of influenza will occasionally hit our shores. A few years ago it was SARS. This year it is swine flu which is caused by type A influenza (H1N1). Swine influenza is usually confined to pigs and until recently human infection with the virus was rare (limited to 3 people). However, in March 2009 human cases of swine flu began emerging in Mexico and in some areas of the United States, mainly affecting healthy young adults. More than 100 people have died from the virus in Mexico. The infection is not limited to the Northern Hemisphere. In New Zealand 10 students returning from Mexico have tested positive to swine flu and suspected cases in Australia are being monitored.

Queensland Health has stated on their website that the seasonal influenza vaccine is unlikely to offer useful protection against swine flu. So what can you do?

The very best protection against infection is a healthy immune system. If your immune system is healthy it has a very good chance of fighting any type of infection so that illness does not occur or, if symptoms do occur the severity will be reduced. As always prevention is easier than cure and it is necessary that we go into winter as healthy as possible. This means having a healthy diet, regular exercise and plenty of rest and relaxation. These lifestyle factors are fundamental to optimal immune function. Adequate levels of vitamin C, zinc and many of the B Complex vitamins are necessary for healthy immunity.

Immune Enhancing Herbs
Apart from these fundamental necessities, there are many herbal medicines that can help to improve the immune system, thus avoiding or minimising infection. Perhaps the best known of these is Echinacea, which is one of the most commonly prescribed herbs by health professionals around the world. However, not all Echinacea products are the same. Patients will often say, “I have already tried Echinacea and it didn’t work”. What has to be asked in such situations is “which Echinacea product was used and how much was taken?” It often turns out that the patient was unknowingly taking a cheap low quality product or an ineffective dose.

The quality and dose issues are best illustrated by a clinical trial conducted in the USA. The product used was made from the roots of 2 Echinacea species, Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. These are considered to be the most active species and their roots are the most potent part. Several doses were used in the trial, but it was found that only when the dose exceeded 2000 mg per day did regular use of Echinacea significantly prevent colds.

Apart from Echinacea there are many other herbs that are very beneficial for the prevention and treatment of winter infections. When treating winter infections, each individual’s requirements differ and in some cases a combination of herbs may be more beneficial for the prevention and treatment of winter infections.

Once a viral infection has taken hold it is often necessary to use a combination of immune enhancing herbs to bring about a quick recovery. Herbs such as Andrographis, Cat’s Claw and Sacred Basil can be very beneficial for the treatment of acute infections. As already discussed for Echinacea, quality of the herbs has to be high and the dosage needs to be correct for the individual and the type of infection.

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