MyMT™ Blog

Nutrition and Immune Function: Evidence for boosting lung health and immunity as you move through menopause and age.

Bergamot, Quercetin, Oleuropein … how many of you are getting these powerful and scientifically evidenced nutrients into your diet? Especially, as we continue to navigate the Covid-chaos that has changed our lives. 

I have two ladies in the MyMT™ Community who were diagnosed positive for the Covid-19 virus. Thankfully they have recovered well and are now focusing on their anti-inflammatory nutrients. They are juicing and buying fruits and vegetables that are known to help reduce inflammation in the body. With more and more research showing that post-Covid syndrome affects both heart and lung inflammation, this is important. But what about the rest of us? How do we stay healthy and live our lives in a Covid-19 world that has changed the focus on our health and immunity? As someone now in post-menopause, with changing lung heart and muscle health, that’s the question I asked myself as well. 

My nutritional focus in the MyMT™ Food Guide which is included in the  12 week online programmes is an anti-inflammatory one. Developed from women’s healthy ageing research, I have now added in a focus on nutrients such as Quercetin, Bergamot and of course, if you have sore joints, then you need to know about Oleuropein – a compound present in cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. These are just some of the nutrients that are now evidenced to improve our immune health and have been reported in the American Nutrition Association [ANA] over the past few months as the Covid crisis has lingered on.  

Our menopause transition is a vulnerable time for women. When we aren’t sleeping, or when we have thyroid problems, or if we are feeling anxious, depressed and we are experiencing gut health problems, weight gain or sore joints, then our immune system is suffering. I know this, because I experience all these symptoms too. At the time, I had no idea what was going and was frustrated with exercise and a high-fat and protein diet, not causing any loss of weight whatsoever. In fact I was putting on weight. Desperate to find answers, I headed to the women’s health research as part of my doctoral studies. I’m so pleased that I did. 

This week, those of you in the United Kingdom are having a surge in Corona-virus cases. Melbourne is in lockdown still and here in New Zealand, we are moving down our Alert Levels and enjoying the ability to move around our beautiful country. How lucky we are. Whilst all  the women on my programmes are facing different challenges in their lives, the best thing I’ve been sharing with them is to maintain their focus on their immune health. Especially when it comes to the nutrients that are evidenced to help us stay well. 

Scientists the world over are looking for answers for vaccinations but other scientists have been looking for lifestyle solutions. Since the Covid-19 outbreak arrived, I too have been following the science as fast as it is coming out. Some of that research has been from nutritional science sources, so a big shout-out to the American Nutrition Association (ANA) which quickly formed a task-force of clever nutritional scientists to bring together the latest evidence that is helping me to help women on my programmes as well as in my newsletter community. That’s you. 

Although there is a note of caution from the ANA Task Force, that these nutritional strategies are supportive only. Obviously, there has been no large-scale study undertaken providing long-term data, but what they have provided is a brief overview of foods, nutrients and food compounds backed up by research, that is evidenced to optimise our immune function. 

Our immune function matters. Especially during menopause. I’ve spoken about the fact that this is a time in our lives when we become more vulnerable to health problems. But this isn’t ‘just’ because our hormones are changing. Our organs and tissues are ageing and ageing itself can set up pockets of inflammation around our cells and tissues. Add to this the Corona-virus induced inflammation that occurs in mucous membranes and you have a cocktail of inflammation that needs to subside … or as the women on my programmes who developed the Covid-19 symptoms have found, prevention pays – big time!

How does the Corona-virus Function?

If it’s a virus, then it’s going to replicate. The Corona-virus are a large family of RNA viruses that cause a variety of inflammatory diseases in the body. Severe acute respiratory syndrome is the hallmark of this one. 

When the virus binds to it’s host cell in the body, it is very ‘sticky’ and as such it fuses to the cellular membrane. When it fuses, it releases its genetic material into the cell’s nucleus. It then replicates and makes new harmful cells. I bow down to the incredible work of the medical teams helping patients to heal and hopefully, recover. 

Nutrition and Our Immune Function: 

Information about how to boost our immunity using nutrition has been emerging for a number of decades now. The role of compounds from the group of B-vitamins cannot be over-estimated in menopause and I have written about this before. But there are other nutrients that we need to focus on for immune health too, not just the B-vitamins.

I think that we all know that what we eat matters to our health. But not all food is evidenced against our immune health as we transition through menopause and into post-menopause. In fact, there are many nutritional approaches around today, that promote high saturated fats and high proteins that don’t meet the women’s healthy ageing research and this leads to more confusion about nutrition in mid-life. For those of you who are overweight, then please watch your fat-intake. your changing liver, gall-bladder and digestive system will love you for it. 

Our immune system comprises various organs such as our spleen, thymus gland and lymph nodes, our skin, gut and numerous cells such as white blood cells and lymphatic cells – in an ideal world, all of these function together to keep us healthy. But when things go awry and foreign invaders arrive, we need a healthy immune system to provide as much resistance to infections as we can. If your gut health has gone a bit wayward now that you are in menopause, then please also look at my stand-alone module which I’ve called ‘Restore Your Grateful GUT’ as turning around your gut health is the first step towards being able to absorb beautiful immune-boosting nutrients in your diet. [NB: This learning module and the Joyful Joints module and a brand new Intermittent Fasting Module, are all included in the 12 week programmes]. 

Nutritional science has been broadening research for the past few years, especially in the context of nutrients that are evidenced to help our immune health. In the case of our immune system and the Covid-19 virus, the American Nutritional Association has been busy bringing together current research on boosting immunity with certain nutrients. I thank them!

Identifying that there is a need to reduce inflammation as well as reduce the viral load, with this approach, the ANA suggest that the following bio-active nutrients may be helpful (please note that this information is not intended as a ‘cure’ but as immune enhancing prevention only): 

  1. Curcumin (Turmeric). 
  2. Bergamot – part of the citrus fruit family.
  3.  Quercetin – I wrote about quercetin in last week’s newsletter and it is a plant pigment (flavonoid) found in numerous foods such as  such as leafy green vegetables, broccoli, red onions, peppers, dill, oregano, green tea, apples, berries and red wine. 
  4. Kaempferol – this is another flavonoid which is found in a variety of plants and plant-derived foods including kale, beans, tea, spinach and broccoli.
  5. Oleuropein – in the MyMT programmes, all of the women know that olive oil matters to their joint health! But they also know now, that it matters to their immune health as well. This powerful immune-boosting anti-inflammatory compound is fond in olive oil and olive leaves. 
  6. Catechins – these are known anti-infectious compounds that are found in certain foods and in Green Tea. Green tea is one of the most popular drinks consumed worldwide. Produced mainly in Asian countries from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the potential health benefits have been widely studied. It’s a big component of the types of beverages that I advise women to drink in the MyMT™ programmes too. 

7. Vitamin C – many of us already know that this is an important nutrient for our immune health, but what we need to remember is that it is needed to help white blood cells to fight infections. What I also spoke about in my coaching community this week, was how it is also required to assist the absorption of iron. And adequate iron helps to protect us against vulnerability to infections. If you are in peri-menopause and you are still menstruating, then you need at least 12 mg a day of iron. With the need for Vitamin C, how much time did you spend in the fruit and vegetable section the last time you shopped? 

8. Vitamin A – this terrific vitamin gets forgotten about in times of infection because most people associate it with eye health. And yes, it is important for our eye health, but it also supports the health of mucosal tissues. Our mucosal tissues are the first point of entry for the virus – think about your nose, mouth and eyes! As well, researchers have found that Vitamin A also helps to regulate our immune system via the Gut Microbiome. [PS: If you have IBS or other Gut Health concerns, then please take up my APRIL SALE offer as I have included the Gut Health module as part of my programmes as well – see video below]. 

9. Vitamin D – you’ve heard it before in here and you are going to hear it again. As we go into menopause, our largest organ, the skin, loses the ability to absorb Vitamin D. This makes women in menopause susceptible to respiratory infections because this vital vitamin is well known to help to boost our immune system. Exposure to sunlight or if you can’t get into sunlight because of where you live then please look at sourcing a supplement. 

10. Vitamin E – Whilst not specifically an anti-viral nutrient, ANA researchers promote this nutrient because it is an efficient anti-oxidant and plays an important role in lung and liver protection. This makes it a powerful anti-oxidant (removes harmful particles) and anti-inflammatory nutrition. It is fat-soluble, which means that it accumulates in lipid (fat) membranes. Some of the best sources of Vitamin E available during the lock-down and that can be stored more readily in your pantry, will be Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Butternut Squash, Avocados and Olive-oil. 

Zinc and Selenium are also mentioned by the ANA so don’t forget your Brazil nuts – 1-2 brazil nuts can provide your daily dose of selenium, so get some of these in your pantry as well. Cashews, Almonds and Kidney Beans are also great sources of Zinc in the absence of fresh fish, oysters or beef. 

I enjoy sharing this information with you and thank you for being part of the MyMT community. Whilst I know that many of you may not afford to join me on the 12 week programmes, I hope you can listen to my Masterclass on Menopause, which I’ve put online for you. But if you feel that you are struggling, then please join my online community when you can. There is still a $50NZ reduction on the cost of the programmes (Circuit Breaker for thinner/leaner women or Transform Me for those of you who are overweight) making this NZ$249/ UK£128 and there are monthly payment options too). Please visit the My Menopause Transformation website and if you do decide to come on board with me, then use the promo code ATHOME20 when you purchase. 

Where-ever you are in the world, have a great weekend and eat your apples.

Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD/ MyMT/ Member: Australasian Lifestyle Medicine Society. 

References: 

American Nutrition Association (2020). Personalised Nutrition and the Covid-19 Era.  Online Access

Kato, Y., Domoto, T. et al (2014). Effect on Blood Pressure of Daily Lemon Ingestion and Walking. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, Volume 2014, Article ID 912684

Reygaert, W. (2018). Green Tea Catechins: Their Use in Treating and Preventing Infectious Diseases. Biomed Research Int’al, pp.1-9 Open Access: 

Wenyan Sun, Frost B., & Jiankang Liu (2017). Oleuropein, unexpected benefits! Oncotarget, 8, (11), pp: 17409-17409

“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

Discover how either of my two Menopause Transformation programmes might help you too or take my Symptoms Quiz below… 

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