Do you suffer from immune problems? Are you constantly getting sick? Consider building your immune system from the inside out. Approximately 80% of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract so look at your gut health before you consider the flu shot or another round of antibiotics.
Our GI tract is populated with good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria supports our immune system. You can boost levels of beneficial bacteria with fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir, organic yogurt, kimchi and other fermented vegetables. A quality, multi-strain probiotic will also help.
Take a look at your daily nutrition. A nutrient-dense diet is important to support the immune system. Be sure to include vitamins C, D, A, B12, B6, folate, zinc, omega-3 fats and protein by increasing your intake of a variety of vegetables, fatty fish, raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed meats. Sunlight is needed to make vitamin D from cholesterol, but many of us are unable to get enough sunlight in the winter so consider a separate vitamin D supplement.
In addition, don't be afraid to let your kids get dirty and minimize use of antibacterial products. Experts suggest that the overuse of antibacterial soaps and gels have increased the occurrence of allergies, asthma and autoimmune illnesses (Celiac disease, Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, etc.). These illnesses, which involve inflammation and the immune system, may be caused by a lack of exposure to germs and microbes when we are young and healthy. Without exposure to germs and pathogens, the immune system gets confused and may start to overreact or attack the body. There is also growing concern over the dangers of chemicals included in antimicrobial products. Studies have linked triclosan and triclocarbon to reproductive and metabolic issues because of changes in levels of thyroid hormones and estrogen and testosterone receptors. Properly washing hands with good old soap and water is just as effective without the harmful chemicals. Have your kids sing a fun song, count to 20 or recite the ABCs while washing hands to encourage effective cleansing.
Reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sugar and vitamin C use the same receptors to enter our cells. Sugar will always gain entry first so eating high levels of sugar will reduce absorption of vitamin C by the immune cells. Sugar also feeds the bad bacteria, further inhibiting immune function.
Lastly, there are many herbs and spices that are antiviral or antibacterial. Add some garlic, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric to your favorite foods. There are many herbs that help fight illness, including Echinacea, astralagus, elderberry, goldenseal and many others. One of my favorite products is an herbal combination, Kick Ass Immune or Kick It Immune (children's version) from Wish Garden herbs. Keep in mind that some herbs may have side effects that should be considered before use.
Make some simple changes and stay healthy this winter!