Since entering the world of natural health, I have discovered what it really means to “be healthy”. This can mean different things to different people but essentially it means not only to be free of disease, but more importantly to have energy, vigor and happiness.
We are continuously exposed to toxins all around us no matter how much we may or may not try to avoid them, as we have seen with this virus circulating around the world. But our bodies are designed to heal! We must remember that. If we nourish our body with the nutrients it needs, and treat it with honor and respect, it will protect us from the toxins trying to harm us.
During this time of Covid, I feel like this has been forgotten and ignored. I have never heard anything mentioned in mainstream media about the importance of eating healthy, getting outdoors for fresh air and sunshine, taking natural immune boosting supplements and trying to be the healthiest we can be. Our immune system is our best defense. All I hear is talk of masks, social distancing, avoiding others, washing your hands (this is something we should always be doing), vaccines, and therapeutics (none of which have been FDA approved). The search is on to help with this “pandemic” but nothing is mentioned about the importance of boosting our immunity! 70% of Americans are obese or overweight and 6 in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic disease. This is a red flag! If there was ever a time to address our health and change our behaviors and food we eat, it is NOW!
According to the CDC, those people at greater risk for severe complications with Covid are the elderly, those with underlying medical conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, COPD (chronic respiratory disease), the immunocompromised.
I urge you to start making changes to strengthen your immune system! Even if it is one or two changes at a time, anything will help make a difference in your health and the strength of your immune system.
Ideas for Immune boosting:
1. Let’s start with an organic whole-foods, plant-based diet.
- Organic eliminates many toxic pesticides that our body must otherwise detoxify and that add to our toxic burden. When having to spend so much time detoxifying, your body’s immune system is weakened. So reduce whatever toxins you can, especially by eating as organic as possible, and let your body focus on the toxins you may not know you are ingesting!
- “Whole foods” (not the store) refers to foods in their original form. This means no refined, processed foods! Instead of chips and crackers, choose nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies. Strive to keep your blood sugar stable and in a normal range. Chronically elevated blood sugar causes inflammation and leads to diabetes and obesity, and a weakened immune system.
- “Plant-based” emphasizes that the majority of your food intake should come from plants. They are the source of the vital phytonutrients your body needs. To give you an idea, 2/3 of your plate should be vegetables and 1/3 protein and healthy fats. Strive for the rainbow! A variety of colors ensures you are getting a wide range of phytonutrients.
- Be sure to consume healthy fats everyday: nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil. Healthy fats are important for brain health, flexible cell membranes (leads to healthier functioning and communicating cells), neurotransmitter and hormone production and more.
- Plant-based can include meat, but emphasizes clean, high quality animal products: pasture raised organic eggs, grass-finished organic meat, wild fish.
This may sound silly but it is so important to provide your body with sufficient hydration of water! Many people walk around dehydrated and don’t even know it. Being well-hydrated not only helps the body eliminate and flush out toxins but it also enables your organs to function more efficiently. Drinking enough water protects the kidneys, a vital organ in detoxification, as well as the heart, brain function, blood pressure, even aging.
Tips for hydration:
- Make sure you are drinking filtered water. Best to avoid plastic water bottles. Instead invest in a filtration system that removes the chemical pollutants from our tap water, as well as the chlorine and fluoride.
- Carry a bottle of water with you at all times so it is convenient to hydrate throughout the day. Stainless steel or glass containers are best. I personally love my new tall cup with a straw! I find I drink much more water throughout the day because it is easy to access. Of course you can’t throw it in your bag, but you can set it in your car or around the house.
- Avoid sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages
- Make your hydration count with water.
- Caffeinated beverages are diuretics, causing you to get dehydrated. Avoid these.
3. Gut Health:
Since 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive system, it is crucial to care for your gut to keep your immune system strong. Our digestive system is one of our first lines of defense. When we eat something or touch our fingers to our mouths, it is our gut that has to seek out and destroy any bacteria/virus/toxins that aren’t supposed to be in our bodies. Having enough stomach acid is crucial. If you have indigestion or bloating, it may mean you don’t have enough stomach acid to digest your food. With reduced stomach acid, you have less acid to kill toxins as they enter your digestive system. If they get past your digestive system, they go into your bloodstream and do whatever damage they can.
Probiotics are a great way to keep a healthy balance of good bacteria that feed your gut and keep the lining healthy and strong while also nourishing the immune cells that are embedded in this lining. And with a healthy gut lining, you are absorbing more nutrients. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt(look for Greek and unsweetened to avoid sugar and over-processing), kombucha, miso, kefir.
Prebiotics are also an important component of a healthy gut. They are essentially the food for the probiotics, good bacteria in the gut. They are an undigestible fiber found in foods that pass through the stomach and small intestine and ferment in the large intestine as food for the probiotics. It is important to include both pro and prebiotics in order to have a healthy balance in your gut. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as jicama, raw leeks, raw garlic, raw or cooked onions, under-ripe bananas, dandelion greens, chicory root, oats, apples, flaxseeds, seaweed.
Tips for gut health:
- Eat naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir is a great way to get probiotics!
- Include foods with prebiotic fiber.
- Drinking lemon juice or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, either in shot form or in a glass of warm water in the morning before a meal. This is a great way to stimulate stomach acid secretion as well as digestive enzymes.
- Avoid inflammatory foods: gluten, dairy, processed foods.
4. Daily exercise:
Evidence indicates that regular physical exercise reduces the incidence of both chronic diseases and acute viral and bacterial infections. So get outside and do something you enjoy! Whether it’s taking a walk, jogging, hiking, bike-riding; any activity where you are moving your body and taking in some fresh air!
5. Deep Breathing:
Taking in oxygen not only boosts your immune system and alkalizes the blood, but it also stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” part of your autonomic nervous system. The “rest and digest” part promotes healthy digestion, healing and relaxation throughout the body and counteracts the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, our “fight or flight” part that is over-stimulated by chronic stress. All of this helps strengthen your immune system.
I recommend the 4-5-8 breathing method developed by Andrew Weil MD.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths
You can do it several times a day or anytime you are feeling stressed. It stimulates the vagal nerve, the longest nerve in the body that runs from the brain down through the gut, that stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Thus the connection between relaxation and better digestion.
Become conscious of your breathing, expand your lungs, sit up straight and let the breath come into your belly. Abdominal breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, increases your oxygen intake as well as massages organs to enhance function. And while taking in more oxygen, you are alkalizing your body which in turn reduces inflammation and promotes healing on so many levels. Think about your breath and nothing else. Forget your “to do” list and really feel your breath and how it makes your body feel.
I can’t emphasize enough the power of deep breathing. Let it become a habit you do throughout the day. We all need something simple to do during this stressful time.
Hugely important and very under-appreciated! Sleep should be a top priority to keep your immune system strong. 7-8 hours/night is recommended. Some people may need more. During your sleep cycles, your body and brain flush out metabolic toxins and allow the body to heal. Hormones are regulated by your circadian rhythm so keeping it regular is important to keep hormones balanced. *See previous blog post for more detailed information and tips.
7. My personal supplement boost:
Always check with your medical practitioner regarding supplements to make sure they are right for you and any medical conditions you may have.
- Multivitamin with NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, taken throughout the day
- Fish oil
- Mushroom powder
- Chlorella powder
- Matcha powder
These are my basics right now for immune boosting. If you’d like more information, please feel free to reach out to me.
8. Remember what to avoid:
You may not want to hear this because these are usually the food/drink that people unfortunately turn to during times of stress and/or boredom.
But this is important because they all put stress on the liver and immune system and may work against you when fighting an infection. Avoid:
- alcohol (drink filtered water, green tea, anti-oxidant mocktail)
- refined sugar (choose fruit, maple syrup and honey instead, see my website for recipes)
- processed foods (choose fruit, nuts, veggies instead of crackers, chips, cookies)
- unhealthy fats such as hydrogenated oil, highly processed oils such as canola, vegetable (most oils that come in a clear bottle), saturated fats from animal sources (so this excludes coconut).
I hope you can work these tips into your routine and feel the benefits of a stronger, healthier immune system as well as overall mind and body. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. These times are stressful for all of us. Do what you can to give yourself a boost!
In good health,