By Dr. Ed Bauman
The recipe for immune health is to eat and sleep well, stay hydrated, walk daily, take antioxidant nutrients and maintain a kind, positive attitude come what may.
The immune system is our cellular guardian angel and private body guard. The sweet part is that it works to watch over us every minute of every day and is dedicated to protecting our cells from outside or inside threats. Should a microbe, such as a virus, enter our body, a carefully mediated response is set in motion to neutralize the intruder. Typically, the body responds with a localized inflammatory response from the skin or mucous membranes to keep the offender away from our precious internal organs.
For most, the immune system does a splendid job of identifying, neutralizing and disposing of foreign materials so that we can go on with our daily activities. Occasionally, the overload of stress, toxins and trauma, coupled with inadequate nutrition, catches up with us. Our immune system is first overwhelmed and then exhausted. It’s when we are run down that a seasonal cold or flu hits like a storm with ensuing fatigue, pain and brain fog. In most cases, a few days to a week of rest, fluids, nourishing foods and diminished stress allow the body to naturally resolve the infection. The energy required for an immune intervention varies depending on the intensity and severity of the threat.
If the foreign substance is highly cytotoxic (cell poisoning), there will be double trouble. The pathogen damages our cells and the aggressive response of our immune system to metabolize the substance is highly oxidative, damaging cells in the localized region of the battle. Repeated incidents of antigens and immune defender skirmishes weaken the body leaving it vulnerable to chronic infection. Additionally, damage to the nerves, muscles and affected tissues cause soreness, pain and injury.
A person with a hypo (under active) functioning immune system will get frequent colds, flus and infections. When a person has a hyper (over active) functioning immune system, great sensitivity and autoimmune responses occur. A mild form of hyper immune response is food and environmental sensitivities. More severe forms of auto-immune illness are the degenerative conditions of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, myasthenia gravis and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), to name a few….
The quality of the food is of the utmost importance, since chemicals and pesticides can be a major antigen source. Organic foods are crucial for restoring immune balance, with care to watch out for mold on fruits and vegetables. Produce can be sprayed with 10 drops of grapefruit seed extract in a 16 oz. spray bottle of pure water followed by a clear rinse to remove possible contaminants.
With the onset of a flu pandemic, the entire world has been advised by public health officials to take vaccines to protect them from the H1NI virus. For the person with a low immune response, this may be a protective decision, so that their body will identify the flu and be prepared. However, for the person with a hyperactive immune system, this could very well trigger an overly aggressive reaction to the vaccine. The reaction may further inflame previously damaged tissues and cause an oxidative response that will add insult, injury and potentially serious damage to the brain, nerves and affected body systems. In addition, flu shots can contain polysorbate 80, which can cause allergic reactions; formaldehyde, a known carcinogen; gentamicin, an antibiotic; and thirerosal mercury as a preservative (Barron, John. Baseline of Health, October 25, 2009).
The allopathic approach to immune conditions gives little or no attention to a person’s diet, lifestyle, environment, mental/emotional state, or stress response. If a person is hardy, they will endure and survive a series of immune challenges and treatments. However, those who are not so strong can get worn down energetically, nutritionally, and metabolically. With an overworked, undernourished immune system, a person will gain weight, become depressed, and rely on stimulants, sugar, drugs and distraction to get through the day, wondering why their “get up and go got up and went.”
Food is the major factor in restoring immune competency and resilience. Our supply of immune-mediating chemicals is finite and dependent on nutrients from our food supply. A commercial Western diet with refined carbohydrates, stimulants, enriched, processed food, hormone-enriched meats and dairy adds antigens can trigger an immune response. In addition, this way of eating compromises digestion, causing a reactive, inflamed, and leaky gut.
SOS! Challenged Immune System
The foundational approach I use with clients with immune issues is called healing from the ground up. It gives students and clients a clear path to follow to check off their nutritional support system. Clients become empowered when they recognize that they were setting themselves up for problems with a poor diet and chaotic lifestyle. By gradually decreasing immune-activating antigens, and restoring vitality with fresh, seasonal food, herbs, targeted nutrients and a positive attitude, they have the resources to mount an appropriate and successful immune response when they are hit with a virus.
Vitamin D Prevents Colds, Flu: Study
Vitamin D is an important way to arm the immune system against disorders like the common cold, report investigators from the University of Colorado Denver (UC Denver) School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Children’s Hospital Boston. In the largest and most nationally representative study of the association between vitamin D and respiratory infections, people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu. The risks were even higher for those with chronic respiratory disorders, such as asthma and emphysema. The report appears in the February 23, 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine:”The findings of our study support an important role for vitamin D in prevention of common respiratory infections, such as colds and the flu,” says Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, UC Denver Division of Emergency Medicine and lead author of the study. “Individuals with common lung diseases, such as asthma or emphysema, may be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections from vitamin D deficiency.” Asthma patients with the lowest vitamin D levels were five times more likely to have had a recent respiratory infection; while among COPD patients, respiratory infections were twice as common among those with vitamin D deficiency.
Foods and a Special Herb for Immune Support
Berries provide the highest concentration of antioxidants. Studies with animals show they also have anti-viral, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties (Sakagami, H. et al. Anti-stress, anti-HIV and vitamin C-synergized radical scavenging activity of mulberry juice fractions. In Vivo. 2007 May-Jun: 21(3): 499-505).
Onions and garlic are time-tested immune boosters, containing alium, a sulfur amino acid that the body uses to detoxify foreign chemicals and microbial by-products.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, rich in sulfur, vitamin C, and B complex support detoxification. (Bennet, Peter. 7-Day Detox Miracle. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001, p.102).
Propolis, an herb from honey bees that is used as a building material and antiseptic agent in their hives, is full of flavinoids and phenolic acids. These active ingredients are anti-inflammatory and are helpful in clearing bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. (Cody, V et al. Plant Flavonoids in Biology and Medicine. Biochemical, Cellular, and Molecular Properties. 1988; Alan R Liss; New York).
Daily Eating for Immune Health Checklist
- Beverages – water, tea, fresh juice, broth
- Colorful Carbohydrates – leafy, crunchy, gluten-free grains
- Booster Foods / Vital Scoop – 1-2 x day
- Lean, Clean Protein at each meal
- Friendly Fats – avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, coconut
- Fermented Foods – yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut
- Herbs and Supplements – as advised by a certified Nutrition Consultant
- Rest, peace, prayers, and care to avoid toxic people and situations
Supplements for Protection + Management
When choosing a supplement program, it is best to consult with a certified Nutrition Consultant to fine-tune to your needs.
The forecast is for more immune challenges. If you do catch a cold or flu, take the time to rest and recover. Post-flu fatigue is an indication of insufficient nutrients before, during, and after exposure. The way to cell protection and a resilient immune system is to stay away from immune-weakening substances, such as caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, foods you are sensitive to, environmental chemicals, stress, noise, pollution, and bad TV. The mind/body connection is a key to immune health. A great diet, with exercise, rest, recreation, and nourishing relations, help you maintain a positive attitude. A positive attitude will reinforce excellent health habits.