As a Nutrition Coach, I guide and support clients in a way that encourages the body to do the work of being well. Essentially I am a teacher with a wish to share knowledge of how food and lifestyle choices affect your state of wellness and how to make them work to your advantage. Sometimes our choices affect us in positive ways other times in negative ways. Too often we see people go down a path of ill health because they do not have a wellness plan in place.
Maintaining, or improving health does not have to be complicated so the purpose of my talks/articles are to get you not only thinking about your health but to help you take action.
Colds, flu, sore throat or strep, sinus infections, chest infections – sound all too familiar?
Wise protocols such as avoiding crowded areas, covering your mouth when coughing, sneezing, washing hands regularly may help to stop you picking up bugs, but really…
It all begins with a strong immune system.
- And this begins in-vitro with the health of your parents and as a newborn, through breast feeding and the passing on of antibodies.
- If you have symptoms such as allergies, recurrent or frequent infections, chronic fatigue, herpes outbreaks, auto-immune disease, inflammatory disorders (eczema, psoriasis), dysbiosis (yeast overgrowth, fungal infection or parasites) these are signs that your Immune system is under duress.
What makes up your Immune system?
- Primarily your white blood cells WBC and the Lymphatic system which includes nodes, vessels and organs that collect, transport and generate defender cells.
Organs include; Bone marrow -where B lymphocytes are made, responsible for producing antibodies.
Thymus –where T lymphocytes are produced, these can kill cells infected with viruses and activate other immune cells.
Spleen – the largest organ, clears cellular debris and is a blood reservoir
GALT – gut assoc. lymphatic tissue – tonsils, adenoids, appendix, Peyers patches in the small intestine. (this makes up approx 70% of Immune System)
How do we ensure a strong Immune System?
- Feed your body what it NEEDS, (not wants) – Provide the raw materials it needs to nurture, repair and fuel the body – it relies on quality nutrients to function optimally including the Immune system. Deficiencies of even one or two nutrients can impair its protective ability.
– Avoid processed, refined, artificial and overcooked foods, they are lacking in balanced nutrients and natural enzymes
– Limit caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats
– Eat plenty of whole, clean, unaltered foods
– raw, lightly steamed or sautéed
– Include health promoting EFA’s
– Ensure a balanced amount of protein intake from both animal and vegetable sources –quality is important. Protein is made of Amino acids, and these are essential for the synthesis of antibodies, (as well as enzymes and hormones). Sufficient enzymes for breakdown (+Zn)
– Holiday season! Don’t over-eat, particularly over cooked/ processed foods. Lots of enzymes and energy is required to digest large, heavy meals. WBC’s are enzyme rich so they will step in when demand is high, but this reduces the availability of these defenders to fight bacteria and pathogens.
- Support the beneficial flora in your gut.
– These guys have a symbiotic relationship with us – we support them, they support us, not only aiding digestion, but defending against the Nasties.
– Unlike the bad flora, who are more parasitic in nature, taking from our bodies, and leaving behind their waste products – toxins that must then be neutralized and eliminated (more energy consumption)
– Consuming nutrient dense foods, as in points already mentioned support better populations of the good guys.
– The addition of ‘live foods’ bolsters their numbers even more – fermented foods such as sauerkraut, organic miso, fermented soy, kefir, Kombuca (Rise tea), yogurt and sprouts.
– Avoiding refined foods (excess simple carbohydrates) and particularly sugars provides less of what the bad guys love to feed on.
- Be aware of the effects of some drugs
– Some directly inhibit immune function – immuno-suppressants, for AI diseases, medications for cancer treatment
– Antibiotics (as the word means anti – life) have their place for serious bacterial infections (not for viruses) but they also destroy the beneficial flora – this compromises the strength of your Immune system.
– Anti-bacterial soaps contain anti-microbials that can penetrate the skin and may not be so discerning between good and bad. Our largest organ – the skin is also a line of defense – over washing removes natural oils that help provide a natural barrier.
- Limit exposure to toxins. This is my #1 step to building better health
– Avoid food additives, preservatives, pesticides, altered foods, fragrances, pollution, cosmetics and personal products with heavy metals, petroleum, phthalates, parabens etc. These overburden the liver and some may affect the digestive tract creating an immune response which over time, depletes the system.
– Supporting the liver is therefore critical – foods containing chlorophyll or sulfur – greens, cruciferous, onions, garlic, lemon, beets, etc, and limiting alcohol are all beneficial along with staying well hydrated and allowing appropriate time for the detoxification process.
- Get regular exercise.
– Low to moderate activity is beneficial in so many ways – circulation, muscles and especially for the lymphatic system which does not have it’s own ‘pumping’ system.
– Repeated over-exertion causes tissue damage and a pro-inflammatory situation and therefore an immune response.
- Find ways to manage stress.
– Stress can upset normal digestive function – poor digestion can cause intestinal damage and affect the absorption of nutrients. (Celiac and IBD are extreme examples) The problem is two-fold – damage creates an immune response and deficiencies occur with poor absorption – micro-nutrients that are essential to a healthy glandular and immune system
- Maintain good sleep protocol
– Rest is the best medicine, ensure suitable quantity, and good quality.
What role do Free Radicals play and how do antioxidants help?
- Free radicals are the by-products of metabolism. They are electrically charged molecules that attack and damage cells. This of course causes an immune response. This attack is known as oxidative stress and shows itself through poor cardiovascular health, joint degeneration, muscle weakness and accelerated aging and ultimately over time weakens the immune system.
– If allowed to go unchecked auto-immune disease may also occur.
– Following all of the mentioned recommendations will prevent this from happening.
– Supplying Anti-oxidants helps prevent damage by FR. – dietary sources, plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains provide Beta Carotene, vitamin C and E while minerals such as zinc and selenium from nuts/seeds, cacao beans, also play a role.
– Scientific studies have found that phytonutrients in foods – the elements that provide colour, flavor and smell to foods also have potent antioxidant properties. Berries are a good example, especially blueberries.
– Once again balance is essential and indiscriminate ‘popping’ of supplements can be counter productive.
– Selenium Essential trace min. best source Brazil nuts, fish, meat, eggs, whole grains, other nuts. Deficiency is associated with reduced immune cell counts so it is important in reducing disease progression. It aids in the absorption of iodine (thyroid), for cancer prevention, reduces incidence of Heart Disease by limiting oxidation of LDL. Best from foods, only supplement short term – excess = side-effects
- Vitamin D – Study by Donald W. Miller, Jr M.D.
– A fat soluble, steroid hormone, Vitamin D is involved in the expression of 200+ genes and the proteins they produce. – some involved as mediators that regulate the immune system. Research shows a link with influenza – occurring in the winter months with vitamin D deficiencies. D expressed genes instruct macrophages (immune system defenders) to make antimicrobial peptides that will attack and destroy influenza virus particles. Other D-expressed genes control the response to avoid over-reaction. Living above latitude 35 degrees North means we are unable to synthesize D from sunlight from Oct to April. Recommended Daily Amounts are insufficient as are ‘fortified’ foods. Oily fish contain some D.
Take D3 1000 – 5000 iu daily Skin can make 20,000 IU in 20 min. down south