Your health is one of the most valuable things you have. At the front line of defense is your immune system, there to help protect your body from bacteria, toxins and invaders. Your immune system is the gatekeeper for what gets in and what stays out of your body. It can virtually impact all other systems in the body as when any environment is under attack, every system is called to arms. There are ways that can help you get over an illness faster, but one of the best ways to fight illness is to prevent it.
As one of the major keys to health is an immune system quick to respond to fight off disease producing organisms we are continuously exposed to. From circulating toxins in AC units, exposure to common coughs and colds, food spoilage and general habits such as touching your face, tend to put you at a little more risk.
It is nearly impossible to germproof yourself as microbes are everywhere. Being exposed to germs is a part of life, and in fact favorable to help strengthen our immune system. This is also the concept behind vaccinations for childhood diseases such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella, to help to build immunity and give your child robust protection against these diseases. Microbes are evolving making your immune system even more important to keep in order along with learning to minimize risk.
Newborn infants gain much of their immunity from colostrum in mothers breast milk as well as being exposed to the outside world. Medications such as antibiotics early in life, while helping to combat infections, can have a long-term negative impact if used too often. Introducing solid foods too early before digestion is able to tolerate certain food molecules can trigger other long-term health problems. Following the standard dietetic recommendations early in life is critical for growth, cognitive development and avoiding ongoing health problems.
Good nutrition is natural medicine at all ages, however what is ‘good’ can be a bit lost in the sea of information especially from food manufacturers. Key messages about eating a variety of foods and across all food groups is still the best advice but you can also pick and choose your favourite foods to help avoid nutritional deficiencies while being a picky eater. There are some very important nutrients responsible for developing and keeping the immune system healthy and strong.
These include vitamins A, C, D, E and essential fatty acids (omega-3). The most important minerals include zinc, iron, magnesium and selenium. These nutrients can be obtained from a normal wholefoods diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Animal proteins are also a valuable source of many nutrients, essential proteins, iron, zinc and very important fatty acids but it is not essential to have these if you approach a vegetarian or vegan diet, well informed.
Processed or artificially manipulated food have not stood the test of time, and along with additives and agents that over burden digestion, have contributed to poor nutrition and what is termed malnutrition through over nutrition.
One of the big hurdles we have to overcome today is to relearn and accept the role of fats in the diet. When we continue to say that foods are fattening, of course we are saying that they contribute to excess energy needs and therefore we store the energy as fat. Dietary fats come in a couple of different categories and can either enhance or impair immune function. The amount of fat is also important as very low fat is not healthy and too much just isn’t required.
A move away from animal fats to refined seed oils was thought to be a good move for heart health but time has proved that wrong. Good fats are still the naturally occurring fats that have not been manipulated or hydrogenated. Why they pose a threat to health is that once heated, they provide a lot more of the building blocks for inflammation to flourish and that makes existing disease even harder to control with lifestyle. What’s out is soy, sunflower, safflower, canola, vegetable, corn oils and hydrogenated margarines.
Essential fatty acids EFA, are the fatty building blocks our body “needs” and essential to normal immune and nervous system function. They are found in flaxseed oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil, coconut oil, nut oils, algae and fish oil. A sustainably sourced vegan algae omega 3 oil in combination with other plant oils is a great option. Animal fats in small amounts such as butter, dairy are also healthy and natural. Grass-fed animals have a greater nutritional value due to sun exposure, omega 3’s and a natural unprocessed food source which is extremely important for animal hygiene and health. I would stand behind butter and dairy from New Zealand, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland.
Time has not faded the benefits of vitamin C in immune health and a more recent addition to the immunity first aid kit is echinacea. Both can be taken as preventative to the onset of infection.
Colostrum is described as “liquid gold” especially for the new-born baby. It is highly concentrated protein and nutrient dense. It plays a crucial role in building the immune system as it is rich in white cells containing antibodies called IgA that help protect against and fight infection. It has other immuno-protective components and growth factors that stimulate the production of protective mucus membranes and boost digestive health.
A probiotic supplementation is possibly at the top of our list and even more important if you have a history of antibiotic use, reoccurring infections and digestive symptoms. Different probiotic strains target different health conditions, and your levels of the important strains can be identified on a GI Map stool test.
Herbs have historically been used to improve resistant to illness and studies often conclude the remarkable immunological effects of echinacea and garlic.
When it comes to fighting potential immune issues, digestion is key. Even at an early age, food allergies and intolerances, tummy issues from bloating to stomach migraines, low energy, and sore joints can challenge the immune system. A good place to start is to keep a diary and watch for reactions from the following foods – dairy, eggs, gluten grains wheat/barley/rye, other cereal grains such as corn, nuts, pulses, fruits, vegetables, yeast, chocolate. An IgG food intolerance test measures the physiological response to the exposure to food. Its not usually the food that is the problem, but the health of the digestive tract and the permeability of the intestinal membrane. Removing foods for a time can dampen down inflammation and allow the body to heal.