Building a Strong Immune System: Part II
In part I of building a strong immune system, I shared what it meant to be resilient, and why that is so important, especially now. I talked about why getting enough quality sleep is a no-brainer if you expect to have a strong immune system, and some keys steps in how to start doing exactly that. Part II depends mightily on what is on the end of your daily fork.
The problem with making bad choices when it comes to diet is that its death by a thousand cuts. It takes years for us to realize we, "chose poorly". It's only when serious symptoms finally show up that we put on our Dr. Jones hat.
When it's all said and done we end up just like the bad guy, a skeleton, before our time and after a whole lot of unnecessary suffering and expenditure. In fact, most people spend their entire lives acquiring wealth, retire, and then spend that money trying to fix their poor health.
We see it all the time. Someone close to us dies, we mourn, we do nothing to change, repeat. Again and again and again. As our loved ones slowly go downhill, quality of life is lost and they start to miss out on so many things they don't have to. Life becomes about just getting by day to day, instead of really living. Talk about lame.
In my opinion, it's selfish to not take care of yourself because it's the people that love you that suffer most. All grandparents should be able to play with their grandkids for example. All of us should grow old very slowly and thriving while doing so.
If you are lucky enough to live in one of the Blue Zones your chances of pulling this off go up dramatically. It's not uncommon to be healthy and strong through 100 years of age or more in these locations. What is on the end of their forks plays a huge part in that. They are largely free of all modern chronic diseases for a reason.
To quote Dr. David Katz, a longtime proponent of functional and preventative medicine:
"Poor overall diet quality is the single leading cause of premature death in the United States today, causing an estimated 500,000 or so deaths each year. That is more than ten times worse than a fairly bad strain of influenza, and about the same as Covid-19, and happens every year."
He also goes on to talk about the fact that these numbers mostly apply to those with poor health, in other words, those with an underlying health condition already. If you don't fall into that category, you're highly likely to be just fine. There are many, many other things that one is more likely to die from. Things we accept as "normal".
It's the media that is pulling us away from this reality, and throwing us all too often into a very unfounded, biased pit of despair. It's time to break free. Thanks to the Virus our individual, as well as the health of our nation, has been thrust to the forefront of everyone's minds. It's about damn time. So everyone is asking the question, "Am I healthy enough to be okay if I get it?" To quote Dr. Katz one more time:
"We have a native blind spot for any risk that plays out slowly rather than immediately — but climate change shows how calamitously costly that can prove to be. So, OK, coronavirus “wins” for speed, but really deserves far less preferential respect than it gets. Diet, willfully engineered to put profit ahead of public health while evoking no apparent outrage, warrants far more."
I couldn't agree more. Everyone is freaking out about the virus, yet no one freaks out about the half a million people who die EVERY YEAR prematurely because they don't understand that food is medicine. Why? It's all about the money, a topic for another time.
If you want an awesome immune system you need to eat real, whole foods. I'm talking organic, plant-based, wild-caught, grass-fed, pastured chow that Grandma and Grandpa ate. Go for variety, color, some raw, some cooked, healthy fats, enough water, but most importantly just JERF.
Are some foods more powerful than others? Yes. But it's the act of JERFing (yes I just created that verb) itself on a regular basis over time that is the most powerful. You can make a big difference in days, a huge difference in weeks, and a massive, life-altering difference in months/years.
Just as important is staying away from "foods" (food-like substances really) that inflame, age, promote disease, imbalance hormones, lower energy levels, decreased brain function, and basically just make you weak. Eat this stuff rarely, or not at all, especially if you're health is poor or you want to be bulletproof.
Here is a quick and dirty list:
Fried foods: fried in toxic, denatured fats like canola oil that are extremely unhealthy like fries, chips, etc)
Refined and processed flours and grains: bread, pasta, cookies, cereal, pastry, granola, etc)
Sugar: This includes what turns into sugar: see above. Agave is an especially bad alternative with its high fructose levels. Corn syrup and its derivatives are no bueno as well
Pay attention to gluten and dairy: they are a serious problem for many who don't realize it
Pay attention to gluten-free, low carb,, and low-fat options: many are full of chemicals, sugars and refined grains that spike your blood sugar
Processed meats, cheeses, and other fake foods: that the grocery store is full of
See below for a list of excellent immune-boosting foods, as well as a list of anti-viral herbs from Dr. Axe. Ya, I figured I would include the latter as well thanks to our obnoxious friend, COVID-19. But honestly who wants to get ANY virus that makes them sick?
Bone Broth - I included this first on the list as bone broth supports gut health, and approximately 70 percent of our immune system is located here. The different amino acids, as well as the collagen found in bone broth help to prevent/fix leaky gut which can cause lots of inflammation within the body.
Ginger - Ginger helps to break down toxins, clean up our lymphatic system (which is critical for removal of toxins), and has been shown to be very anti-inflammatory. Calming down inflammation is a key player for a strong Immune system.
Vitamin C - Foods with vitamin C are full of anti-oxidants and also are anti-inflammatory (see a pattern here?) Choose red bell peppers (more vitamin c than oranges!), citrus fruits, parsley, black currants, and pineapple among others.
Beta-Carotene - Powerful anti-oxidant activity and wait for it...anti-inflammatory benefits make beta-carotene foods an excellent choice. Go for sweet potatoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, and pumpkin for starters.
Vitamin D - Low levels of this vitamin are associated with increased susceptibility to infection. It modulates our immune response to be effective when we need it. Eat lots of wild-caught salmon, egg yolks, sardines, and mushrooms. Better yet get at least 20-30 minutes of sunlight on your skin daily without sunscreen. Pro tip: darker skin means you need more time and vice versa.
Echinacea - The phytochemicals in this herb have been shown to reduce viral infections and even tumors. It can also help to inhibit viruses and bacteria from getting through healthy cells. Ya, it's also anti-inflammatory:)
Elderberry - This has powerful immune-boosting and antiviral properties. It's full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory (shameless, I know) compounds.
Reishi mushrooms - Polysaccharides and triterpenes are two compounds found in Reishi that enhance the immune response and reduce inflammation (really, again?) This powerful adaptogen makes you strong when it comes to beating infection and regulating immune function.
Oregano - Oregano has antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties making it an important weapon against bad bugs. It's even showing itself to be better than some anti-biotics without the side effects.
Licorice root - Part of the impressive resume of this root includes immunostimulation, antioxidant activity, protection against leaky gut, and even cough and sore throat relief.
There are many, many other foods and herbs that make for an optimal immune system, but this is plenty to get you started if you haven't already. Remember, just eating a variety of real food over the duration is more powerful than any one "thing". There is no magic pill. Eating this way programs your body to thrive and do what it should just like a computer. Be awesome, be like Indiana Jones and choose wisely.
If you need some help learning how to eat for a strong immune system, please subscribe to Break-Free Wellness and/or leave me a message by clicking on the orange tab at the bottom right of the page. We will sit down and discuss your health challenges and goals in a free health consultation over Zoom or at the Cafe of Life Chiropractic and Massage office.
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Bart Thurman, FDN-P, INHC, AFDNP Functional Health Coaching Cafe of Life Chiropractic 1325 Dry Creek Drive #307 Longmont, CO 80503 Office: 720-849-0124 Website: www.breakfreewellness.net