It’s that time of the year again! It’s the season for playing in the winter snow, cozying up with some hot chocolate, a blanket and binging on Netflix…and the time for seasonal sniffles, coughs, colds and flu. This time of the year we are more vulnerable to viruses and allergies. No one enjoys being sick and contagious. So to decrease our chances of getting colds and coughs, we MUST strengthen our Immune Systems!
What is the Immune System anyway? It’s the body’s defense system against infection. It’s our built in armor that protects against and destroys viruses and illness. Think of your Immune System as a parent or that protective older brother. Because they love you, they will protect you at all costs and not let anyone or anything hurt you. Like our Immune System, they can also be “overprotective”. So although majority of the time we are being protected from the bad, that protection can also destroy some of the good that is meant to help. This can lead to Auto-immune Disease. For example, in the case of a donated organ or blood, the Immune System recognizes that as unfamiliar and therefore can turn on it’s own cells. Overall though, the stronger our Immune System, the healthier we are.
Just as a soldier in war without proper artillery and body armor would be highly vulnerable to attack, a weakened Immune System leaves our bodies open to attack from viruses, parasites and more. So how can we build the strongest armor? Well there are several ways you can strengthen or weaken your Immune System. Some of those include avoiding tobacco and alcohol, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, taking cold showers (which is strangely one of my favorites!). I have a love for “healing” foods however, and this is the “Food As Medicine” series so I am going to focus on how our diets can build or destroy our armor.
The specific tasks of the Immune System include:
1. Neutralizing pathogens, viruses, parasites and removing them from our bodies.
2. Recognizes “self-cells” (of you) and “non-self” cells (not of you) and destroys the unfamiliar cells to protect.
Let’s begin with what weakens the Immune System and therefore should be avoided (just as a reminder, EVERYTHING we put into our body is important). It will come as no surprise that red meat, fried foods, excess sugars and processed foods all contribute in various ways to weakening our Immune Systems. Just drinking a couple of sugary drinks can curb the Immune System cells that attack bacteria for at least a few hours post consumption! For various reasons and optimal health, these foods should be limited or avoided.
A lot of those, often called, “junk foods” cause our Immune System to activate the inflammation response to protect our cells. As the intake of junk food continues, the immune cells will “overreact” and inflammation starts to run rampant throughout the body. For a myriad of reasons…no-one wants chronic inflammation!
So now that we know what to avoid, let’s dive into the must have Immune Boosting Foods! It’s important to point out that, it’s really about the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that boost our bodies armor. Therefore I will list below the important nutrient and foods that contain them.
All of the above foods definitely do more than just strengthen the Immune System. They benefit our body in so many ways. As noted earlier, there are other things we should do to boost and maintain a strong Immune System. Let “food be your pharmacy” and include as many of these nutrient dense foods as you can to naturally heal and prevent illness!
Bonus: Many teas have Immune Boosting Properties as well. My current daily fix is Eucalyptus tea! Will a little cinnamon and honey, its AWESOME!
“Let food be thy medicine & medicine be thy food”