How you you boost your IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Are You Sick of Being Sick?

Are you sick of always being sick? Do you ever feel like a sitting duck waiting to be taken down by the latest pathogen doing the office rounds? Or perhaps you’ve tried to remember when the last time was you got through a whole winter season without several bouts of illness? If either of these thoughts have crossed your mind then you need to be getting some immune ‘R n R’; that is – better immune resistance and resilience.

An immune system lacking either can make you susceptible to recurrent bouts of illness. For example, if your immune system is struggling to reclaim it’s vitality after one bout of illness, then you will be susceptible to the next lot of bugs doing the rounds and hence you come down with a secondary infection. This can create the illusion that a particularly horrible virus must be on your tail. However, in this scenario, your dragging symptoms may not be entirely caused by the power of the pathogen in your system, but due to a weakened immune response, unable to resist the invader. As such, that re-appearing tickly throat or glands swelling up again can be a tell-tale sign of your immune system losing ground.

Restoring Resilience Starts With Lifestyle

No one is exempt from the many factors that can hinder your immune system – stress, lack of sleep and the inevitable balancing act of modern day life – all of which deplete our energy, hindering our degree of immune resistance and resilience. Interestingly, even your thoughts can influence your recovery time from an infection,[1] highlighting the importance of developing a healthy mind-set. Nourishing habits to support mental wellbeing include making time to promote relaxation such as meditation, as well as light exercise; both particularly useful in reducing the immunosuppressive effects of an overactive stress response,[2] which can simply be due to a busy life, or actual stressful events. On the other hand, ‘coping’ strategies such as consuming alcohol [3] and smoking [4] do the opposite – increasing your risk of infection and disease. This goes to show that positive lifestyle choices can support your road recovery, and help you break the cycle of recurrent infection.

Eating Your Way to Recovery…and Resilience

Most people are aware that eating a good diet pays dividends, but how well do you actually nourish your body during those times you feel most exhausted and fragile? You’ve potentially heard about the ‘flight and fight’ response, but did you know that the opposite of this phrase is ‘rest and digest’? Real rest is achieved by taking enough time to fully recover when you do become unwell, and acknowledging how you can best meet your needs by ensuring you are resting enough at busy times. Digest refers to the process of assimilating the nutrients from your diet, so healthy digestion is crucial to good health…and good immune function. If you have any digestive issues – speak to your healthcare Practitioner who can help investigate what’s going on.

Some foods offer significant advantages when it comes to a robust immune system. Firstly, warming foods such as crockpot stews and soups save your body time and effort breaking down raw or dense ingredients, leaving you more energy for healing if you become unwell. Secondly, consuming protein-rich foods such as eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds ensure you have adequate nutritional resources to create new armies of immune cells, to orchestrate the destruction of a pathogenic bugs when you do come into contact with them. Finally, nutrients which are tricky to obtain, either due to low soil levels or dietary restriction, should be bolstered through supplementation where necessary – your Practitioner can help you assess if these are required. Key natural medicines, if you are lacking, ensures your body is adequately supported by the essential nutrients required to promote an active immune response and facilitate better resilience.

Natural Ingredients Have Your Back

You’ve probably heard there are certain probiotics, herbs and nutrients used to promote good health, but did you know that many of these natural ingredients actually work with your own immune system rather than just being a ‘Band-Aid’ for symptoms? For instance, nutrients such as zinc and vitamin D provide protection against infectious agents by reinforcing the strength of the immune barrier between you and the outside world,[5],[6] namely your gut lining. Furthermore, the immunostimulatory constituents (called polysaccharides) found in certain medicinal mushrooms including Trametes versicolor (coriolus) and Ganoderma lucidum (reishi), as well as in the herb Astragalus membranaceus (astragalus) activate several of the internal agents you need for healthy immune system surveillance and resilience (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Immunostimulatory Effects of Medicinal Polysaccharides.

These actions include increasing what’s known as secretory immunoglobulin A on the mucosal surface lining your gut, [7] as well as promoting the activity of immune cells called macrophages (which translates to ‘large eaters’ giving you a picture of what they do to pathogens!) and natural killer cells,[8] whose task is to destroy infection-causing invaders.

Taking a natural medicine approach to your health offers you so many proactive ways to improve your immune resilience in order to prevent ongoing episodes of immune dysfunction…namely illness! By addressing the underlying causes of why you keep getting sick in a holistic way, you can re-write your immune story into one which features resistance and resilience as hero’s and focus instead on enjoying all the things in life you love.



[1] Van Schrojenstein Lantman M, Mackus M, Otten LS, de Kruijff D, van de Loo AJ, Kraneveld AD, et al. Mental resilience, perceived immune functioning, and health. J Multidiscip Healthc. 2017 Mar 21;10:107-112. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S130432.

[2] Carlson LE, Speca M, Patel KD, Goodey E. Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004 May 1;29(4):448-74.

[3] Sarkar D, Jung MK, Wang HJ. Alcohol and the immune system. Alcohol research: current reviews. 2015;37(2):153.

[4] Huttunen R, Heikkinen T, Syrjänen J. Smoking and the outcome of infection. Journal of internal medicine. 2011 Mar 1;269(3):258-69.

[5] Assa A, Vong L, Pinnell LJ, Avitzur N, Johnson-Henry KC, Sherman PM. Vitamin D deficiency promotes epithelial barrier dysfunction and intestinal inflammation. J Infect Dis. 2014 Apr 21;210(8):1296-305.

[6] Zhong W, McClain CJ, Cave M, Kang YJ, Zhou Z. The role of zinc deficiency in alcohol-induced intestinal barrier dysfunction. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010 Feb 18;298(5):G625-33.

[7] He X, Niu X, Li J, Xu S, Lu A. Immunomodulatory activities of five clinically used Chinese herbal polysaccharides. J Experimental Integrative Med. 2012:2(1):15-27.

Ready for a myth bust?

All the Noise About Soy

All the Noise About Soy

The world we live in is a melting pot of mixed cultures which has resulted in the spread of many ingredients and cuisines. One such example is the soybean, finding its way onto the plates of many individuals, and offering a blend of protein, fibre, fats and phytonutrients (e.g. isoflavones). Despite a long traditional use in Asia and the scientifically proven benefits of soy consumption, vocal soy critics have cast concern over this eminent legume, confusing many people about whether soy is safe or not. Whilst some objections against soy for reasons such as overt allergy are well-founded, anti-soy arguments based on misinterpreted data have tainted the perceived safety of soy; leaving many individuals hesitant on whether to enjoy or avoid it. However, research offers remedies to several soy myths, enabling them to be busted – read on for details:

Myth #1: Soy is a goitrogen.

Fact: Goitrogens are substances that disrupt the production of thyroid hormone by interfering with the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland. Soy has previously been classified as a goitrogen; however, this was based primarily on observations yielded from in vitro and animal studies,1 which in this instance offer limited relevance to humans due to differing metabolism between human and animals with regards to soy.2 That said, in situations of inadequate dietary iodine intakes, thyroid symptoms caused by this lack may be amplified by simultaneously high intakes of soy.3 Nevertheless, a comprehensive review of 14 human clinical studies provided little evidence that soy exerts anti-thyroid effects in healthy subjects,4 which is further supported by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).5

In summary, human evidence supports the safe consumption of dietary soy6,7 alongside adequate iodine intake.8

Myth #2: All soy is genetically modified.

Fact: In the past decade, there has been a surge in the production of genetically modified (GM) crops, with soy representing one of those most commonly affected. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are those whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques designed to produce specific traits. It is true that without sufficient data we can’t predict the effects of modified proteins, so selecting non-GMO soy products avoids unknown risks. As such, non-GMO sources of soy are available, and consuming it in this natural and unadulterated wholefood form is always advised for maximal health benefits.

The Humble Soybean Manifests in Many Dietary Ways.

Myth #3: You should only eat soy if it’s fermented.

Fact: In early China, soy was traditionally cooked like a grain. Processing of this legume then evolved across different regions of Asia to become a variety of modes like those illustrated in Figure 1. This included fermenting (to create tempeh, miso and natto), sprouting, grinding to make a ‘milk,’ and the pressing of unfermented bean curd to create tofu. Fermentation is especially favored in Korea and Japan for producing strong flavours, however doing so is not the golden rule for soy consumption. Similar to other legumes, simply softening soybeans with moisture and heat (e.g. boiling) causes the hardy components within the bean to denature. This allows the nutrients to then become bioavailable and absorbable, and therefore allow us to attain the benefits from consuming them.

In summary, soy has not always traditionally been fermented, and it is perfectly safe and appropriate to consume it in its unfermented form.

Myth #4: Soy is a phytoestrogen.

Fact: The term phytoestrogen describes the ability of certain compounds (found in foods and medicinal herbs) to act similarly to the actions of the hormone oestrogen. However, incorrect interpretations of the term phytoestrogen have raised some concern.

As it pertains to soy, experts have corrected the term phytoestrogen, defining the bean instead as a selective oestrogen receptor modulator or ‘SERM’.

Being a SERM, soy communicates with the body similarly to oestrogen as it can bind to what’s known as oestrogen ‘receptors’, which then modulates their activity (the ‘output’). For example, soy isoflavones have been shown to down-regulate oestrogen receptor alpha (ER-α) activity. Given that ER-α is associated with negative events such as tumour growth, SERM compounds (like the isoflavones found in soy) are viewed as beneficial, as they can favourably influence the state of play. What’s more, soy isoflavones also bind to the beneficial oestrogen receptor beta (ER- β), whose activity is associated with protective health benefits in both men and women.9 In summary, a SERM such as soy does not increase oestrogen levels, but balances oestrogen receptor activity, which can lead to more optimal body function.

The Balance of Soy

It’s important to keep in mind that the health benefits of soy, like many wholefoods, are broad. The soybean is much more than just soy isoflavones – it provides additional health-promoting nutrients including protein, fibre, minerals and B vitamins, all nourishing your body in more ways than one. To enjoy some soy as part of a balanced, check out the healthy Tofu and Veggie Stir-Fry recipe below. You too can reap the benefits of this highly versatile legume.

Tofu and Veggie Stir-Fry

Makes 1 serve.


• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 200 g tofu
• 50 g broccoli
• 50 g cauliflower
• 1 clove garlic (cut into small pieces)
• 1 tablespoon of diced chives
• 1/3 cup water


• Heat oil with garlic until garlic is lightly cooked.
• Add cauliflower, tofu and broccoli and stir through very quickly.
• Add water and continue stirring.
• Cook on high heat for approximately four minutes and continue stirring.
• Add a little more water if required to prevent sticking.
• Add chives.
• Turn out and serve.


1. Messina M, Redmond G. Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: A review of the relevant literature. Thyroid. 2006 Mar;16(3):249-258. doi: 10.1089/thy.2006.16.249.

2. Soukup ST, Helppi J, Müller DR, Zierau O, Watzl B, Vollmer G, et al. Phase II metabolism of the soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein in humans, rats and mice: a cross-species and sex comparison. Arch Toxicol. 2016 Jun;90(6):1335-1347. doi: 10.1007/s00204-016-1663-5.

3. Messina M. Soy and health update: evaluation of the clinical and epidemiologic literature. Nutrients. 2016 Nov;8(12):1-42. Doi: 10.3390/nu8120754.

4. Messina M, Redmond G. Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: A review of the relevant literature. Thyroid. 2006 Mar;16(3):249-258. doi: 10.1089/thy.2006.16.249.

5. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Risk assessment for peri‐and post‐menopausal women taking food supplements containing isolated isoflavones. EFSA Journal. 2015 Oct;13(10):4246. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4246.

6. Rizzo G, Baroni L. Soy, soy foods and their role in vegetarian diets. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 5;10(1):43. doi:10.3390/nu10010043.

7 EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Risk assessment for peri‐and post‐menopausal women taking food supplements containing isolated isoflavones. EFSA Journal. 2015 Oct;13(10):4246. doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4246.

8. Rizzo G, Baroni L. Soy, soy foods and their role in vegetarian diets. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 5;10(1):43. doi:10.3390/nu10010043.

9. Kuiper GG, Lemmen JG, Carlsson B, Corton JC, Safe SH, van der Saag PT, et al. Interaction of estrogenic chemicals and phytoestrogens with estrogen receptor beta. Endocrinology. 1998 Oct;139(10):4252-4263.