Elgi Ultra’s guide to building immunity
Explore the various foods, herbs and spices that help boost your immunity
Being healthy is no longer an option. It is an essential lifestyle change. Building a healthy immunity is not an overnight change, it is an ongoing process that includes a mindful shift towards a complete and balanced diet, healthy lifestyle and nurturing a positive mental state.
Sources of protein: Animal protein, plant-based protein and protein from nuts and seeds.
There is no scientifically proven theory that your immune system functions better with a certain lifestyle adaptation. However every organ is known to function better when we try to reduce toxin building habits, for instance avoiding excessive drinking or smoking etc. There still remains so much that researchers haven’t understood or even discovered and there are intricate interconnectedness between things people do and their body’s reactions.
Bearing that in mind, we explore a list of food and practices to adopt, that would help build a stronger immune system and this list is neither exhaustive nor prescriptive.
Strengthening the body:
Proteins are essential to build and repair body tissue and to fight viral and bacterial infections. The antibodies and cells in the immune system rely on protein. Too little protein may lead to weakness, fatigue and a poor immune system.
Proteins are made from amino acids and our body does not store amino acids. Protein from food is an essential source of amino acid.
While animal products like meat, eggs and milk are rich sources of dietary protein, vegetables like kale, broccoli, all pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds like chia and flax seed are also good sources of dietary protein. Protein content in plant-based food is lower than in animal based food. However making a meal combining the protein rich vegetables, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds may provide the recommended daily intake requirement.
Tip: In plant-based foods, Moringa is a rich source of dietary protein and is the only plant source that is rich in all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein source.
Neem is an excellent liver cleanser. It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that can clear your skin, making it radiant and healthy. Consuming a few neem leaves will help in cleansing your colon, clearing bacteria and improving digestion. In Ayurvedic medicine, neem is used in treatment of neuro-muscular medicine and rectify excess Vatha. It is known to clear toxins and purify the blood by removing free-radicals.
Neem is believed to be an all-round immunity booster with anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-malarial, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
Turmeric is traditionally known for its health benefits and is extensively used in cooking in India. However more recently, it has been featuring in herbal supplements and teas as a key ingredient due to its innumerable health benefits.
Research suggests that Turmeric activates the immunity cells to fight diseases. It is proven to be anti-cancerous and enhances antibody responses. Studies on the health benefits of turmeric suggest that it has beneficial effects in arthritis, allergies, asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes and cancer due to its ability to boost the immune system.1
Peppercorn and cardamom
Extracts of peppercorn and cardamom are proven to enhance the immune system by increasing the ability of killer cells to fight diseases and have anti-cancer properties. 2
Turmeric and black pepper each have health benefits, due to the compounds curcumin in turmeric and piperine in pepper. Piperine enhances curcumin absorption in the body by up to 2,000%. Therefore combining the spices magnifies their effects. They may reduce inflammation and improve digestion.
Makes 1 Cup
½ Tsp fresh or grated turmeric
½ Tsp fresh grated ginger
¼ Tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 Tsp honey (optional)
1. Bring the milk to a boil in a sauce pan. Simmer the heat and add the ginger and the turmeric. Let it seep in for about 2-3 mins.
2. Turn off the heat, add the pepper, filter and transfer to a cup.
3. Add the honey and enjoy warm.
Tip: You can make this without milk. Substitute milk with water and add a bit of lemon juice to it.
Amla soaked in honey overnight
Amla is rich in vitamin C. It has the ability to boost immunity, is an excellent source of fibre and cleanses the stomach and most importantly it is proven to be an excellent liver cleanser. Amla cleanses hepatotoxicity in the liver. The hepatoprotective properties of amla enables free radical scavenging(important to prevent cancer and other auto-immune diseases), is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and aids natural detoxification. Honey is also anti-inflammatory with numerous health benefits and in combination they make a great natural detox to boost a healthy immune system.
Manuka honey is a mono-floral (from a single plant variety) honey cultivated across Australia and New Zealand for its medicinal properties.
European journal of medical research, 2003 published that medical grade manuka honey proved to be more effective in wound healing than antibiotic creams. In addition to aiding wound and tissue healing, manuka honey consumed on a regular basis, is said to control the progress of cancer cells.
Ginger: Ginger is used extensively in cooking in India and in traditional practices, it is used in teas as a digestive and to help fight cold and flu. It is also used in relieving morning sickness and nausea. It is specially effective for chemotherapy patients to relieve nausea.
Ginger, lemon and honey cough lozenges:
Makes 1 Cup
2 Tbsp Ginger extract (You can make this by grinding fresh ginger and extracting the juice)
2 Limes (juice)
½ Cup honey
1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil on a low flame.
2. Once it starts to boil, stir continuously till it thickens. (To test when it is ready, put a few drops of this mixture in a bowl of cold water. If it hardens immediately, it is ready.)
3. When ready, pour the mixture out into silicon candy moulds and allow it to cool. You could also spoon them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper instead.
4. Once cool, coat them with dusted powder sugar and store in an airtight jar in the fridge.
Strengthening the mind:
It is said that stress is inversely proportionate to immunity. Nurturing a positive state of mind is an essential process in trying to build a healthy immune system. Yoga, breathwork (simha kriya, kabalapathi) and meditation help us find tools that alleviate stress. Being mindful of our trigger points of stress and finding the right ways to either avoid or relieve the stress will helps us avoid mental fatigue, stress and all other ailments that act as hurdles to building a strong immune system.
1Jagetia, G.C., Aggarwal, B.B. “Spicing Up” of the Immune System by Curcumin. J Clin Immunol 27,19–35 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10875-006-9066-7
2Amin F. Majdalawieh and Ronald I. Carr; In Vitro Investigation of the Potential Immunomodulatory and Anti-Cancer Activities of Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) and Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) Journal of Medicinal Food. Apr 2010.371-381.http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2009.1131