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A healthy immune system can be the difference between a few days of mild discomfort and two weeks in bed with debilitating symptoms. When it comes to health, nothing is more important than a strong immune system.
Here is a checklistof what you can do with food, supplements, and lifestyle to support your immune system seasonally or throughout the year.
Many foods support a healthy gut and immune system, while others weaken it. Incorporate more of the following foods into your daily diet:
- Fermented foods – Since 95% of immune system activity happens in the lining of our intestinal tract (gut), it is important to support healthy digestion with fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, Kombucha, tempeh, miso, kefir). These foods are full of probiotics (beneficial bacteria), which play an important role in the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. This helps produce antibodies to disease-causing pathogens.
- Bone broth – Properly prepared bone broth and meat stocks are also extremely nutritious, containing minerals, amino acids andnutrients from bone, cartilage, marrow andvegetables, in a form that is easy to assimilate.
- Mushrooms – A recent study showed, if you eat a shiitake mushroom every day, you could see beneficial changes in the immune system. (See recipe for Mushroom Bisque.)
- Ginger – While ginger is best known for its ability to soothe the intestinal tract and relieve nausea, it is loaded with nutrients and bioactive substances that have powerful immune benefits for your body. The active substance, gingerol, can help fight infections and is a potent antioxidant. The pungent constituent of ginger, 6-shogaol, provides an anti-cough effect. Add some fresh ginger root to your morning smoothies, infuse a few pieces in your drinking water, or try some Ginger Magic, a Sanoviv original recipe. (See recipe for Ginger Magic.)
Decrease the following foods that can weaken your immune system:
- Sugar – Eating or drinking 100 grams of sugar, the equivalent of two-and-a-half 12-ounce cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria by 40 percent and the effect may last for five hours. Limit added sugar intake to 20 grams (4 teaspoons) or less per day to optimize immune health.
- Wheat/gluten – These things are known to promote an abnormally functioning digestive immune system: increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), chronic or a high bacterial load in gut, and food particles that can impair immune function. Wheat is the only food that causes all three.
- Alcohol – A new study shows alcohol’s toxicity to immune system cells called dendritic cells. These cells play a critical role in immune function. Alcohol also depletes key immune-supporting nutrients, including zinc.
Many people are aware of the key vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system such as Vitamin C and Vitamin D (be sure your blood level of vitamin D is between 40 and 60 ng/ml). These are well-known immune protectors. Here are others that are also powerful.
- Zinc – Recent reviews show that supplementing with zinc may be effective at reducing the duration of common cold symptoms when taken at early onset, and at a dose of about 75 mg per day.
- Elderberry – Elderberries contain more anthocyanins – a type of flavonoid – than blueberries and help regulate immune responses.
- Echinacea – This herb has been shown to naturally support a healthy immune system with short-term use, two weeks or less.
- Oregano – The powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties of oregano make it a great choice for fighting cold viruses. Put 1-3 drops of oregano oil in a glass of water and drink it or use fresh oregano in your morning smoothies.
- Focus on the positive – Studies show that positiveattitude helps strengthen the immune system and may increase longevity. In one study “participants who recalled more positive than negative images had antibodies in their blood suggesting stronger immune systems than those of their counterparts, who did not show this positivity in memory.”
- Get restful sleep. – Remember, your body regenerates at night,when cells are busy at work. Sleep deprivation suppresses immune function and you simply cannot maintain a strong immune system without proper sleep.
- Moderate exercise has a beneficial effect – on immune function, but too much exercise can actually weaken your immune system. The key is finding your personal, correct amount of exercise.
- Wear a mask and wash hands regularly – especially during winter travel or when others around you are fighting illness. Regular warm water and soap ispreferred over anti-bacterial products, which may alter the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
You have the power to take control of your immune system since many immune-enhancing activities are diet and lifestyle-related.
Mushroom Bisque (4 servings)
1 pound of organic crimini mushrooms, chopped
½ pound of organic shitake mushrooms, chopped
4 tablespoons of grass-fed butter
1 stalk of organic celery, chopped
1 large sweet potato, light yellow, peeled and sliced thinly
1 ½ cups of sweet onion, chopped
1 ½ cups of stock or water
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
2-3 tablespoons of dry red wine (optional)
¼ teaspoon of thyme
2 tablespoons of tamari or Coconut Aminos™
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons unrefined salt
- Begin by cooking the onion in the butter with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- When the onions become soft, add the sweet potatoes and celery.
- Continue to cook over low heat, mixing well, so the butter coats all the vegetables.
- After several minutes, add the mushrooms (except for one half cup) and remaining ingredients.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
- Cool to room temperature and then puree in the blender.
- Add in the reserved mushrooms and serve immediately.
Fresh ginger root
- Wash and peel the skin from the ginger root.
- Slice the ginger into small pieces (Sanoviv pulses ginger in a food processor mixed with a small amount of honey.)
- Place on dehydrator tray and dry at 105 degrees for 24 hours or until you get the desired consistency for a ginger chew. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can find a sunny spot in front of a window and sun-dry the ginger.