Building Your Immune System through Food and Supplementation
As a health coach, the number one question that I am currently hearing is, “what foods should I be eating and what supplements should I be using at this point and time to boost my immune system?” Though this is a bit of a slippery slope, there are definitely some foods and supplements that are known to help guard our body and make it stronger in defending itself against any form of pathogens including viruses.
Since viruses, unlike some other forms of pathogens need a host cell to survive, it would only make sense that the stronger the host, the less chance the virus will have to survive or create harm to the host. Additionally, keeping our bodies in a healthy state not only makes sense, but is an absolute must.
The first thing that I would consider from a holistic perspective, is not what I would add to my diet, but what I would eliminate. There would be two things that would be on my absolute “red light” list. Those two things would be sugar and processed vegetable and seed oils. In her book Deep Nutrition, Dr. Cate Shanahan describes how simply subtracting these two foods from your diet can help put the body in a much less inflammatory state and resistant to all forms of negative health issues. Along with many other health benefits, the elimination of sugar and vegetable and seed oils allows the body to make use of its own natural healing abilities and do its job of healing from within. Exceptions to the dreaded toxic list of vegetable oils would be olive, avocado and coconut oils. Their beneficial properties far outweigh any negative concerns. However, any oil that is subjected to high heat can become toxic and create damaging free radicals to our bodies.
Along with the elimination of these two inflammatory foods, I would also highly suggest adding vitamin C. Obviously, citrus foods are recognized for the positive health advantages, however supplementation might also be highly beneficial. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and is quickly flushed through the body and should be supplemented at least on a daily basis. Ben Greenfield a leading health advocate, has continued to support Vitamin C supplementation. Of all supplements, vitamin C has some of the strongest scientific support in helping build a strong immune system..
Another vitamin which demonstrates immunity building properties and some supportive research would be vitamin D. Unlike vitamin C, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is actually stored in our bodies. However, several studies indicate that many people are significantly deficient in Vitamin D and its almost magical properties. Some health experts even suggest that Vitamin D acts more like a hormone in the body than a vitamin. There are many foods that provide significant vitamin D. Foods such as salmon, sardines and eggs are just a few. However, my favorite supplementation comes from specific mushrooms such as, Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga and Lions Mane. These particular mushrooms that can easily be added by supplementation can be found at most all health food stores. All of these mushrooms have their own specific immune fighting properties and can also provide some essential macro and micro-nutrients.
There has been a lot of discussion recently in the health and wellness industry about the benefits of fermented foods. Along with the more well-known health benefits, such as strengthening gut health, fermented foods also provide some powerful immunity benefits. Some of my personal favorite fermented foods that provide substantial immunity assistance include kombucha, Greek yogurt, sourdough bread and yes, even wine!
Supplementation with zinc could also provide some strong immune support especially when the body is under attack through various types of pathogens. Zinc is one of the most prevalent trace minerals in the body and one of the more researched supplements which has been proven to provide benefits to our immune system.
Something that might be easily overlooked as a powerful nutritional strategy, is maintaining your hydration levels throughout the day. Drinking water and keeping our basal metabolism running efficiently also aids in our defense of virus and bacterial infections. Adding a supplementation of some electrolytes “more abundant minerals” and trace minerals to your water may also supply some additional benefits. Water along these electrolytes and trace minerals can assist in defending our bodies against some of these unwanted viruses.
In summary, a diet that is nutrient dense, providing high levels of antioxidants can help in the fight of almost any form of infection. Certain forms of supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc can add additional support to our fight against many harmful pathogens. Fermented foods have proven to have many health benefits including a boost to our immune system. Finally, the elimination of sugar and processed oils, such as vegetable and seed oils is critical. These two food sources are particularly harmful and raise our inflammation levels, compromising our natural immunity.