If you have ever tried to improve your immune system with high doses of Vitamin C or an elderberry tincture, but still suffered from a bad cold or flu, you are not alone.
Fighting colds and flus in the winter season is often not possible by using just one natural agent, even in a high dose. It’s not that simple.
I know of a much better approach, with which we have had great success at the Prama Wellness Center where I work: a synergy of superfoods, stress reduction and exercise.
In order to effectively boost the immune system we need to mix the most powerful and nutritious herbs and foods, reduce stress by meditating and practicing yoga, and exercise. In sum, the safest and most effective way to create super-immunity is not by taking high doses of vitamin C or a particular herb, but by super-charging our entire lifestyle.
The reason is simple. The immune system is intimately linked to the digestive system. In fact, 70 percent of our immune system is in the gut. What we eat and how well we digest and eliminate what we eat therefore determines the strength of our immune system.
But our state of mind also effects our immunity. If we are stressed, our digestive capacity is compromised, often within minutes or hours of a stressful experience, and this also leads to reduced immune function.
In our fast-paced, fast-food culture we are thus faced with two main challenges: eating the most immune-boosting foods and increasing immunity by reducing our stress levels. Here are six ways to do just that:
1. Eat a diet rich in whole, plant-based macronutrients: fat, protein and carbohydrates.
The most wholesome, disease-fighting fats come from seeds, nuts, avocado, extra virgin coconut oil and olive oil. So eat a handful of nuts and seeds every day, including ground up, omega 3-rich flax seeds. The best proteins come from beans and lentils. A cup of lentils contain a whopping 16 grams of immune-building proteins and many other phytonutrients. The best immune boosting carbohydrates come from berries, fruits, whole grains and vegetables. Eat a basic diet of these foods every day.
2. Eat a diet rich in micronutrients, especially berries and fruits.
Berries and fruits have the highest level of antioxidant scores, so by adding these berries to our smoothies or sprinkling them over our steel cut oats, we are getting a boost. All berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, acai berries, goji berries and elderberries, have high levels of anti-cancer phytochemical compounds. They are the real superfoods, and should be included in the diet on a regular basis.
3. Eat a diet rich in greens, especially cruciferous vegetables.
Especially broccoli, which is a rich immune-boosters and has many cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Leafy greens are the most micronutrient foods available. When we combine greens with fruits, berries and nuts, we create a synergistic revolution of nutrients in our body that will super-charge our immune system.
4. Use highly antioxidant herbs and condiments.
These include black pepper, cloves, ginger and cacao, which are very high in antioxidants. Indeed, raw cacao, which can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods and more, has nearly twice as many antioxidants as blueberries. And clove, ginger, cinnamon, fennel and black pepper, when added in a tea mixture, will not only boost the antioxidant quality of the tea, but also add heat to our digestive fire and boost our metabolic rate in the cold season. Since the digestive fire is reduced during fall and winter, a daily cup or three of this “chai” mixture will not only improve overall digestion and reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, but will also prevent viruses. Moreover, black pepper increases the bioavailability of foods, thus adding black pepper to tea and foods further supercharges the absorption of antioxidants.
5. Drink fresh vegetable and veggie juices (every day if possible).
This will add high doses of micronutrients directly into the blood stream. Juice requires little effort of digestion and is thus one of the best ways to create an alkaline body. Science and the wisdom of the ancients have demonstrated that an acidic body is an imbalanced and diseased body, whereas an alkaline body is disease-free. Acidity is caused by difficult-to-digest foods—such as meats, sugar, refined and deep fried foods—as well as by stress. In the cold season, always drink your juice at room temperature and add pepper and ginger in order to warm up and supercharge the body with even more nutrients.
6. Reduce stress by practicing yoga and meditation.
Or take a walk in the woods, swim, dance and, if necessary, see a counselor. Severe stress, says Dr. Andrew Weil causes 50 percent of our immune deficiency. Stress can severely compromise our digestion and thus the immune system within hours and days. To remain healthy, we need healthy ways to detach ourselves from and process the many challenges and stressful situations in life.
Have a healthy and supercharged cold and flu season!
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Author: Ramesh Bjonnes
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Courtesy of Editor