Q&A: Building your immunity with Dr Roderick Mulgan
Dr Roderick Mulgan is a familiar name to NZ Life & Leisure readers as the writer of the Well & Good columns. He has been a doctor for a quarter of a century with a particular interest in how lifestyle choices affect wellbeing. thisNZlife chatted to Dr Roderick about his latest endeavour, Build Your Immunity for Life: Diet and Lifestyle Choices to Protect Against Infection.
What drove you to write this book? Was it a lockdown project?
I regularly write about health, in particular boiling down cutting edge science so it is easily digested. I wrote The Internal Flame, which is an account of how low grade inflammation drives big diseases like cancer and heart conditions. I wrote Eat Yourself Healthy, a collaboration with NZ Life & Leisure magazine, which was a collection of essays from me on topics like Hormesis and Hidden Hunger, combined with experts in cooking and gardening. So when the pandemic happened I anticipated there would be a surge of interest in boosting personal immunity.
What are some of the key misconceptions people have about strengthening their immune systems?
Probably that it happens naturally if they eat reasonably well and get some exercise. In fact, immunity, and the best health generally, needs specific and focussed diet and lifestyle interventions: offal meat, sunshine, fasting, shellfish, sleep, healthy bacteria in the large bowel.
The pandemic has made a lot of people think more about their immunity and overall health. Are there both negatives and positives to this?
Lots of positives, because the measures that boost immunity also make us healthier in multiple different ways. They also reduce risk of big diseases and promote longevity. So realising that immunity has to be thought about and worked on is useful.
Lots of negatives from the pandemic, but none that I can think of that arise from people thinking more actively about how to stay healthy. Provided they stick to sound science when they do it.
If someone wanted to make one change to get the ball rolling on improving their immunity and overall health, what would you suggest they do?
Depends what they aren’t doing right currently. Many people in this part of the world could do with more sunlight (vitamin D). Many could sleep more. Vegans need to target zinc. Meat eaters need to eat the offal not just the steak. Copper and selenium are a concern for us all as our soil has very little. Overweight and underweight are both problematic. There are few of us who would not benefit from fasting for time to time, even if our weight is OK (some stresses are useful and health promoting). Send down fibre: your bowel bacteria rely on it and legumes are ideal. We don’t eat nearly enough of them.
Build Your Immunity for Life: Diet and Lifestyle Choices to Protect Against Infection by Dr Roderick Mulgan MB ChB MPP LLB (Hons). Published by Calico Publishing, RRP $39.95, 1 July 2023.