The Flu, Immunity, and You

Ever heard the saying “you are what you eat”? Well, that’s not exactly accurate. I prefer to say, “You are what you digest, absorb and assimilate.”

The digestive system supports the body by performing two essential functions: (1) absorption of nutrients and (2) the elimination of harmful bacteria. A healthy digestive system maintains a strong line of defense against pathogens that we breathe in, consume in our foods, and pick up through personal contact. When our digestive system becomes weakened, we become much more susceptible to being exposed to bacterial and viral infections. So, when it comes down to it, you’re only as strong as your immune system!

Speaking of our immune system, the holiday season is once again upon us. You know; colder weather, holiday stressors, lot’s of sugary immune suppressing treats, and who can forget about the flu in all of it’s viral forms. As per usual, mainstream media coverage would have you believe that we are on the brink of the most savage flu season in human history, from which we must take offense. While last year’s “pandemic” seems to have been a bit over-inflated, there is obviously an increase in flu and flu-like illnesses that come with the change in climate. Hence the need to do some serious immune system boosting! This means keeping your immune system healthy and strong. The key to a strong immunity rests in the optimal functioning of our digestive system and how you eat, sleep and supplement your way through the holidays.

Boost Your Immune System Through Food:

Minimize Sugar: Yeah, seriously! That includes the marshmallows and whip cream in your jello dish. Opt instead for fruit. The more physically active you are, the more fruit you can afford to eat. For the majority of you who are planning on eating half of a pumpkin pie, then at least earn your sweets through lots of physical activity.

Minimize Alcohol: The negative effects far outweigh the positive. Of course, no one will heed
observe this suggestion, so, try not to drink on an empty stomach (yes, even though it’s more fun…) and make sure to eat adequate amounts of protein (animal meat) and ample veggies (nix the ranch dip) with your booze. Also, stay away from the mixed drinks, as this is an easy way to rack up a ton of sugar and excess calories, i.e., rum and coke. If you can stomach the rum straight up, then more power to ya!

Avoid Grains: All flour, all grains (whole or otherwise). We’ve been over this multiple times… (See GRAINS Newsletter). Grain consumption results in elevated insulin levels, increased body fat, and destruction of the healthy immune system barrier in the digestive system. Not to mention a plethora of other unpleasant side effects all increasing the risk of sickness and disease throughout your body.

Eat Good Fats: Seek out fats in properly raised animal products and other fats that humans have been consuming for thousands of years. These omega-3′s and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA’s) help us regulate blood sugar levels, aid cell repair, and enhance immune system function. Great fats include: avocado, beef, egg yolks, chicken skin, olive oil, coconut oil and REAL butter. These are from animals that live a happy, healthy, hormone-free, grass-fed, pastured, organic, active and stress-free life! That’s right, fat is not the enemy – sugar is! (more on that in another newsletter…)

Avoid Bad Fats: Don’t consume polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils and moderate your intake of seeds and nuts, as they too are rich in inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. If you do eat nuts, then try shelling them yourself…it will take a hell of a lot longer to shovel them down. As one of my teachers likes to say, “you should know the difference between your mouth and a vacuum”.

Boost Your Immune System Through Sleep:

Sleep is the biggest immunological defense mechanism that exists.  It defends us from potentially harmful organisms in our environment and ensures optimal physical growth and mental repair. The National Institutes of Health confirms that sleep is a scientific “given” and that light-and-dark cycles:

· Turn hormone production on and off – Especially the hormones that regulate blood sugar and burn body fat.

· Activate your immune system

· Time neurotransmitter release daily, and especially seasonally. This means keeping us emotionally happy, energized and motivated.

Until 75 years ago, we spent up to 14 hours a night – depending on the season – in the dark! (See SLEEP Newsletter)  Take advantage of time off work to rest, relax, spend with family and catch up on much needed sleep.

Boost Your Immune System With Supplements:

While real food will always prevail over supplements, there are several herbs that can give you that little extra support that just may be the difference between a night of restful sleep and one spent hugging the porcelain god.

Immunitone: This is the immune system boosting, viral fighting powerhouse of a supplement containing: Echinacea and andrographis, both shown to shorten the duration and severity of infections, but best taken before they occur. It also contains elderberry, which has been shown to fight against the spread of viruses like influenza. (Link)

Olive Leaf Extract: This has been shown to be an effective anti-viral herb and can be used preventatively as an immune system booster. It has antimicrobial properties and improves resistance to intestinal and respiratory infections. (Link)

Immunity Take Care: This is a virus killer! This helps eliminate the reproductive capabilities of the virus. This is a great tasting lozenge from the Elderberry, which is also great for those that have a hard time swallowing pills. (Link)

Bee Propolis: Strengthens our natural immune capabilities. Propolis is a substance that is collected by bees from trees, flowers and shrubs and then used in various ways to protect the health of the hive and the bees themselves (immune system of the hive). Bee Propolis is thought to enhance the body’s resistance to illness and speed recovery and healing. (Link)

These supplements are best taken before the onset of infection/virus occurs, however, they can still be used beneficially to shorten the duration and severity of a cold and/or flu when taken in the earlier stages of sickness. I will use this unique combo during the flu season as well as anytime I’m traveling, missing out on quality sleep, or binge drinking in Vegas, to keep my immune system as strong as possible.

Remember, “it’s not the germ, but the terrain”, meaning, YOU create the type of internal environment for bacteria and viruses to flourish through your nutrition and lifestyle. The healthier you are, the stronger your immune system will be, and the less likely you will be to get sick. Or, if you do get sick, the less severe your symptoms will be. Take the steps necessary to strengthen your immune system through quality food intake, lots of sleep, and immune boosting supplements. Happy Holidays!

Check out Ben’s NEWS INTERVIEW on how to prevent the flu.