It’s that time of year again, sniffles, colds, maybe even a full blown flu that lasts a week or two. And with the holidays approaching, the assaults on your immune system are legion, and they’re on their way.
- Vitamin D- Some speculate that lower levels of sun exposure, and dropping levels of vitamin D may weaken the immune system.
- Indoors- Whatever microbes that attack you will linger around indoors instead of being blown away by the wind or fried by UV light.
- Other People- Being indoors a lot also means being around other people and their pathogenic microbes. Holiday gatherings intensify this.
- Test your levels and supplement if needed. Or, take a tropical vacation and get some winter sun!
- Keep your distance from other people, wash your hands a lot, and don’t touch your face. Hand sanitizer helps. Most cold and flu viruses enter via your face. Old news, for sure, but it works.
But Most Important is to Strengthen Your Immune System
I have a problem with the germ theory of disease. If it were purely about germs, we would all be sick all the time because we are always surrounded by germs. The most important part of all this is a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system should be able to handle the viruses and bacteria that surround us, since we all evolved together.
How do you maximize your immune system?
Skip the vitamin C, and read Dr. Fuhrman’s excellent book, Super Immunity.
This book is a fantastic exploration of how nutrition and diet can affect the immune system in two very important ways: cancer prevention, and communicable diseases. Tgose seem like very different subjects, but they are related becasue the immune system not only keeps away colds and flu, but also destroys cancer cells before they can develop into tumors and metastasize into something really scary.
How Diet Affects Immunity
Here Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Certainly, the exposure to the virus and its multiplication within our body is at the core of viral infections. However, though it is not generally recognized, the virus adapts itself to the host (our body) and becomes dangerous and multiplies as a result of the host’s disease promoting environment, created by nutritional inadequacy. ( Super Immunity, p. 29)
So a healthy diet creates a healthy immune system, and viruses will struggle and fail to get a grip within your body.
Dr. Fuhrman’s Anti-Virus Prescription:
A clever mnemonic:
- G- greens (spinach, chard, kale etc.)
- B- beans (legumes, peas and lentils)
- O- onions (all onion types and garlic)
- M- mushrooms (all types)
- B- berries
- S- seeds
The Super Immunity protocol is to incorporate as many of these ingredients in as many meals as possible. Occasionally, I’ve been able to put them all in one dish, but the berries are usually the tricky one to include. But we know that these nutrients are stored in the body, so if you got them all in over the course of a day, imagine what immune system power you’d have!
Work with it Wednesdays will be devoted to testing out some of the book’s recipes over at The Training Table. Check ’em out.
The cold and flu season is here, and all the usual precautions apply: wash your hands often, increase the size of your “bubble” and do not touch your face. I’m talkin’ to you, picking your nose at a stoplight! Seriously, though, that is the easiest way for pathogens to enter your body in sufficient force to cause illness. I don’t get sick very often, despite encountering a lot of people every day. I attribute that to a plant based diet, but recovering from a cold right now has prompted me to remind myself of some cold and flu secrets.
I have a problem with the germ theory of disease. There are pathogenic bacteria and viruses all around us, yet we only get sick occasionally. Some people get sick, but those closest to them do not. So something else is at work here, and that something is the immune system. A healthy immune system should be able to resist any infection.
So hygiene aside, what can we do to optimize our immune system?
- Get enough sleep- Sleep deprivation causes stress that interferes with immune response
- Reduce stress- Stress puts the immune system on hold until the threat is over
- Exercise- Moderate, regular exercise like base training improves immune function
- Nutrition- Get lots of phytochemicals and micronutrients, from food, not supplements
G-BOMBS to the Rescue
Big ups to Dr. Fuhrman and his recent book Super Immunity for details about how lifestyle impacts the immune system for both infectious disease and cancer. He created that acronym to serve as a reminder of the most potent immune system supporting foods to include as often as possible.
G- Greens: all leafy green and cruciferous vegetables like kale, collards, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli
B- Beans: all varieties of beans, peas and lentils
O- Onions: anything in the allium family: onions, leeks and garlic
M- Mushrooms: turns out this low calorie filler has potent immune benefits
B- Berries: antioxidants and more, grapes included
S- Seeds: especially pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame
You do not have to have all of these ingredients in the same dish or meal; spread throughout the day they provide the same benefit. But it is kinda fun to see if you can pack them all into one dish.
Here is one G-BOMBS Dish:
Based on a Spanish dish
Saute some chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add a bunch of chopped chard, a few sliced white mushrooms, and some diced tomato. Cover and steam for a few minutes. Uncover and add a can of drained garbanzo beans, a handful or raisins or currants, and season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and a splash of balsamic. Heat through. Garnish with sunflower seeds and serve over rice, potatoes or your favorite starch.