Did you know that 70% of your immune system is located in your gut? Well it is! And I thought with us being in the midst of cold and flu season, what better time than now to discuss what eating healthy for your immune system means.
What is job of our immune system?
Put simply, our immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins meant to defend our body against infection. The immune system attacks infectious organisms and bacteria any time they invade the body. Once an attack happens the immune system keeps a copy of the germ it defeated, so if that same germ enters the body, it can be defeated even quicker Cool, huh!?
Why do we get sick?
We get sick when our immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off the germs or bacteria. This is why two people can be exposed to the same germs and one will get sick while the other will be fine. It all comes down to our immune systems’ ability to defend against germs and bacteria. When we give our body what it needs to be operating at peak performance, it has the strength to defend, but when we provide it with poor quality foods, in its weakened state, we find ourselves to be more susceptible to colds and the flu.
Eating foods that are alkaline in nature (see my article here for more info on this https://healthyhitlist.com/acidic-vs-alkaline-foods-complete-with-acidic-alkaline-food-chart/ ), allows the body to function better, than eating acidic foods, which tend to push the body into overdrive, and further away from that peak state. The more acidic foods we eat, which include processed and sugary foods, the wider we open that door that leads us to catching a cold or coming down with the flu.
Is the flu really what we’ve been taught it is?
There are a lot of theories floating around about the flu and why its more prevalent during holiday time. To be honest I believe there is truth to all of them. We are inside more due to colder weather outside. We travel more, and with recycled air and tons of germs in close quarters on an airplane we’re definitely targeted to get sick. While its a fun time of year overall, its also a very stressful time of year, and that adds to the probability of getting sick. It’s also been said that the dryness, keeps our mucus membranes from operating to the best of their ability which increases the odds of us getting sick with a cold or the flu.
But the area I’m going to focus on is the food. How well did you eat this holiday season? Because I can definitely say I had a few too many yummy treats and not so good for me foods that I don’t normally indulge in. It’s the holidays after all. You’re supposed to not care what you eat, right? Diet after New Years! And guess what happened to me…right after New Years? Yup, you guessed it! I got sick!
I didn’t travel. I wasn’t in too close of quarters. I love winter sports so I’m outdoors a lot. The only thing for me that changed was how I ate. Feeding your body nutritious, whole foods will 100% lead you to keeping your immune system healthy and ready to fight whatever germs or bacteria come your way. But the opposite is true as well. Eating poorly will lower your defenses and you will more than likely end up sick.
Effects of over the counter cold medicines
Our bodies are pretty fantastic and have the ability to heal themselves. And while it might not be pretty or feel good, your body is doing whatever it needs to do in order to get rid of the germs inside and heal you. Whether its through your skin when you sweat from a fever, your nose by causing you to blow it constantly, a cough that helps you to exit phlegm, or going to the bathroom there is a purpose.
When we buy a medicine to stop the cough or slow the runny nose, all we are doing is delaying the process of healing. Sure it feels better for those few hours, but how many days have you now extended your cold? If you can stay home or stick it out your best bet is to let it run its course. Sometimes we have an important meeting or an event that we must be on point for. So I get it. For those few hours take that pill or cough syrup, but as soon as its over let your body do its job.
Foods to eat to maintain health
So by now, I think you got the idea. Poor quality food = being sick. High quality food = maintaining health. As we approach times when we typically let ourselves go, or have more sweets and alcohol, try to remember to still include all these high quality foods in order to keep your gut healthy and your immune system strong.
Citrus Fruits – Known for the Vitamin C, that our body doesn’t produce, they can give you that daily dose to keep you healthy. These include grapefruits, clementines, lemons, limes, oranges and tangerines. Pairing citrus fruits with iron rich foods such as leafy greens help to maximize the nutritional benefits.
Broccoli – Packed with Vitamins A, C and E, along with antioxidants and fiber you’ll definitely want to include this in your meals. Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit or neutralize free radicals that cause cell damage and help to keep the body healthy.
Garlic – Helps lower blood pressure and fights off infections. Garlic in test tubes has been shown to kill cancer cells. Its antibacterial properties can help kill bacteria on the foods you eat with it. Best affects are raw, but any garlic is better than no garlic.
Spinach – Rich in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and antioxidants. The nutrients in spinach boost immune function and provide the body with the nutrients necessary for cell division and DNA repair. Raw or lightly cooked is the best way to enjoy.
Almonds – Raw almonds offer Vitamin E which is essential for a healthy immune system. Naturally occurring chemicals found in the skin of the nuts boost the immune system, and its been shown that even after the nuts have been digested the benefits of an increased immune system defense remain.
Red Bell Peppers – With more vitamin C than any citrus fruit, and beta-carotene, don’t forget this great option. Ounce for ounce, red peppers contain twice the amount of Vitamin C as citrus, so if you’re not in the mood for something sweet, this is definitely a better option.
Take some of these and call me in the morning
These are some of my go to’s when I’m sick in no particular order:
- Cut up pieces of raw garlic (very small) and swallow as if you are taking pills.
- Apple cider vinegar – add to hot tea or water
- Lemon – add to hot tea or water
- Honey – add to hot tea or mix with lemon and eat if your vocal chords are strained
- Raw Ginger – peeled and added to boiling water to make tea
- Cayenne pepper spice – add to hot flavored tea and drink
- Oregano essential oil – add into a veggie capsule and swallow, or on the bottom of your feet before bed
- Ginger essential oil – add into a veggie capsule and swallow
- Turmeric essential oil – add into a veggie capsule and swallow, or spice added to food
- Peppermint essential oil – rub into temples and back of neck for headache, or with hot water for stomach ache
- Camu Camu Powder (Vitamin C) – mix with water and drink
- Phresh Greens (or your preferred greens) – mix with water and drink
Don’t wait, start today!
We often wait until we are sick to tell ourselves that we must eat better. Start eating healthy for your immune system today! Take even just a few of the tips above and work them into your diet on a weekly basis and you’ll start to notice that even when you’re around others that are sick, you won’t end up catching it. And if you’re like me, when you do, you’ll be able to look back and realize the exact reasons you ended up getting sick. Wishing you the best on your food journey!