By Edward Bauman, M.Ed., Ph.D.
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.
A good rule of thumb is to eat warming foods if you are a person with a hypo-immune condition and cooling foods if you are a person with a hyper-immune condition. Should there be both deficient and excessive immune responses intermittently, a balance of warming and cooling foods are best. Seasonal influences should be taken into consideration so that more cooling foods are consumed in warm weather and more warming foods are consumed in cool weather. 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 an onset of a flu pandemic, the entire world has been advised by public health officials to take vaccines for protection. 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, under-nourished 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 Needs
Key Nutrients to Stay Well and Strong
A fresh, local, seasonal, organic, plant-based diet will lower the antigenic load, while providing protective and restorative antioxidants that cool inflammation. This is why chicken soup with garlic, greens, brown rice, colorful vegetables, and savory herbs and spices is so restorative. It’s not folklore, but concentrated, digestible nutrition. Let’s take a holistic approach to nutrition and immunity by Eating for Health. Whether an individual has an under- or over-functioning immune system, they are being heavily taxed by the energy it takes to protect the body from foreign compounds. Sad to say, immunity is often a battle scene. Unless a person can feed their immune soldiers, they will wither and lose numbers and territory. Precious organ reserves are depleted; proteins and minerals are needed to repair damaged cells. B vitamins are in short supply to support the nerves, digestion, and cell metabolism. The demand for zinc and vitamin A rises to create enzymes and support the formation of new immune cells in the bone marrow and thymus gland. Vitamin C, along with aromatic oils from rosemary, sage, thyme and citrus, help the lymph system to clear cell debris and keep the adrenals from becoming exhausted. Selenium and sulfur amino acids, found in eggs and legumes, contain amino acids to enable the liver and cells to keep up with the burden of detoxification. 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, reports 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.
Food and a Special Herb from Bees 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).
Nutrients for Cold and Flu Protection,
Management and Recovery
When choosing a supplement program, it is best to consult with a certified Nutrition Consultant to fine-tune to your needs.
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
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.
In following the Recipe for Immune Health, you will worry less about potential threats and be more effective in dealing with real ones. By creating health every day, we boost our immune health to live healthfully ever after. Bon Appétit!
Recipes for immune health follow for you to make, enjoy at home, and share with others.
(Stock for use in Miso Soup recipe to follow) x 4
Makes: 1 quart
1 6” strip of kombu
4 cups filtered water
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 dried maitake mushrooms
• In a stock pot, soak the kombu in the water for 2 hours.
• Heat kombu water to a gentle boil.
• Add dried mushrooms, then turn off heat, cover and let stand for 20 minutes.
• Strain or remove the kombu and mushrooms with a slotted spoon. Discard the kombu.
• Mushrooms can be sliced and used in the soup or reserved for another dish.
Kombu Miso Soup with Immune Veggies
Chef Lizette Marx
Makes: 4 quarts
4 quarts kombu dashi
2 turnips, scrubbed, trimmed and cut into 1/4” pieces
2 parsnips, scrubbed, trimmed and cut into 1/4” pieces
4 carrots, scrubbed, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
3 cups finely sliced leeks
1/2 lb. soft tofu, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms
4 Tbsp. dried wakame seaweed
1 cup miso
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
4 green onions, sliced
• Finely chopped parsley for garnish
• Drizzle of sesame oil/umeboshi plum vinegar for garnish
• Prepare kombu dashi (see previous recipe).
• Pour dashi into a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.
• Add turnips and parsnips. Simmer for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
• Reduce heat to medium-low and add the carrots and leeks. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
• Add tofu, shiitake mushrooms and wakame. Simmer for another 3 minutes.
• Pour about 2 cups of the broth into a medium-sized bowl. Add miso and stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve.
• Return miso mixture to stockpot and add the green onions. Be sure to reduce the heat to low and allow simmering for 1 minute more. DO NOT BOIL. Stir in nutritional yeast.
• Serve immediately, garnishing with chopped parsley, sesame oil, and umeboshi plum vinegar.
Roasted Cauliflower “Cous Cous”
Chef Jennifer Una, N.E., Natural Chef
2 whole cauliflower
1/4 cup olive oil
10 kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup currants, soaked for 15 minutes in warm water and drained
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped fine, soaked for 15 minutes and drained
4 Tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 carrots, cut into confetti
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
SPRING MIX DIRECTIONS:
• Preheat over to 400˚F.
• Break cauliflower into small flowerets. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay pieces out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 400˚F. for 20 minutes or until starting to brown and soften.
• Put chopped olives, capers, lemon zest, and garlic in mortar and pestle. Mash into paste. Add mustard, pepper, vinegar, and lemon juice. Mix well.
• When cauliflower is done, turn out on another tray to cool. When cool enough to handle, turn onto cutting board and chop into very small pieces — the size of a caper or smaller. Put pieces into large mixing bowl. Add currants, cranberries, pine nuts, carrots, celery, and onion. Toss. Add olive/caper mixture and mix well. Add more olive oil and vinegar if necessary to taste.
• Lay mixed greens on a plate. Place a small ring mold on greens and pack with cauliflower mixture. Remove ring and garnish with finely chopped olives and capers.
Flax Pesto on Spaghetti Squash
Ed Bauman, M.Ed., Ph.D.
2 whole spaghetti squash
1 cup fresh basil leaves, thoroughly washed and patted dry
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, thoroughly washed and patted dry
4 medium/large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 cup golden flax seeds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
• Preheat over to 400˚F.
• Place spaghetti squash in a baking dish. Pierce in several places with a fork. Place in preheated oven to bake — about 1 hour.
• Combine the basil, cilantro, garlic, and flax in the bowl of a food processor or blender and chop.
• Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
• Shut the motor off; add the cheeses, salt and pepper. Process or blend briefly to combine, then scrape out into a bowl and cover until ready to use.
• When squash is cooked through (test with a fork or knife — should pierce easily), remove from oven. Let cool for a few minutes to handle. Cut squash in half across middle. Scoop out seeds with spoon. With fork, scrape out “spaghetti” into a large pasta bowl. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
• Spoon pesto over the spaghetti. Garnish with chopped cilantro and a few fresh basil leaves. Serve.
Poached Black Cod with Green Tea Vinaigrette and Pea Shoots
Chef Jennifer Una, N.E., Natural Chef
POACHING LIQUID VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS:
5 cups water
1 Tbsp. sesame oil, toasted
5 bags green tea
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
4 tsp. grated ginger
2 tsp. tamari soy sauce
4 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 cups green tea
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2” black cod or other white fish
2/3 tsp. minced ginger
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. umeboshi plum paste
PEA SHOOTS INGREDIENTS:
2 tsp. sesame oil, not toasted
6 cloves, garlic
2 lb. pea shoots
4 scallions, sliced thin
• Heat 5 cups of water in a saucepan until it begins to simmer. Turn off the heat and add the green tea bags. Cover and steep for 5 minutes and then remove the tea bags.
• In a deep skillet, add the green tea, ginger, garlic and onion. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
• In the meantime, prepare the fish, removing any bones and cutting into desired pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
• Place the fish gently in the poaching liquid. Make sure the liquid is at a gentle simmer and cook the fish 8-10 minutes or until translucent.
• In the meantime, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette and prepare the pea shoots. For the pea shoots, heat a wok on medium heat and, when hot, add the sesame oil. Add the pea shoots and the garlic and sauté, tossing gently with tongs for about a minute until the pea shoots wilt slightly, but are still a little crunchy. Make sure the garlic does not burn. Remove to a platter.
• Remove the fish from the poaching liquid when finished cooking and lay on top of the pea shoots on the platter.
• Drizzle with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the scallions. Serve.