Part One: Building Immunity Through Nutrition
The 2017-2018 flu season has been one of the worst since 2009. This season also started earlier, November instead of January, which means with all the holiday gatherings, it could spread much easier.
So what can we do to strengthen our immune system so it is better able to fight off influenza or any other disease? I will be doing a three-part series on strengthening the immune system. Our immune system thrives on good nutrition, exercise, and spiritual and community connection. The immune system needs harmony and balance in all three of these areas. So let’s start with nutrition.
Our immune system is an army of warriors that fight off disease. These warriors need regular quality nourishment to stay strong. Food is the key element in restoring immune competency and resiliency. A fresh, local, seasonal, organic, mainly plant-based diet will provide protective and restorative antioxidants to cool inflammation and clear cell debris. It also supports the body’s natural defense team to mitigate viruses and bacteria, and to bind and clear toxins that don’t belong in our foods, cosmetics, or cleaning products.
A battle-fatigued immune system will become stronger when a diverse, macronutrient-balanced, whole foods diet is eaten. The quality of food is of utmost importance; organic food is important for restoring immune balance. Check out my previous post about organic foods.
Supporting the immune system is critical to good health and conversely, good health is critical to supporting the immune system.
There is no single magic bullet that can immediately restore immune function, but I will share some foods that can be added to your diet to strengthen your immune system.
- Abundant amounts of pure water, bone broths, and vegetable mineral broths are great for restoring nutrients to the body. Check out my post about the Healing Power of Bone Broth.
- Garlic has active constituents that are able to scavenge free-radicals, protecting cell membranes from damage and maintaining cell integrity; therefore building our immunity. I try to add garlic to most of our dinners. It is best to mince/cut up the garlic and let it stand for 10 minutes before using. The healing properties are more readily available by doing this.
- Mushrooms such as maitake, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, oyster, button, and portabellas have all been revered for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. Modern science has now recognized the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects of many varieties. The shiitake mushroom is a good example; it contains the active component lentinan which has the ability to “power up” the immune system, strengthening its ability to fight infection and disease. Mushrooms can be added to soups, casseroles, and sauteed for side dishes. Just like garlic, mushrooms can be added to your daily diet to provide immune supporting nutrients.
- Herbs not only add flavor to your food, they pack a lot of nutrients into small amounts. Herbs that are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids can boost the immune-protecting effects of your diet. Such herbs include cilantro, chives, dill, basil, and parsley.
- Adaptogens are herbs that balance the body’s resistance to stressors while boosting resistance to viruses and bacteria. Examples of adaptogens that are immune enhancing include echinacea, licorice root, and astragalus. Adaptogens should be used with caution as they can be powerful herbs. Check out my post about adaptogens.
- Probiotics help the body resist bacterial and fungal opportunists (the enemy to our immune warriors) which can hinder the immune system. Sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, yogurt, kefir, kefir water, and kombucha are all great food probiotics to strengthen your immune system. I have at least two of these each day. Check out my recipe for curtido (a type of sauerkraut).
I have shared a few foods that could be added to your diet to strengthen your immune “warriors” and build your immune system.
Do you find that when you eat better that you are less likely to catch the latest “bug” going around?
Stay tuned, or better yet subscribe to the blog, for the next two parts of this series on how to build your immunity. Stay healthy!
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- Bauman, E. Ph.D, and Friedlannder, J. N.C. (2015). Therapeutic nutrition part 2. Penngrove, CA. Bauman College.
- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Fluview activity update (key flu indicators). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/summary.htm
- Murray, M., Pizzorno, J. and Pizzorno, L. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY. Atria Books.