There is no denying that the global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the nation’s stress and anxiety levels, as a new report by the Fruit Juice Science Centre – UK Wrecking Their Immune Health Thanks To COVID-19 Stress – Why we all need to love our immune health, naturally, inside out – confirms how three-quarters of Brits are feeling stressed out and anxious, leaving our natural immune health compromised. Plus, three-quarters of respondents1 in the study feel stress does negatively impact their immune health.
GP Dr Nisa Aslam explains that when we are stressed, our bodies struggle to fight off any illness that comes their way. “The body’s response to stress can also put a strain on our heart and blood pressure.”
What’s more, 1 in 4 Brits actually have no idea what natural immunity means. Clearing up any confusion, Dr Gill Jenkins describes it as “living our life in a way that keeps our immune system healthy, before we add in other protections, such as vaccination or handwashing”.
“It’s shocking that 20% of Brits say good immune health is only needed during the winter, when in fact it’s needed all year round. However, strengthening our natural immunity doesn’t need to be complicated – there’s proof that 150ml of 100% pure orange juice every day can help thanks to its high vitamin C and folate content,” adds Dr Gill Jenkins.
The science behind fruit juice and immune health is clear. One 150ml glass of pure orange juice provides an impressive 84% of a person’s Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) of vitamin C. This 100% fruit juice is a bioavailable source of several other nutrients too such as folate, a B vitamin vital for the healthy cells as well as being essential for the immune system, aiding the production and function of antibodies.
Potassium in orange juice supports normal blood pressure and helps muscles to work normally.
Our cardiovascular health also gets a helping hand from 100% orange juice. Scientists at the University of Toronto found that drinking fruit juice cuts the risk of dying from a stroke by a staggering 33%.
If that wasn’t enough, the polyphenol Hesperidin is found abundantly in pure orange juice – with commercially squeezed orange juice packing in three times the amount of antioxidant-filled hesperidin than juice squeezed at home.
In the new Fruit Juice Science Centre study, over half of respondents hadn’t heard of ‘polyphenols’, yet studies strongly link them to vascular and cognitive health benefits.
Hesperidin in particular has been confirmed by studies as providing antibacterial and antiviral support. This has led to scientists investigating whether hesperidin could be used to develop new medicines to combat Covid-19 as Dr Nisa Aslam states that emerging evidence claims this polyphenol “may be a novel substance in the fight against coronavirus”.
It’s also worth noting orange juice’s prebiotic effect on the gut. As 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the wall of the gut, it’s important to promote and sustain friendly types of bacteria with prebiotic-rich foods, which also include garlic, onions, berries, leeks, artichoke, and chicory root.
The knock-on effect of stress
Although stress has a direct impact on our immune health, it can lead to other unhealthy habits too
This includes the consumption of nutrient-poor foods – 34% turn to takeaways and ready meals as a stress relief. Of those who are stressed or anxious most days, alcohol consumption also increases by 34%. Alcohol contains calories with no nutritional value, plus it can hinder motivation to exercise, as well as disrupt quality of sleep, leading to stress and damage to our natural immunity.
Practising stress management techniques is important. Diaphragmatic breathing, exercise and time away from digital devices can all help to relieve this burden stress and anxiety. In fact, one study proved how moderate and vigorous-intensity exercise bouts of less than 60 minutes improved immune defence activity and metabolic health.
Making lifestyle tweaks to aid natural immunity
The state of our natural immunity can also be impacted by other nutritional additions. The ‘sunshine’ vitamin, vitamin D, found in oily fish, liver and fortified foods is important, however, in the autumn and winter months, The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care advise us to take a supplement containing at least 10ug of vitamin D, to safeguard our intake.
Other folate-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, chickpeas and kidney beans, fortified cereals, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, whilst omega-3 fatty acids also provide a boost for natural immunity. You can find them in oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Making time to focus on good sleep has been shown to aid our immune health; 43% of those who feel stressed most days get less than six hours of shut-eye a night. Wind down before bed and aim to turn off digital devices an hour before hitting the pillow.
Dr Gill Jenkins concludes that if we take all the adequate steps, we can to improve our natural immunity, we set ourselves up for success in fighting off potential illness. “We can all improve our natural immunity, so let’s do it now before it’s too late.”
Dr Nisa Aslam and Dr Gill Jenkins 4 tips to help optimise immune health naturally:
#1. Daily Stress Busters: Practising stress-relieving activities such as walking in nature, diaphragmatic breathing and time away from digital devices. “This, in turn, can help with sleep and boost motivation to eat healthier foods,” says Dr Nisa Aslam.
#2. Get Active: Exercising, whether it be brisk walking, running or home workouts. “Aim to get your heart rate up and break a sweat at least a few times a week. The rush of feel-good endorphins works wonders at improving a bad mood and lowering stress levels,” says Dr Gill Jenkins.
#3. Sweet slumber: Ensuring enough, good quality sleep. Winding down before bed allows for a more restful slumber, and sticking to a consistent sleep/wake schedule means the body settles into a healthy routine, and is prepared to fall asleep at a certain time.
#4. Juice Up Your Immune Health Naturally: Optimising our natural immune health throughout the year is essential. Dr Nisa Aslam says: “One simple, daily tip that helps boost our immune health and is so easy is to drink a 150ml serving of pure orange juice. It contains essential nutrients proven to aid our immune health and is an easy way to help optimise our natural immunity, plus it provides one of our recommended 5-a-day. Plus, it contains 84% of Vitamin C – the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) — the minimum dietary target set in Europe.