Back to Basics to Enhance Your Immune System

 The New Year has arrived along with new fad diets, new exercise equipment, new research studies and a flu season that does not look good. Let’s set aside your New Year’s Resolutions regarding “diets” & exercise and look at how you can help your body be prepared for the flu & any other opportunistic diseases that come along. For those of you with a compromised immune system this is important.

The flu season is being reported as a bad one this year. Besides getting a flu shot, what is the best way to help your body be prepared for it? Building a strong immune system is the answer. Going back to basics is the key to keeping your immune system strong and at the same time reduce the risk factors for chronic diseases including cancer. It is also the safest way to lose or gain weight. 

Here is what you need to start with. The list is pretty simple:

  • No smoking.
  • Restrict/omit alcohol intake.
  • Get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep when possible. Sleep Review: Weekly Fish Consumption Linked to Better Sleep Works for adults too.
  • Exercise/walk 30 minutes a day. Does not need to be at one go. 3 ten minute walks during the day will give you the same benefits. Get up & move as much as you are able to. 
  • A balanced, plant based diet. Start by making small changes each month by adding more whole grains, vegetables & fruits to your meals.

I want to add a couple more ideas to my original list. Some of these ideas came from WebMD: Healthy Habits: Better Eating Resolutions  Check out their full list.

  • Cut back stopping for fast food. With all the fat, sugar & salt in these foods, even a healthy immune system will suffer.
  • Be mindful of what you are eating. Watching a program & eating at the same time is always a bad idea. You look down & the chip bag is empty; how did that happen?
  • Bring healthy snacks to share at work. Dark chocolate or fresh fruit.
  • Start your day with a healthy, high fiber, breakfast. This will keep you full until snack or lunch time & will keep your blood sugar stable.
  • Keep a food diary 🙂

Nearly all plant based foods, spices & herbs have the ability to strengthen your immune system. They are rich in antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory. Some are even anti-viral. They each have their own health benefits & set of nutrients; when combined in a meal, they are super foods!

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

Here is my edited version of a list of whole foods & their benefits from my issue of Mother Earth Living magazine, (November/December 2012 issue). I have included links to supportive research & information.

  • Berries, cherries & grapes: Very high in antioxidants & they are anti-inflammatory. Take a look at this from the HUB: Diet rich in apples, tomatoes may help repair lungs of ex-smokers, study suggests  Brandon Howard ,Published Dec 21, 2017
  • Complex carbs: Whole grains, legumes and vegetables contain complex carbs, which digest more slowly and are high in fiber. Fiber supports healthy digestive gut buddies which in turn supports a healthy immune system. Oldways Whole Grains Council: WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. “Animal and population studies link increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables with reduced cancer risk.” Broccoli was the star in the study! Have you tried roasting these veggies? Tasty! NIH, National Cancer Institute: Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
  • Dark green leafy vegetables: Kale, collard greens, bok choy, arugula, are “natural sources of calcium and magnesium which may protect against colon cancer. Women who eat more leafy greens have a reduced risk of breast cancer.” **see the article I posted under Topics: Calcium on this website for a more complete list. Check out this from the Economic Times: Eat spinach, lettuce and kale daily to keep your brain 11 years youngerDec 21, 2017, from CBS: Should you really be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements?  By DENNIS THOMPSON ,HEALTHDAY, December 27, 2017, This study is about bone health. Eat your calcium!
  • Seeds & nuts: These contain healthy fats, fiber, vitamins & minerals. Great for a pick-me-up snack. Nuts are overlooked because they are high in calories. You can get the health benefits from just one serving a day! Choose unsalted & raw. NDTV: Fibre Rich Food May Help Maintain Weight Gain, Blood Sugar And Colon Health: Research  December 27, 2017 
  • Tomatoes: Great source of carotenoids. The red color is due to lycopene. Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, guava, and other fruits are rich in lycopene. The best source of lycopene is through your diet not supplements. USNews: How Does Getting Nutrients From Fortification Compare to Whole Food? Added nutrients can fill critical dietary gaps. But optimal balance requires going to the source. By Michael O. Schroeder, Staff Writer |May 11, 2017  
  • Orange fruits & vegetables: Rich in carotenoids. Along with the leafy green and cruciferous vegetables they are all protective against several types of cancer. Make your plate a rainbow of colors.
  •  Legumes: Fiber rich! **I must add here my opinion of soybeans. I believe that you can have a healthy diet without the consumption of controversial soy products. Because studies on the effect of soy on breast cancer, pre & post treatment, are not, in my opinion, very satisfactory, I would recommend eating small amounts of soy. Further, I would recommend fermented soy such as tempeh or miso and fresh edamame beans. The soy products in the USA are highly processed.  There are many other legumes to choose from. Choose sprouted tofu; less processed. GeneFood: What’s in a bean? Lots of health benefits  By Amber Krosel, December 22, 2017
  • Pomegranate: Mentioned in this article and is on their list. I would have left it off because I wasn’t convinced of its healing properties to inhibit cancer growth. MedicalNewsToday: 15 health benefits of pomegranate juice By Mandy Ferreira, July 2017

These herbs & spices are rich in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory benefits and enhance immunity. Use liberally in your diet.

Make your own spice blends according to your tastes. I am still crazy about Bragg’s Organic Sprinkles with 24 herbs & spices. I put it on everything! Here is an idea for those of you who love curry…

Medicinal Curry Blend ~ by Rosemary Gladstar

  • 1 ounce Corriander seeds
  • 1 ounce Cummin seeds
  • 1 ounce Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 ounce black Mustard seed
  • 1/2 ounce Chili pepper (Cayenne)
  • 1/2 ounce Fennel seeds
  • 1/2 ounce Ginger powder

Combine by grinding together into a powder & use in curry dishes.

Rosemary Gladstar combines 2-3 teaspoons of the powder with 1/4 of oil, I use Olive oil, in a saucepan and warms it until the herbs are fragrant ~a few minutes~then stores it in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of weeks.

Turmeric is just one of many spices that have health benefits. These resources are very thorough & informative.

I no longer make yearly New Years Resolutions. I always feel like a failure when I don’t follow through with them. Instead, I have a  lifelong intention/resolution. To make this work I must reaffirm my intention every morning during my meditation. It is made up from these two quotes. 

  • “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” I am a great believer in what Hippocrates wrote.
  • “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” One of my favorite quotes from Michael Pollen.

Here is to a Healthy 2018. Until next week…Mary 🙂

Additional Resources: