By Ellie Kempton of Simply Nourished
It seems as though immunity is the new buzz word. And I’m thrilled!
While there is typically more of a focal point on immunity during specific times of the year, it’s important [especially now more than ever] to focus on things we can do daily [instead of just seasonally] to support the defense we have within.
As a functional dietitian, I look at the immune system from two angles. On the more functional [traditional] side of medicine, immune support entails stripping away the unnecessary, both in food and lifestyle to decrease the body’s perception of threat.
On the clinical side, it’s a time to focus on giving the body key nutrients that it needs to sharpen its defenses.
Before we dive into the specific checklist honoring both the functional and the clinical angles of immunity, lets first look at what the immune system IS.
The immune system is an intricate network of specialized cells, each with a unique role in fighting infection. Everything from colds, to inflammation or cancer prevention relies upon the immune system.
The different types of immune cells act as tiny soldiers, battling foreign invaders to keep your body healthy. Some of these cells act as intelligence scouts searching for danger and alerting the rest of your body when danger is encountered.
Other cells act as front-line combatants, responding to these signals and attacking foreign invaders. The regulation of immunity depends on cell communication. There are literally thousands of biochemical processes that occur on every single cell, every second!
Our immune cells create a series of signals that tell the body to ramp up the immune response. These cells also signal when the coast is clear and the immune response can be resolved.
The top 3 threats to the immune system are:
- environmental chemicals // pesticides
Just like any other army, our tiny immunity soldiers need ammunition to fight these threats and that ammunition comes predominately from food. Without a rich supply of key nutrients to nourish and support the immune system a breakdown is likely to happen.
Above and beyond food, the immune system needs to be reminded it is safe multiple times per day. This is where intentional lifestyle design comes into play. When you get ample sleep, wake up at consistent times and practice grounding exercises [or even micro-meditations], the immune system does not become weakened as readily by it's unrelenting perception of threat. When the immune system senses safety, it can “rest” and rebuild more readily.
In order to experience this robust immunity first hand, consider weaving together stress reduction rituals with the following food “superheroes.“ The foods listed below are designed beautifully to strengthen, defend and rebuild the immune system.
- the body requires protein to make the cells that fight the infection
- consume 3-4 servings of protein per day spaced evenly apart using both animal and plant- based protein
- example protein snacks: turkey pepperoni, hard boiled eggs, collagen in drink of choice, roasted chickpeas
- consider using bone broth as one of your protein options for the day since it boasts trace
minerals and nutrients critical for immune function kickA$$ cultured food
- your gut is home to the trillions of bacteria that make up your microbiome, and these bacteria play a critical role in maintaining a strong immune system
- consume 1 bite or sip of one of these daily: coconut water kefir + kombucha + kimchi + sauerkraut + miso + pickles [make sure to purchase raw cultured variety not pickled preserved variety]
the CEOs of protection [vitamin C rich foods]
- citrus, bell peppers, kiwis, kale, broccoli & Brussel sprouts
- C is the master antioxidant of the body decreasing exposure to oxidative stress
- add these foods to your grocery shopping list and pair them with protein as a snack in the afternoons
- preferably raw- a potent antimicrobial that kills bacteria and viruses
- double the dose of garlic called for in recipes
- mushrooms help build blood cells and are antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral in nature
- consider adding them into meals as a source of both immunity protection and source of protein
- seek out asian varieties when possible such as shiitake or maitake
Once you have scanned the list, write down 3 of the foods that popped out to you that you can commit to implementing daily. Beside that list, write down 3 ways you can indulge in self-care daily. Think simple; be realistic. Here’s my list for you to emulate:
- wake at the same time daily
- 30-45 min exercise [walk // strength train] before breakfast sip of coconut water kefir with breakfast
- protein snack at 2
- double garlic in recipes
- epsom salt bath before bed
While it’s easy to fall prey to fear of immune compromise, the best antidote is to take action. Your body will respond beautifully to information in food it understands and subtle indicators that there is no immediate danger [i.e self-care].
At the end of the day less is more. Do less of what counts.