With the cold and flu season in full swing, it’s not uncommon for you—or your friends and family—to develop either of these illnesses over the winter. The battle between our immune system and germs (e.g., bacteria and viruses) has been going on since the beginning of time, and that won’t stop any time soon. Therefore, you need to take action.
Your immune system is your key defense against microscopic attackers that cause inflammation and infection. They enter your body through your mouth, skin, nasal passages, gut, and any other opening. These attacks can occur at any time, and you may not feel their effects until days or months later. Therefore, keeping your immune system strong is the key to maintaining peak health and physical performance.
However—over time—the continuous assault from airborne and foodborne bacteria and viruses can weaken your immune system. This can occur to the point where your ability to fight off infections can become low. Fatigue and just feeling “run down” are two early symptoms. Besides natural exposure every day to the bacteria in our environments, not eating a healthy diet, overly-punishing work-outs at the fitness center, an overgrowth of certain gut bacteria, and leading a sedentary lifestyle can weaken your immune function. In turn, a weak immune system can predispose you to developing a wide range of chronic health disorders.
It’s essential to boost your immune system in order to avoid infections, and to remain as healthy as possible as you age!
The good news is that there are some strategies that you can implement right now to keep your immune system in the best possible shape. These strategies will build your fortress of defense not only against infections, but against the formation of cancerous tumors.
Stage One: Feed Your Immune System Properly
Eat Organic, Raw Foods:
The better we take care of our immune system through ingesting a healthful diet, the better it can defend us. Energy is the product of a physical process called the Krebs Cycle, that breaks down food and enables blood cells to become nourished. For this reason, a daily intake of certain amounts of vitamins and minerals is necessary. It really is true that “you are what you eat”!
Seven health benefits of eating organic, raw foods are that this:
- Improves digestion.
- Provides more dietary fiber than cooked foods (necessary for good functioning of the intestinal tract).
- Lowers inflammation levels throughout the body (and increases absorption of anti-oxidants).
- Enables the immune system to fight off development of early cancerous tumors (and also recover from the immune-lowering effects of chemotherapy).
- Provides increased nutrients to blood components (g., red and white blood cells).
- Strengthens liver functioning.
- Improves overall health by lowering the risk of heart disease (still the foremost cause of preventable disability and death)
High quality nutrition is vital to building a strong immune system, and maintaining a high level of energy. This is even more true if you are engaged in a vigorous exercise routine, because energy stored in muscle tissue is burned at a higher rate. For this reason, people with lowered immune function are less able to perform in an exercise program.
The dilemma is that cooking can reduce the vitamins and minerals—and also destroy the anti-oxidants— in even nutrient-rich produce. Meanwhile, consuming foods sprayed with carcinogenic pesticides is harmful to the entire organ system. This is another reason that it’s best to eat only foods labeled “organic”!
By eating organic, raw food items as much as possible, you can reduce the loss of water-soluble vitamins and minerals that occurs through boiling or applying high heat. (For example, Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so cooking destroys it.) The best approach is to wash even your organic vegetables and fruit before eating them—and then eat them in their original state, which is raw!
Eating raw, organic fruits and vegetables on a daily basis has been show to provide numerous health benefits, including lowering inflammation, improving digestion, providing more dietary fiber, improving heart health, supporting optimal liver function, preventing cancer, preventing constipation, combating nutrient deficiencies, and lowering the amount of anti-nutrients and carcinogens in the body.
Some of the top foods to consume on a daily basis to boost nutrition are fresh produce, sea vegetables, fermented foods, sprouted grains, nuts, and seeds, along with organic dairy products that have not been mass-produced (so not injected with antibiotics).
Raw foods help to preserve the normal acid-alkaline balance in the body, reduce the production of stomach acid (that causes acid reflux), and reduce the likelihood of experiencing an inflammatory or autoimmune reaction.
Don’t Cook So Much:
Cooking less not only helps preserve enzymes that improve digestion and gut health, but it is also good for the environment since it involves less gas or electricity use in daily living. It is important to understand that some experts say that—when foods are heated to around or above 112º F.—they lose vital enzymes. These enzymes are necessary for anti-oxidants to act as a buttress against the chemicals and environmental pollutants that can contribute to the development of cancer—or foster its spread to other organs.
Raw foods supply enzymes for digestion (exogenous enzymes). The more exogenous enzymes are ingested, the easier it is to fully digest foods and get nutrients without taxing our physiological systems as a whole. The pancreas and specific cells produce enzymes (endogenous enzymes).
Vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants lose their nutritional value during cooking because phyto-nutrients don’t stand up well when exposed to high temperatures (called their “Heat Labile Point”). This causes a chemical change that results in the food losing its innate nutritional value. The result is that it becomes a source of calories, but not of high-quality nutrients.
Raw foods are broken down into cellular components in the digestive tract far more easily than cooked foods. Not only is this due to its natural state—without the biochemical changes caused by heat—but also due to the higher fiber content.
The problem with a diet low in fiber is that the longer food remains in the stomach, the likelier it is to ferment in the gut and cause problems. (This is not to be confused with the process that occurs in eating pre-fermented foods, which are good for you!)
Foods sitting in the gut, and fermenting in the gut, can cause:
- Gas and bloating;
- Toxic waste build-up in the colon (which is linked to the development of cancerous polyps)
The problem with fermentation in the gut is that this negatively affects the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract, and can also lead to intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome—which can enable natural gut bacteria to travel to other organs and cause infection.
Diseases develop more easily within the body when the pH in the blood is abnormally raised. In turn, this heightened acidity lowers immunity. Some of the factors that cause acidity to rise are environmental pollution, stress, consumption of processed and refined foods, lack of nutrients in blood, and mineral deficiency.
Cooked foods promote an increased level of acidity in the body. In contrast, raw foods neutralize acid and help to maintain the natural acid-alkaline balance.
Eat More Fermented Foods:
Fermented foods are some of the healthiest food items you can eat. Raw foods can naturally aid in the development of probiotics during the period they undergo fermentation, which occurs due to the cellular oxygenation process.
Probiotics supplied by fermented foods—which are “good bacteria” that reside in your gut—are responsible for nutrient absorption at the cellular level. In this manner, they are important in supporting your immune system. Probiotics also help you to repopulate your gut with beneficial microbiota following the biochemical processing, during which the gut is cleared of harmful toxins and waste.
Six great fermented food choices to incorporate in the diet are:
- Greek yogurt (organic);
- Kefir (a yogurt-derived product);
- Fermented vegetables (g., Sauerkraut);
Boost Your Key Vitamin and Mineral Intake:
Vitamins occur in two forms. These are water-soluble and fat-soluble. For absorption in the body and good health, vitamins need specific minerals to be present. The vitamins and minerals that especially boost the immune system are as follows:
- Vitamin A (fat-soluble);
- Vitamin B6 (water-soluble);
- Vitamin C (water-soluble);
- Vitamin D (fat-soluble);
- Vitamin E (fat-soluble);
Vitamin A: Influences certain T cells, B cells and cytokines; plays a key roll in fighting off infection. Sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy greens (such as kale).
Vitamin B6: Having a low blood level of Vitamin B6 can slow parts of the immune response. Sources include fish, beef liver, and other organic meats.
Vitamin C: One of the biggest immune system boosters of all. Sources of Vitamin C includes oranges, grapefruit, spinach, kale, broccoli, and bell peppers.
Vitamin D: Boosts the immune system by reducing levels of inflammatory proteins; also aids in the destruction of invading microbes (germs). Sources include sunlight, salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil, and some cereals supplemented with this vitamin.
Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant that helps to fight infection. Sources include nuts, seeds, and spinach.
Zinc: Essential to the function of immune system cells. Sources of this mineral include oysters, red meat, and poultry.
Consume Antioxidants Regularly:
Free radicals can circulate in the bloodstream, thereby causing damage to tissues that make up the organs of the body. Antioxidants are one way that the body combats the destructive capacity of free radicals. An over-abundance of free radical alerts that the immune system to embark on an unnecessary defense. The unrequired inflammatory response of components in the white blood cells actually weakens immunity. This is one reason that consuming antioxidants in the diet can improve overall health.
Antioxidants have three main mechanisms of action as follows:
The first mechanism is inflammatory prevention (with endogenous antioxidants). Meanwhile, superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, peroxidase, and glutathione reductase all work together to stabilize the free radical breakdown so it can be used to regenerate glutathione—the body’s most potent antioxidant.
The second mechanism is to scavenge. Foods rich in Vitamins C and E can act as scavengers for free radicals, seeking them out and neutralizing them (i.e., stopping a domino-like biochemical process from occurring).
The third mechanism is repair. Proteolytic enzymes help prevent the build-up of oxidized proteins (that are harmful), by degrading and removing them from the system.
Proven antioxidants that can help defend you against free radicals include the following:
- Phytochemical-containing compounds like green tea (epigallocatechin);
- Citrus-containing fruits (triterpenoids);
- Red wine made from purple grapes (resveratrol);
- Cocoa or dark chocolate (procyanidin)
Free radical production is greatly decreased when our body has all the necessary nutrients to work properly. The following are other sources of nutrients that act against free radicals:
- Bright-colored fruits and vegetables (g., carrots, tomatoes, and peppers) contain carotenoids, and—in some cases—lycopene.
- The naturally sulfur-packed cruciferous (brassica) vegetables—like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale—increase levels of glutathione. (Since glutathione is one of the body’s most powerful natural antioxidants, these vegetables are great immune system boosters!)
Furthermore, consuming enough selenium is necessary for proper glutathione production and use—and Brazil nuts are a great source for selenium.
For mitochondrial (cellular) energy production, it is also important to ingest enough CoQ10, B vitamins, iron and zinc for immune system support and your body’s needs!
Here’s an easy tip to further lower the level of free radicals. Use small amounts of saturated fats (e.g., butter or coconut oil) when cooking vegetables or fruit at medium-high or high heat. Polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils) are not stable at high temperature, and therefore become rancid (oxidize) very quickly following cooking. In turn, the resulting oxidized fat derivatives—if you ingest them in large quantities and have a heightened autoimmune response—can act as free radicals that are harmful to your health.
Lower Toxins In Your Body:
Toxic pollutants such as heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POP) produce free radicals in the body. This causes DNA damage, an overactive immune response, inflammation, and tissue damage and/or death. The result is the beginning of a chronic disease process that can wreak havoc on your life.
Heavy metals are found in most waterways, and are consumed by fish and water fowl. Methylmercury binds tightly to the tissue in fish, accumulating with time. The larger the fish, the higher the methylmercury level in that fish. Passage of the toxic chemical into fish then proceeds into the birds and mammals that eat these fish—including human beings!
For this reason, limiting consumption of the following three types of fish is desirable:
- Tile fish (from the Gulf of Mexico);
Dioxins are a bioaccumulative POP. In other words, they begin their accumulation in fat cells. Associated with reproductive disruptions, hormone interference, and cancer, 90% of dioxin exposure comes from food sources such as inorganic meat and dairy products, shellfish, and other fish. These food sources are often contaminated through their ingestion of dioxin-containing feed.
POPs encompass toxins belonging to the “dirty dozen”—a list of the most heavily-infiltrated, inorganic substances. These are constituents of chemical pesticides used widely in agriculture. Consumption of POPs can be reduced by avoiding animals fed inorganic feed. These are animals that often come from farms that utilized chemical pesticides and pharmaceutical additives. This is also a primary reason that it is best to buy only organic grass fed meat and organic free range poultry—as well as produce.
One way to increase your knowledge as to how to avoid toxic chemicals in your daily diet is to follow the Environmental Working Group’s guide. This guide offers suggestions for buying organic and inorganic produce that limit your exposure to these cancer-causing chemicals. The Environmental Working Group’s guide includes the “clean fifteen”—as well as the “dirty dozen”—of food items commonly available!
Stage Two: Build Your Gut
Leaky Gut Syndrome:
The immune system is weakened in “leaky gut” syndrome, which affects millions of people and is on the increase throughout the world. Left untreated, this syndrome can lead to many health problems. Along with lowering immunity, the following are some of the resulting disorders:
- Food allergies and autoimmune conditions;
- Thyroid disorders;
- Joint pain and swelling;
- Decreased metabolism and absorption of nutrients
The gut lining works as a barrier to keep larger cellular particles from “leaking” outside of the intestinal tract, and into other tissues via the nearby blood vessels. The bacteria that travels in the blood is often the natural bacteria that occurs in the gut. The result is an overgrowth of bacteria in the blood and tissues (e.g., Candida albicans), and that incites an immune response producing inflammation.
Six common symptoms associated with “leaky gut” syndrome are:
- Increased food sensitivities and allergies;
- Thyroid conditions;
- Skin problems (g., Rosacea and acne)
An increasing number of food sensitivities may be an early warning sign that you actually have this syndrome. The seepage through the intestinal lining can cause a systemic allergic response. It can also lead to more severe health issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), migraine headaches, eczema, and systemic arthritis—as well as chronic depression, and anxiety.
There is a strong body of evidence pointing to “leaky gut” syndrome as a major cause of autoimmune disease (including Type 1 diabetes). Nutritionally, “leaky gut” syndrome causes malabsorption of essential nutrients (including zinc, iron and vitamin B12).
The four main causes of “leaky gut” syndrome are:
- Poor diet:
- Chronic stress:
- Toxin overload:
- Intestinal bacteria imbalance
Four specific food items that cause damage to the lining of the gut are proteins found in the following: 1) unsprouted grains, 2) sugar, 3) genetically-modified foods (GMOs), and 4) nonorganic dairy products.
In particular, unsprouted grains contain large amounts of nutrient-blockers termed phytates and lectins. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that act as a natural defense system for plants (that protect plants from attackers such as mold and parasites). The bad news is the human digestive lining is covered with sugar-containing cells, and lectin gravitates toward (and attaches to) these sugars in the lining of the large intestine. The consequence is inflammation and damage to the colon (large intestine).
Lectins are found in many foods, and—when lectins are consumed in small amounts—no harmful effect generally occurs in consequence. On the other hand, foods high in lectins can negatively impact the immune function.
Food substances known to have large amounts of Lectins include:
- Soybean (or soybean flour)
On the other hand, sprouted and fermented grains reduce the body’s absorption of phytates and lectins—thus, making foods containing phytates and lectins easier to digest. GMO and hybridized foods tend to be the highest in lectins, since these typically have been specifically modified to be insect-resistant. While this may generate a better harvest, it can be harmful to health! Notably, gluten-containing grains can damage your intestinal lining, resulting in greater susceptibility to “leaky gut” syndrome.
One tip to heal from “leaky gut” syndrome includes staying away from all grains, and especially those containing gluten. Once the lining of the gut is healed, fermented and sprouted grains can be consumed as long as well-tolerated. However, it is best to stop eating unsprouted and unfermented grains entirely, as these damage the intestinal lining over time. Especially if you are engaged in an exercise program or participate in sports, maintaining the health of your digestive system through high-quality nutrition is a good idea to maintain your overall health and stamina!
Another potentially harmful food constituent is A1 casein. A1 casein comes from cow breeds that originated in northern Europe (e.g., Holstein, Friesian, Ayrshire and British Shorthorn). If consuming casein in foods, it is recommended to ingest A2 (rather than A1) casein. This form of casein is found in Guernsey, Jersey, Charolais, and Limousin cow breeds (originating in the Channel Islands and Southern France) or from sheep, goats, and buffalo.
The most damaging of all food items to consume in large amounts is sugar. Too much sugar can lead to developing Type 2 diabetes. It will also foster the overgrowth of yeast (e.g., Candida) and other pathogens such as E. coli—which will further damage your gut. Bacteria not naturally found in the gut creates toxins (as waste products) called exotoxins. In turn, exotoxins damage healthy intestinal cells, and especially in the lining of the gut.
Chronic stress also weakens the immune system, and thereby cripples its ability to control the growth of gut bacteria—leading to inflammation, leaky gut, and even septicemia.
Do you realize that—on average—human beings come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxic substances each year? Besides pesticide exposure, the worst offenders in terms of promoting “leaky gut” syndrome include the following:
- Ingesting antibiotics;
- Ingesting aspirin;
- Ingesting NSAIDS;
- Drinking high quantities of tap water (due to chemicals added to treat bacteria)
If you regularly drink tap water, it is recommended that you buy a high-quality water filter to eliminate the chlorine and an excess of fluoride. Also, it is a good idea to supplement your diet with natural, plant-based herbs to reduce inflammation.
Dysbiosis—a term used to describe microbial imbalance—is a leading cause of “leaky gut” syndrome. This means that an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut has occurred. One of the major functions of the immune system is to maintain the right balance of bacteria in the gut. However, the overuse of prescription antibiotics to treat non-bacterial illnesses—and ingestion of animal products fed antibiotic-injected feed—along with a lack of probiotic rich foods, contributes to a wide range of health problems including those originating in the intestinal system.
Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome:
For anyone who has experienced “leaky gut” syndrome, the good news is that it usually can be reversed and repaired—as long as the afflicted individual takes corrective action.
The following are the five steps (in chronological order) that can enable healing from “leaky gut” syndrome:
- Remove foods (and other adverse factors) causing damage to the gut.
- Repair the gut with a bone broth fast.
- Repair the gut with an intake of specific supplements.
- Rebalance the gut with probiotics.
- Introduce (and continue to use) specific foods that aid the healing process.
Of course, it is also important to stop consuming food products that promote “leaky gut” syndrome—in tandem with these five steps—to speed the healing process.
Bone Broth Fast:
True bone broth is something most societies no longer prepare in the modern world. Centuries ago, it was common to utilize much more from each animal that was killed by a hunter. This included its bones, which contain a high level of calcium.
The importance of calcium as a building-block for healthy bones cannot be overstated. However, calcium cannot be absorbed without Vitamin D—so an adequate intake of Vitamin D is also necessary for calcium to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Real bone broth—made from organically-fed animals—is excellent for:
- Treating “leaky gut” syndrome;
- Boosting the immune system;
- Overcoming food allergies;
- Improving joint health;
- Reducing cellulite
This type of bone broth is nutrient-dense, easy to digest, rich in flavor, and speeds healing. Bone broth is made from boiling bones. Next, the bones are simmered over a couple days. This enables release of the healing compounds (e.g., collagen, praline, glycine and glutamine) that boost overall health.
Bone broth contains minerals in forms that the body can easily absorb. These minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and many others. In fact, there are dozens of different nutrients found within bone broth, many of which cannot be obtained easily from commonly eaten foods. Additionally, bone broth contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine—compounds often sold as supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain!
Studies have shown that amino acids—as produced when making chicken stock/broth—
reduce inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. Research findings have also shown that bone broth boosts the immune system and is beneficial in healing disorders, such as allergies, asthma, and arthritis.
When buying bone broth, it is a good idea to be careful. This is because most broths sold in stores are not actually real bone broth (or real bone broth stock). To obtain the benefits of bone broth, it is very important to make sure you are buying (or making) real bone broth.
By regularly consuming bone broth—by itself or in recipes—you can promote the integrity of your digestive system!
Healing Foods and Supplements:
After completing a bone broth fast, it is important to continue the healing process by eating only foods that support gut healing. Below are a list of healing foods (followed by a list of supplements) that support healing from “leaky gut” syndrome.
Bone Broth: As previously mentioned, bone broth is one of the most powerful healing foods you can consume to heal from “leaky gut” syndrome. Bone broth contains collagen and the amino acids—praline and glycine—that can help to heal your damaged intestinal cell walls. A three-day bone broth fast can aid in this healing process. It is then recommended to periodically perform a bone broth fast throughout the year (at regular intervals) to promote and maintain the health of your gut.
Raw Cultured Dairy: Raw-cultured dairy products contain both probiotics and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that can help to heal the gut. Pastured kefir and yogurt are two of the best raw-cultured dairy options. Grass-fed organic products (rather than non-organic products) are preferable in order to avoid consuming antibiotics in your food.
Fermented Vegetables: The organic acids found in fermented vegetables help to balance the pH of the intestinal bloodstream, and contain probiotics. In turn, probiotics support digestive system function. As previously mentioned, sauerkraut and kimchi are excellent sources.
Coconut Products: All coconut products are good for your intestinal tract. The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut are easier to digest than other fats, so are an excellent additive to the diet in order to prevent or treat “leaky gut” syndrome. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics.
Sprouted Seeds: Chia seeds and flaxseeds are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. However, if you have severe “leaky gut” syndrome, you may need to refrain from consuming nuts and seeds as a source of fiber until more fully healed. This is because “leaky gut” syndrome can lead to diverticulitis, in which pockets develop in the intestinal walls, and where nuts/seeds can cause irritation.
Healthy Fats: Consuming healthy fats in moderation (i.e., from egg yolks, salmon, avocados, ghee, and coconut oil) are beneficial and promote gut healing.
Steamed Vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables that are steamed (rather than boiled) are an essential part of healing a leaky gut. Steaming is preferable to boiling because nutrients are “boiled” out into the water; thus, the nutrients are removed from the vegetables when eaten unless the water is made into soup. This is the reason that steaming vegetables is considered more healthful.
Fruit: Consuming 1-2 servings of fruit daily is good for “leaky gut” syndrome. However, if the symptoms are severe, eating fresh fruits should be limited. In general, consuming fruit is best in the morning, rather than evening, due to the sugar content found in most fruits. Especially recommended are bananas, kiwi, papaya, blueberries, and pineapple.
Probiotics (50 – 100 billion units daily): The most important supplement to take regularly is a probiotic. This is because probiotics helps to replenish the intestinal tract’s essential “good” bacteria—and thereby reduce an overgrowth of the other bacteria that can overwhelm the immune system. It is important to get probiotics in both food and supplement form. Especially if you are engaged in athletic activity, it is a good idea to eat a daily diet inclusive of probiotic-rich foods, while also taking a daily, high-quality supplement that offers at least 50 billion units of probiotics.
Digestive Enzymes (1 serving with each meal): Consuming digestive enzymes ensure that foods are fully digested. This decreases the likelihood of partially-digested food particles and proteins damaging your digestive system.
L-Glutamine: L-Glutamine is critical for any healing regimen aimed at a leaky gut. Glutamine powder is an essential amino acid supplement that is anti-inflammatory and necessary for the growth and repair of the intestinal lining. L-Glutamine benefits include: 1) acting as an immune protector, 2) coating cell walls, and 3) acting as a repellent to irritants. Take 2-5 grams of L-Glutamine twice daily.
Licorice Root (DGL): DGL is an adaptogenic herb that helps balance cortisol levels and regulates acid production in the stomach. DGL supports the body’s natural processes for maintaining the health of the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum. This herb is especially recommended if experiencing emotional stress, as it combats its effects on the gut. Take 500 mg twice daily.
Quercetin: This has been shown to improve gut barrier function. Not only does it support creation of tight junction proteins, but it also stabilizes mast cells and reduces the release of histamine—which is common in cases of food intolerance. Studies have also shown its effectiveness in healing from ulcerative colitis. Take 500 mg three times per day with meals.
Aloe Vera Juice: Drinking a half-cup thee times daily has been show to support healing of the digestive system.
Fish Oil (1,000 daily): Fish oil contains the essential fatty acids—EPA/DHA—which reduce inflammation.
Ginger and Peppermint Essential Oils: Ingesting essential oils of ginger and peppermint can soothe intestinal inflammation and support the healing of a leaky gut. Take 30-40 drops in water or tea per day of each of these two oils.
Oregano Oil: Oregano has antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. Two other benefits of oregano oil are that it has antioxidant properties and fights infection. One study has shown an overgrowth of a pathogenic organism was reduced by taking 600 mg of oregano oil daily.
Oregano essential oil also contains nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, potassium, and niacin. It is known to stimulate the flow of bile, which enhance the digestive process.
If you need an extra boost to your immune system, oregano oil can aid your immune system. Although it is not a cure for the common cold, many people claim that they start to feel better after placing 6 drops into an empty capsule and taking it 2-3 times daily before meals for 5-10 days. It may be a good substitute for an over-the-counter medication, that can irritate the entire intestinal tract.
Stage Three: Manage Your Daily Routine
Lower Cortisol Levels:
Adrenal glands are among the most important regulatory glands in our bodies. Yet they are often overlooked and over-worked. Adrenal glands produce cortisol, which is known as the “stress hormone”. A heightened cortisol level lowers the immune system function so that a “flight or fight response” ensues. While this innate response to a perceived threat benefited us greatly in prehistoric times, it happens in response to emotional stress (rather than a physical threat). Consequently, cortisol over-production can lower resistance to bacteria and viruses.
Adrenal fatigue occurs where cortisol production has over-stressed the adrenal glands into exhaustion, and also in some chronic or genetically-based disorders (e.g., Addison’s disease). A high level of sustained psychological stress can cause adrenal fatigue. Inflammation—and lowered immunity—are customary results of over-worked adrenal glands that are forced to secrete too much cortisol into the bloodstream. Continued cortisol production suppresses the immune system for an extended period, leaving you open to increased risk of infection, viruses and colds. Taking the time to recover from both emotional and physical stress can go a long way in supporting our immune system’s strength.
Physical activity is a natural stress-reliever. It raises levels of endorphins and also acts as an immunomodulator. In particular, it is well-recognized that physical activity is good for “heart health” and bone density. Meanwhile, maintaining adequate bone density is important to avoid spontaneous bone fractures and the development of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis.
Heat Shock Proteins (HSP) initiate an inflammatory response during times of acute emotional or physical stress. Those who are less physically fit are not as capable of producing HSPs as those who are in top-notch physical condition. Recommended overall is to maintain a regular exercise regimen, preferably at a moderate intensity.
Chronic over-exertion can strain the body, and lead to potassium depletion (which can lead to heart rhythm problems). Therefore, a sensible exercise program tailored to your own health and psychosocial needs is best for overall health.
Get Plenty of Sleep:
Sleep is a physiological necessity, and is the time that cellular repair to tissues occur (including immune system repair). Therefore, sleep deprivation is harmful to the immune system and all physiological processes. Hormonal changes and immune function follow the natural circadian rhythms of the body.
During sleep, cortisol levels are particularly low. This allows for increased cytokine production activity. (Cytokines are active during times of illness, which explains in part why people often experience increased sleepiness during periods of illness!) Acute sleep deprivation has been associated with decreased antibody production, which increases the likelihood of contracting a bacterial or viral infection such as a head cold or gastrointestinal illness.
Proper functioning of the immune system is fundamental to staying healthy. For people engaged in CrossFit activities and other athletic endeavors, maintaining good immune function is crucial—as lowered immunity causes fatigue and a depletion of energy. In fact, feeling chronically tired is a symptom of poor immune function.
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, there are around 1.6 million people in the U.S. who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and around 70,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Unhealthy diets contribute to this growing problem. Additionally, meals that are low in nutritional value can predispose to future health problems. Meanwhile, a weakened immune system is closely associated with an increased risk of infection, and poor healing from cuts and bruises.
Eating foods that are organically-grown and nutrient-rich is essential for a high-functioning immune system. Daily vitamins and supplements can aid in boosting the ability of the immune system to protect the body from bacterial or viral assault.
Carefully selected foods and supplements can be an excellent adjunct to eating a healthy daily diet, engaging in adequate exercise, and obtaining at least seven hours per night of sleep. Take care of your fortress of defense to enjoy a long and healthy life!
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