Supporting Natural Immunity
If you know me, then you know MY STRATEGY:
1) ADDing in one thing at a time is what works; diets and radical overhauls do not.
2) Shift focus away from all that is not working onto what is working.
The truth is, it is easier to stay well than to get well. How can we strengthen our immune systems naturally so that we easily fight off the colds, flus and infections that seem to take down those around us every December?
The Flu scare (as well as other scares out there) is less about the flu itself than our susceptibility to the illness. Healthy bodies fight off viruses every day - there is Streptococcus virus in our throats constantly, yet we rarely experience Strep Throat. The goal is to maintain the healthiest environment for our bodies to do the work they were born to do.
Where do we start when the strategy ADDing in to build immunity? IMMUNE-BUILDING FOODS! In general, we can begin to increase the amount of LIVING, WHOLE and SUPER foods that are coming into our bodies on a regular basis. The following ideas are great starting points:
1. Eat REAL food and create a PLANT-BASED diet.
Eating a plant-based diet does NOT mean to add in more vegetables; it means that real food and plants are the BASE, and everything else becomes the side dish. This is a radical notion for most Americans, who generally lack the immune-building plants that create a strong foundation for vibrant health.
REAL FOOD means food that grows in the ground. Human bodies don’t recognize processed food, and waste a lot of time and energy trying to figure it out. Much of the toxicity that the liver can't decipher is stored in the fat cells, since the body can't find a use for it. The great food journalist Michael Pollan said in Food Rules, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
PLANT-BASED means MOSTLY plants. START with a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts, and then we can think about adding high-quality foods that don’t fall into that category (organic poultry and eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish).
Here are my top 5 ways to make plants your base:
fresh pressed vegetable juices
plant-based cooked dishes (greens, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, etc)
I often ask my clients to start adding in by choosing ONE a day and working your way up to two or more a day. Pretty soon, veggies are taking over the day!
Alkaline foods, specifically dark, leafy greens (fresh, frozen or supergreen powders/grasses) are particularly good at maintaining a very UNfriendly environment for disease. Bacteria, viruses, germs, cancer cells all love an acidic home with little oxygen - they thrive in that cellular environment. Dark leafy greens (which happen to be the #1 most missing food in the average American's diet,) contain chlorophyll, which carries oxygen to the cells, and creates an alkaline, anti-inflammatory, highly-circulatory cellular atmosphere.
While all vegetables contain protective micronutrients and phytochemicals, Cruciferous veggies (specifically Arugula, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard Greens, Radishes, Red Cabbage, Turnip greens and Watercress) have a unique chemical composition: they have sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent bitter flavors. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, when their cell walls are broken by blending or chopping, a chemical reaction occurs that converts their sulfur-containing compounds into isothiocyanates (ITCs)—an array of compounds with proven and powerful immune-boosting effects and anticancer activity.
Cruciferous vegetables are twice as powerful as other plant foods. In population studies, a 20 percent increase in plant food intake in GENERAL corresponds to a 20 percent decrease in cancer rates, but a 20 percent increase in cruciferous vegetable intake corresponds to a 40 percent decrease in cancer rates.
Twenty-eight servings of vegetables per week was found to decrease prostate cancer risk by 33 percent but just three servings of cruciferous vegetables per week decreases prostate cancer risk by 41 percent. That means that three servings a week cuts cancer risk practically in half. Cruciferous vegetables are not only among the most powerful anticancer foods; they are also the most micronutrient-dense of all vegetables.
While you are adding in all these great veggies, be sure to CHEW. Chewing increases T-cells by releasing hormones from the parotid gland that stimulates the thymus (part of the immune system) into action.
2. GO OUT OF YOUR WAY to INCLUDE foods that naturally support the immune system:
White foods - Natural immune boosters: GARLIC, onions, leek, scallion, radish, ginger
Zinc - This powerful mineral boosts white blood cells, which are essential to the immune
system during flu season - found in eggs, fish, kelp, shellfish, red meat, poultry, pumpkin
seeds, and black foods such as chia seeds, black rice, black olives, chaga mushroom,
black maca, black sesame seeds
Vitamin C foods - Forget the processed orange juice and choose onion, grapefruit, lemon,
orange, camu camu berries and goji berries for vitamin C instead.
Antioxidants - brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, raw cacao, chaga mushroom, goji
berries, açai, blue and purple foods, mushrooms
Water/hot water with lemon - Drink plenty of water each day to stay hydrated and to allow the
body to flush toxins from the blood and the liver.
3. SUPPLEMENTS can help to build a strong gut and immune system, thereby preventing illness before it starts. The following can be part of a daily preventative regimen:
Probiotic - rich foods: raw, cultured sauerkraut, pickled foods, kombucha
Medicinal mushrooms: reishi, maitake, shiitake, cloud (coriolus psp/psk), chaga, agaricus (or a
Omega 3s are resonsible for the type of immune system response a body has (painful and
inflammatory or easy and anti-inflammatory). Choose foods that are rich in these healthy
fatty acids: flaxseed/oil, chia, walnuts, arugula, sardines, anchovies
CamuCamu berry may be the best source of vitamin C, according to superfoods expert David
Selenium: Reduces inflammation and helps clear the body of the flu virus
Turmeric: Studies show that turmeric plays an important role in various aspects of
strengthening the immune system.
Essential oils - aromatherapy, internally or topically - can actually penetrate cell walls to reach
viruses (unlike antibiotics, which only reach bacteria outside the cell) - therapeutic grade
oregano oil, OnGuard (DoTerra).
4. SWEATING to release toxins and waste improves circulation and keeps the lymphatic system flowing smoothly. Researchers found that the frequency of colds among people who exercised five or more days a week was up to 46 percent less than that of people who were largely sedentary—that is, who exercised only one day or less per week - half the number of viral infections for those who were exercising regularly! Furthermore, when these individuals did come down with an illness, it was not as severe an illness, and the number of days of being ill was a whopping 41 percent less.
5. MAKE WHAT YOU EAT NUTRIENT-DENSE. It’s not as much about calories as nutrition. A meal that has no nutrients is basically a wasted meal, regardless of what the label says. Don’t waste a meal on empty nutrition. Use your daily routine to get strong so you can fight off any illnesses that come your way!
Can you commit to ADDing in one immunity builder? Give it a try this season.