At a conference over the weekend, Dr. Joel Fuhrman explained that the death rate from infections has doubled since 1980 and that the reason for this is that the Standard American Diet (SAD) has resulted in immune systems that are incompetent to fight off bugs. In addition our nutritional inadequacies make it easier for viruses and bacteria in our bodies to mutate into more dangerous forms, which is why it is so important to eat a healthy diet that is high in minerals and phytonutrients.
Since Autumn is almost upon us and cold and flu season is on its way too, I wanted to offer some ways to keep your immune system strong so that you can stay healthy through the cold months ahead:
Drink Water - I write about drinking water all the time for managing hunger and for increasing your energy, but another of its many benefits is to flush out toxins in the body, which is so important for staying healthy. Do you find it difficult to drink water this time of year? Drink it warm or hot. I like to boil water just as if I’m having tea and sip it throughout the day. According to John Douillard, it’s a great way to open up and clear out the lymphatic system.
Consume Probiotic-rich Foods - Foods like kefir, yogurt, and fermented vegetables will help to keep your healthy gut bacteria strong and discourage the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. They will also keep the walls of your intestines healthy and better able to absorb nutrients. Try to eat organic wherever possible and avoid brands with lots of added sugar.
Drink Green or Black Tea - Both help to increase the production of virus-fighting, interferon in the body, so sip them regularly. If you do, drink naturally decaffeinated brands so that they do not keep you up at night.
Eat Mushrooms - Varieties like shitake and even white button mushrooms help to increase the production of white blood cells. Sautee them and add them to stir-fries, eggs, and salads, and soups.
Get Enough Vitamin D3 - Vitamin D is a potent immune system modulator and unless you’re spending hours per day in the sun, it is likely you’re not getting enough. Eat vitamin D3 fortified foods like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and cod liver oil or take a vitamin D3 supplement. Recently, the recommended daily allowance was set at 600-800 IU; however, most people are deficient and could benefit from more. Dr. Andrew Weil explains why here.
Include Fat - If you’re eating a gorgeous, colorful salad full of carotenoids that act as antioxidants, and eating it with a fat-free dressing, you’re missing out on the benefits. The health-promoting compounds need fat to be absorbed, so use a dressing with olive oil, or add avocado or some nuts to the mix.
Manage stress - High stress levels lower our immune defenses and while you can’t always control what stressful situations arise in your life, you can minimize the effects. Regular exercise, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation, or taking time to have fun all help to relieve the anxiety associated with stress-filled days.
Get Enough Sleep - Not getting enough sleep is a sure fire way to depress the immune system. However many hours you do best on, whether it’s six or eight, try to keep a regular sleep schedule and get the best sleep possible by removing or unplugging all electronic equipment in the room to prevent it from interfering with your normal sleep patterns.
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane