By Carol Shwery, DC, CCN
Fall is near and the seasons are about to change. This is the time when the kids go back to school and we start thinking about how to improve immunity. It’s a great time to get some helpful tips about naturally protecting yourself from illnesses besides washing your hands, getting flu shots and other conventional approaches. The main idea is to enhance your body’s natural ability to fight infection rather than killing off bad guys (bacteria, viruses, etc.). This is preventative care.
Your immune system is like a doctor who is on call 24/7, 7 days a week. Your immune system can become overactive where you become much more prone to getting allergies or autoimmune diseases. It can also become underactive and make it harder to fight off infectious illnesses. One of the best ways to make life easier for the on-call immune system is to minimize contact with toxins and pathogens so that it can relax a little and not feel there’s an eminent threat all the time. Here are some tips to build up your immune system with food and lifestyle changes.
Eliminating sugar is one of the simplest but most profound ways to boost your immunity. Just eating 1- 2 tablespoons of sugar can decrease your T-cell immune function by 50 to 75%, up to 4 to 6 hours! Eating a Standard American Diet means that sugar is entering your system all day long. Your immune system is going to be continually compromised and never get a chance to build back up. You will be susceptible to illness exposure at a far greater degree. Who wants that?
Get rid of the sweet sugary stuff and replace it with things like the natural sweetener stevia will boost your immune system. I like the brand Sweet Leaf in the liquid form. It doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste. Stevia is an alkaline substance which is very helpful to your immune system and has been shown to help grow good bacteria in your gut.
Also remember to eliminate caffeine, nicotine, artificial sweeteners and processed or heated oils/fat. These substances promote inflammation and reduce immune function. These are good preventative tips.
When you are actually sick and in crisis, stay away from fruit juices and concentrated fruits as they will decrease your body’s immune ability. Oranges do have lots of vitamin C but still can affect phagocytosis (eating the bad guys). Focusing on foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like making green drinks and eating lots of greens is a better approach than fruit juices. Sea vegetables are also wonderful.
One of my favorite recipes is garlic soup. You can put an entire bulb of raw garlic which is a potent antiviral and antibacterial in with onions (also great for immune function), lots of greens and mushrooms like shiitake, reishi or maitake. Mushrooms are also great anytime for your immune system. Top it off with immune-supportive cayenne. Blend this up in your blender and you have a wonderful immune boosting meal!
Other wonderful things to do to boost your immune system are:
- Turmeric – is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and strong antiviral and antibacterial agent
Create an alkaline environment in the body. Your immune system functions better that way. Water with lemon is highly alkaline.
- Buffered vitamin C up to 1000 mg an hour for adults when you feel that you’re about to get sick. You may think this sounds like a lot, but your immune system needs and can take up to 100,000 or 150,000 mg a day when you are sick. If that concerns you, just know you will pee out what you don’t use or need.
- Herbs like echinacea, andrographis and olive leaf extract are wonderful
Vitamin D3. Oh so important for immunity! It may seem counterintuitive but get outside in the sun. It really does a body good for short-term exposure up to half an hour.
This last topic may be the most important, which is the gut and the immune system. 80% of our immune system lives in the gut and if the gut is not functioning right or is in a state of what is called dysbiosis, our immune system will not be able to function right. Dysbiosis is an overgrowth or imbalance of good bacteria with bad bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungus. You want to support the growth of good bacteria. I encourage people to take probiotics daily. A general rule of thumb is 30 billion a day, a nice amount. You can’t get that in the yogurts from the grocery store. They have about hundred and 150,000. That’s not even a spec of what’s really necessary.
Probiotic foods are wonderful additions to building your immune system from the gut out. Sauerkraut, Kim chee, coconut Kefir, kombucha, miso all have probiotics. My favorite is still a kosher dill pickle.
Enhancing the immune system is something that can be talked about for hours or days, but hopefully these are some great and simple takeaways to keep you healthy and happy in the months ahead and the rest of your life.
Don’t forget that laughter really is the best medicine. Be well!
Carol Shwery DC, CCN is an integrative health care practitioner in Santa Cruz, CA. for over 30 years. She is a frequent speaker and teacher in her natural health solutions for people of all ages.
Dr. Shwery is a Doctor of Chiropractic with a specialty in Applied Kinesiology and practices gentle chiropractic. She is certified as a Clinical Nutritionist, Firstline Therapy practitioner, Menopause-Type Doctor, studied extensively Functional Medicine. Because of her own battle with a brain tumor. Dr. Shwrey is passionate about empowering people to achieve optimal health.