-Original Post: January 31, 2017-
Cold and flu season is here with a take no prisoners attitude. Uncontrollable runny nose, coughing until your muscles collapse, and extreme fatigue. Everyone seems to have been touched by this. The illness seen to take longer than usual to recover from, keeping us worn down trying to make it through a day’s work. It is by far the worst I have ever seen. But do we really catch an illness, or do we create an environment for one? We often wait until we have symptoms and then reach into the medicine cabinet for the thing we use to suppress them to get by until it’s over. We suppress the symptoms, but do we address them? Do we support our bodies mechanics to fight illness or better yet, create an environment where it cannot thrive? I have some news for you. We don’t catch an illness, we opened the door and invited in. We are in charge of our immune systems.
Here are the top 5 ways we are sabotaging our immune systems:
Insufficient and poor quality sleep. The body rebuilds and repairs while at rest, and that includes the immune system.
Stress causes the release of cortisol, which is immunosuppressive.
Lack of exercise. Muscle movement actually moves the body’s detoxification (lymphatic) system.
Poor gut health due to poor nutrition, food intolerances, antibiotic use, or toxins that can destroy or reduce the healthy gut bacteria that supports immune function.
Poor nutrition. Overconsumption of caffeine, sugar, refined foods, and alcohol are at the top of the list. Lack of protein and essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
What we can do:
Get good quality sleep. The body requires 6-9 hours per night. Practice a routine that includes enough time for pre-bed hygiene and “winding down”.
Practice stress management. Use deep breathing techniques, yoga, delegate/eliminate tasks, or plan some quality family time. (Or alone time, I get it.)
Exercise more frequently. Health Canada recommends you move your body for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. This could be as easy as walking the dog.
Improve gut health by avoiding pollutants and toxins, food intolerances and replace with probiotics like real yogurt and fermented foods, and foods that contain more fibre.
Improve our nutrition. Eat enough food to fuel your immune system. And improve it with whole, natural sources of protein, vitamin C, zinc, and antioxidants.
“Wait… Protein? I thought I just needed to drink my body weight in orange juice.”
I’m about to blow your mind.
Protein is the most essential nutrient for a healthy immune system. As you already may know protein is made of amino acids that are broken down and reused to build new cells. This includes your immune army! And some amino acids are further used to fuel the cells helping mobilize them to fight viruses and bacteria. Protein can be obtained from both plant and animal sources, but of the 22 amino acids used by the body, the immune supportive ones are found highest in meats including poultry, eggs, and dairy.
*The recommended daily amount of protein ranges from .8g - 1.5g per lb of bodyweight. This can vary with activity level. Example: 4 oz of chicken breast provides 26g of protein.
Vitamin C really is a super vitamin, supporting a countless number of functions in the body. It is an antioxidant, protecting our bodies from free radical damage. Its specific application to the immune system is that it is needed to activate the immune system and help to increase its production.
Two important facts about vitamin C:
It is not stored in the body, and therefore needs to be replenished.
It can be easily destroyed by cooking. It is best to consume sources of vitamin C raw or lightly steamed.
The highest sources of vitamin C are papayas, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and strawberries… Not your classic glass of oj.
*recommended daily amounts of vitamin C is 90mg for women, 75mg for men. Example: 1 cup of broccoli provides 101mg of vitamin C.
Zinc is an important mineral for the immune system by increasing production, function, and the response of the immune cells, and it contributes to cell structure. The best natural sources of zinc are found in: beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
*Recommended daily intake is 8mg for women, 11mg for men. Example: 1/4c of pumpkin seeds provides 2.5mg of zinc.
Putting it all together:
Your Super Immune Building Salad
(Gluten free, grain free, dairy free, SCD, low fodmap)
Servings - 1
Please thoroughly wash all fresh vegetables before consumption
2 cups baby spinach leaves (zinc)
1/2 cup red bell pepper (vitamin C)
1/4 cup shredded carrot (carotenoids-antioxidants)
4 oz grilled chicken breast (protein)
1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds (zinc)
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley (vitamin C)
1 tbsp whole grain natural mustard *whole, cracked seeds (ala form of omega 3 fatty acids)
1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar (fermented, gut health)
1 tbsp spring, reverse osmosis, or filtered water
1 tsp pumpkin seed oil (ala form of omega 3 fatty acids)
Calories - 307, Protein - 32g, Carbohydrates - 11g, Fats - 11g
Recommended sides: Roasted sweet potato, quinoa