These days, almost everyone in my practice wants to know what they can do to strengthen their immune system. Most are hoping for a special herb or remedy, and some have a favorite concoction that they take at the first sign of illness. Though there are excellent herbs that can help, the building blocks of a strong immune system are simple and bear repeating–a nutrient dense diet, good sleep, and a balanced lifestyle that affords a measure of peace and fulfillment.
Just what do I mean by a nutrient dense diet? You may be thinking, “yeah yeah I know. I eat really well and still get sick a lot. ” Well, you may be forgetting the following two crucial factors. These are the two things that I find even the most health conscious people often overlook.
1) Eliminate simple sugars from your diet.
2) Include abundant healthy fats along with the critical fat soluble vitamins A & D.
As to the first rule, most of us know that sugar contributes to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. But we often don’t realize its immediate effect on the immune system. Just two tablespoons of refined sugar (28 grams, or about the amount in two cans of soda,) will significantly depress your immune system for up to five hours. It interferes with your white blood cells’ ability to kill germs. A slightly larger amount (just 100 grams) reduces the effectiveness of your white blood cells by 40% for up to five hours. So I know this is hard for many of you to hear as we enter the holidays when sugar abounds and is considered a necessary part of family gatherings. But please, if you want to stay well, just say no.
Now, about abundant fats. Yes, I can practically feel you cringing. Everyone dreads gaining weight over the holidays. But the good news is that it’s not fat that makes you gain weight, it’s sugar and refined carbohydrates. Good quality fats (I’m talking about raw butter, lard, coconut oil,and olive oil, NOT liquid vegetable oils and partially hydrogenated oils,) do not make you gain weight nor do they contribute to heart disease. (For convincing evidence of this visit the Weston Price Foundation website, www.westonaprice.org, or see Gary Taubes’s well-researched book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”)
Without enough fat in your diet, you won’t be able to absorb fat soluble vitamins like A & D that are crucial to your immune system. The best source by far that I’ve found for a daily dose of this life giving elixir is the fermented cod liver oil produced by Green Pasture. They are the only source of traditionally made cod liver oil that has not been altered to remove its natural levels of vitamin A & D. Their products are not available at any retail store that I’m aware of, so look for them on line.
Try incorporating these two changes into your diet (which is hopefully one of whole unprocessed foods anyway,) and let me know how you do this winter.