As the winter cold continues to chill us, cold and flu season flourishes. It seems this time of year is when we're most vulnerable. Our immune system is our main defense against toxins such as drugs, environmental chemicals, cancerous cells, fungi, parasites, viruses and bacteria that cause flu’s, colds and respiratory and sinus infections, so it's important to keep it strong when our bodies are most at risk.
Can we boost our immune systems naturally? Science shows mixed reviews, however, many studies do show that certain nutrients are critical for healthy immune function.
Our immune system is highly complex and is influenced in many ways. A healthy immune system should protect us from almost any type of virus, bacteria, fungus, parasite or toxin. If healthy, it should be able to stop almost any foreign invader or rogue cell trying to harm our body.
Diet and lifestyle play a large role in determining how effective our immune system is at protecting us. It’s not just what we eat and don’t eat, it's also how we live.
Let’s look at the most powerful influences on your immune systems health status.
- Lack of sleep
- Emotional toxicity (hatred, anger, jealousy, resentment, self-defeating thoughts)
- Caffeine (in excess)
- Alcohol (in excess)
- Refined and processed foods
- Simple sugars
- Lack of exercise
Positives for our Immune System
- Pure water - spring water or purified water
- Adequate sleep- 7 to 8 hours
- Love, family, community involvement, self-appreciation
- Positive attitude
- Being physically activity (gardening, hiking, etc...). Exercise daily! Movement is important for our lymphatic system.
- A spiritual connection
- A diet rich in diversity, including vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds and, to a lesser degree, wild-caught cold water fish and organic turkey or chicken breast.
It’s common knowledge that certain foods and nutrients boost our immune function. You can find thousands of websites with these lists published. What most don’t tell you is that what you do and how you eat consistently has the biggest impact on your health. For example, if you regularly eat refined or processed foods (foods that have been altered, removing most of the nutritional integrity of the original food, luncheon meats, processed cheese, packaged dinners, etc.) drink soft drinks, or smoke, taking a multivitamin or occasionally eating a few healthy foods isn’t going to have much of a positive impact on your health. Refined and processed foods not only give little nutrition, they also pollute our bodies with harmful preservatives and additives that can diminish our health.
Foods that Promote Immune Function (all plant-based foods have immune-boosting potential)
- Brussels sprouts
- Cinnamon (cinnamon & honey)
- Dark Chocolate
- Goji berries
- Grapes - red, black and purple
- Green tea
- Honey (local, raw, unfiltered honey)
- Mushrooms – chaga, crimini, shiitake and maitake
- Nuts and seeds – almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
- Peppers – red bell, cayenne
- Pumpkin, butternut squash
- Rice bran
- Swiss chard
Nutrients Important for Immune Function
All nutrients are important for our health, however a few are vitally important for our immune system to function optimally. If you have a diet rich in a variety of healthy foods, you will give yourself the best chance to build a healthy body. Remember, it's all in the consistency of what we do. If you live a healthy lifestyle 80% of the time, you should build health. An occasional indulgence isn’t going to effect your health in a negative way. Obviously, the reverse is also true; live unhealthily 80% of the time and have a healthy treat occasionally, and your health will suffer.
Eat a proper balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins to insure your ability to build a healthy body. Your daily calories should contain 50% to 60% carbohydrates, 25% to 35% healthy fats and 10% to 20% protein.
Here are the vitamins you need:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6 & B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
If you really want to maximize your health, adopt a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, rest, relaxation, love, laughter and a strong spiritual foundation. In addition, wash your hands and use hand sanitizers when needed and avoid exposure to those who are sick when possible.