If you would like a session with Louise to discuss how to boost your immune system, please scroll to the bottom of this post for a special covid-19 discount.
The immune system is the body’s defense against infections. The immune system attacks germs and helps to keep us healthy, but everyone’s immune system is not the same. There are many lifestyle factors that can cause our immune systems to not function optimally. Some of these factors include: stress • loneliness • sedentary lifestyle • extreme exercise • smoking • alcohol • and diet.
In “Boosting Your Immune System – Part 2”, we discussed how sleep, exercise and stress can help the immune system function. Now it is time to delve into one of the key areas that all of us have access to, which will not only increases our immune system function, but will decrease inflammation: Diet and Nutrition.
There is a lot of stress right now with some people not working, others working from home, children home from school, parents learning to home school their children, and work from home at the same time, fear of contracting the virus, feeling alone … we could go on and on. I know that for myself, those first few weeks were filled with a few more snacks, a little more chocolate, a few less vegetables, and many skipped meals. This is not a good combination for boosting the immune system. As we approach the time when we will all be reentering the world, it is time to give our diets a reboot.
When some people are stressed, or bored, they tend to reach for a sweet treat. Eating a small treat sweetened with naturally derived sugar may not be an awful thing for the immune system, but some people can’t stop with a small treat – it usually turns into something much bigger. There have been some studies that suggest that eating sugar may suppress the immune system for several hours after it has been eaten. How? “Consuming too much sugar can affect the cells in your immune system – more specifically it affects the way your white blood cells attack.” explained board-certified internist and gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal. Also most foods that are high in sugar, are also void of nutritional value, which can can increase your risk level when warding off infection. Lastly, sugar triggers low-grade inflammation in the body, which we already know can decrease immune function.
So if we have a small sugar treat once a day, it may not affect the immune system too badly. However, if we choose to consume one sugary treat after the other, the immune system will not be able to respond to an attack. So the bottom line is that it would be better to choose a sweet treat like fruit or something sweetened with stevia or monk fruit.
Vegetables and Fruit
Did you know that the recommended daily allowance for vegetables was increased a couple of years ago to 5-7 servings per day. However, the government received a lot of flack for such a high number so they decreased it down to 3-5 servings including fruit. Honestly, I recommend that all of my clients eat at least 7-10 servings of vegetables alone per day. I know, you are thinking that there is no way that you would ever be able to eat that many, but it really is not as difficult as you may think. A serving size is 1 cup raw or a 1/2 cup cooked. Eating this many vegetables does require a shift in thinking. Instead of focusing on what meat you are going to eat, you need to start your meal planning with vegetables.
Why such a focus on fruits and vegetables? Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables provide nutrients—like beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E—that can boost immune function. Because many vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants, they help reduce oxidative stress.
And so what about fruit? I recommend that most people only consume about 1-2 servings per day. Most of the time a serving is 1 small piece of fruit or 1/2 cup. Fruit still contains sugar and while it has many of the same nutrients as vegetables, it comes with a lot more calories. As noted above, sugar in excess is not good for the immune system so while the sugar in fruit is different than refined sugar, we still want to watch how much we are consuming each day.
Again with the inflammation? Yes, unfortunately there are a lot of foods that could potentially cause inflammation in the body. It would be better to avoid eating these foods as we leave sheltering in place. However, every body is different and what causes inflammation for one person might not be the same for another person. There are tests that you can do, but one of the best things to do for yourself is an elimination/regeneration diet. This approach removes the top offending foods for a period of time, which is then followed by a reintroduction of foods to look for symptoms of inflammation or intolerance. I like to think of this method as an easy detoxification for your whole body. Most of the time, people feel great when doing the elimination/regeneration diet -more energy, better focus, maybe some weight loss, and sometimes even better sleep. If you are curious about the foods that you are eating that might cause inflammation, this is the perfect opportunity to discover them. With everyone social distancing and eating at home, now is the time to take a deeper look.
If you are interested in learning more about how to do an elimination diet, please contact Louise at the information below.
Intermittent Fasting and the Fasting Mimicking Mindfulness Program
There is way too much for me to say on this topic. This might have to be a separate post. There has been a lot of talk recently about fasting, time restricted eating, and the fasting mimicking diet. Finally there are starting to be studies that show the benefits. Six years ago, a study showed that a 3-day fast can essentially reset the immune system, providing many potential benefits. These benefits include better cardiovascular health, better endurance, lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation and a boost for the immune system. Check out our page on the Fasting Mimicking Mindfulness Program for more information on it’s benefits.
Nutrition and Supplementation
There are functional medicine doctors (doctors that focus on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease) online giving lots of advice on simple supplements that we should be taking everyday to boost our immune systems. Some people are firm believers in vitamins, others think that they are a waste of money. Only you can decide what feels right for you. I personally am a strong believer in getting most of the nutrients that we need from the food that we eat, hence eating 7-10 servings of vegetables per day, but sometimes we just can’t get enough from our foods and we need a little help. Extra help for the immune system during a pandemic is probably not a bad idea.
Dr. Mark Hyman, who works as the Head of Strategy and Innovation at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine suggests that we start with a simple supplementation strategy by taking a multi-vitamin, vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc, and fish oil. It is important to remember that not all supplements are created equal. If you want to take something that is going to make a difference in your health, than it is probably best to consult with a professional about which form of the vitamin to take and which brands are reputable.
There is a lot of information on the internet and sometimes a lot of it is conflicting. It is difficult to know which direction to go in. If you are needing some extra assistance in deciphering all of the information, feel free to contact Louise. She would be happy to help you develop an individual plan for boosting your immune system.
Please call her at 570-421-3708 or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sessions are 60 minutes ($65) or 90 minutes ($90).