With flu season rapidly approaching and fears of super viruses and new strains of deadly pneumonia just across the ocean, it’s never been more important to take care of your immune system .
There is a whole generation of us who, very unfortunately, were part of a scientific wave of antibiotic usage that occurred in massive amounts and to the detriment of our overall immune systems.
We live in an overly sanitized world that makes recovering from infections harder and makes places that should be sanitary, like hospitals, dangerous places for those with repressed immune systems.
But living in fear will make little difference in the outcome of your health. There are concrete steps you can take TODAY that will boost your immune system and make it less likely you’ll get sick this fall and in the future.
70% of our immune system lives in the billions of bacteria that populate our guts. This may come as a surprise as people often think that digestion has little to do with whether you get sick or not. But it has everything to do with it.
In fact, nutrition plays the single most important role in your health, more than any other thing, genetics included.
So how do you use nutrition to boost your immune system? Here are my 3 top ways.
#1 Support Your Gut
A basic gut friendly diet is great for the immune system. There are some do’s and don’ts for that diet including:
- Eat lots of green vegetables, especially leafy greens. The fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins and other beneficial properties of these powerhouse foods make them the most important parts of any diet. Include lots of them everyday- at least 5 cups- to boost the immune system.
- Choose high quality meat- grass-fed, wild-caught, organic. These meats come from happy animals whose immune systems are also healthy! We know that meat from animals fed their natural diets has higher levels of important nutrients and good fats.
- Stick to low sugar. Sugar taxes the liver in a very similar way to alcohol and makes the whole body sluggish. It also takes up space in the diet that could be filled by much more nutrient dense food. Sugar is basically empty calories, and it is dangerous in high quantities. Stick to natural sources of sugar like whole fruit and avoid sugar sweetened beverages and sweeteners. Try to eat small, moderate servings when you eat starchy foods like potatoes.
- Avoid fast food. The fried foods available so easily are empty, rancid, and filled with components that harm your health. It is best to always avoid these foods and oils, but especially when trying to boost the immune system.
Everyone has different dietary needs but a basic diet filled with these foods will be much better for the immune system and help keep you healthy!
#2 Incorporate Functional Foods
Several specific foods have immune boosting properties! These include:
- Fermented Foods: Kombucha tea and lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi help boost good bacteria in the gut and are wonderful for the immune system. Make sure these are real lacto-fermented products and not simply brined. We sell some great products at our market next door from Happy Gut.
- Conjugated Lineolic Acid found in lamb and beef among other foods help modulate the immune system and make it function better.
- Lignans and Vitamin E found in nuts and seeds, broccolli, cauliflower, and carrots.
- Dithiolthiones in cruciferous veggies like brussels sprouts
- Sulfur containing foods like garlic, leeks, onions, and scallions
- Vitamin C in green/red pepper, leafy greens, citrus, strawberries and more vegetables
#3 Supplement Smart
Supplementation is highly individual and you should consult with a professional before you start taking any supplements. That said, a few general guidelines for supplementation can help ensure your immune system stays healthy all year long.
- A good multivitamin– if you don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables and nutrients everyday, a good multi helps bridge the gap and keep you healthy. The stuff at the grocery store won’t cut it. A good supplement costs more because it is properly tested to ensure it contains what it says it contains and nothing else. Make sure to choose something with all your B-vitamins, preferably in their methylated forms (methylfolate, methylcobalamin) because they are better absorbed. I like this multivitamin for most people.
- Vitamin D– If you don’t work outside or get at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight to a large area of your body everyday, you are at risk for being deficient in Vitamin D. Even if you aren’t deficient (which many, many people are), you can still be low enough for it to effect your immune system. There is an easy way to test this at home with a kit I sell. You can get the results and see where your levels are to know how much sunlight or supplementation would benefit you. Find the kit here.
- Vitamin D has many forms but the only form that humans use easily is the kind that comes from sunlight and not food. So it is important to supplement with this vitamin if you do not get enough sunlight, and to use the D3 form of the vitamin. If you choose to supplement with D3, you will need about 5,000 iu everyday for maintenance. Check to make sure your multivitamin doesn’t also have some Vitamin D so as not to get too much. I like to use this form of Vitamin D.
- Magnesium is involved in over 300 process in the human body and is integral in the proper functioning of the immune system. Many people are deficient in magnesium because it is not a common food in the American diet. I like to have it as a drink in the evening because of its natural calming properties. Find it here.
- Vitamin C support is great for the immune system and helps prevent sickness. I like to have it in the ascorbic acid form, the most absorbable form in the body. This is the one I like.
- Probiotic. Arguably the most important supplement for the immune system is a high quality probiotic. Anyone with immune system issues should see a professional because I also have access to very therapeutic probiotics. However, for most people, a probiotic like this one should be taken everyday to boost the immune system.
A healthy immune system means an energetic and full life, without getting bogged down with sick days. If you need guidance to find an individualized diet that is healthy for you, contact me here.