An enthusiastic Real Food Advocate, I am a self-described “clean (eating) freak”. Why? Because that’s the biggest factor that contributes to good health: it starts with food! Fresh, unprocessed, quality, real food, which by default is nutrient dense.
We are all constantly exposed to germs. A strong immune system will enable us to fight off the majority of the germs and make us less susceptible to getting sick. As such, when we do catch an occasional cold, we will get better quicker and suffer less.
The main factors that contribute to a strong immune system are: good sleep, low stress, don’t fear dirt, get exposure to a few minutes of midday sun (in the summer), use supplements or natural remedies as needed /as necessary, and eat real food.
Food is so important to having great health.
When I teach classes on boosting immunity, I spend the majority of the time talking about food. And I may get asked “does this help to build immunity?” a few times as I’m going on with suggestions on food combining, maximizing nutrients, etc. Yes, it does. A strong immune system requires a healthy diet. There are plenty of supplements and natural immune boosters on the market, but eating properly is the place to start. (From there you might further refine/eliminate if necessary).
Our food nourishes our body. The nutrients in food enable the cells in our bodies to perform their necessary functions. If our body doesn’t get nourished with the vitamins and minerals that it needs, it can start to malfunction. Metabolic processes may slow down or even stop. Immune problems arise because it is easier for bacteria or viruses to take hold when important nutrients are missing. As such, good nutrition is essential to developing bodies and keeping the immune system healthy and strong.
Here are some tips:
1) Eat Real Food. Real food is that which does not require a label with a list of ingredients. Real food is an ingredient: vegetables, pastured meats and eggs, wild fish, healthy fats, soaked or sprouted grains, nuts, and beans…. It will energize, strengthen, and heal your body.
2) Eat quality food. Fresh, whole, unprocessed. Quality matters. Organic, pastured, wild, grassfed, chemical free. There is a difference! Poor quality food sources are lacking in vital nutrients.
3) Eat the right nutrients, ideally from food (as opposed to supplements). Know what the essential nutrients are, and spend time researching so that you can learn the most bioavailable foods sources. Some essential nutrients are: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin K2, Vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, iron, selenium, essential fatty acids. Get your levels checked if you need to.
If/when you do take vitamin supplements, it’s generally best to use whole food vitamins – you can always find them at the health food store. If you are not sure, ask someone who works there. Most synthetic vitamins contain chemicals and additives that probably do more harm than good. They were originally developed because they cost less. Whole food-based vitamin supplements are derived directly from foods; they are better absorbed by the body than synthetic vitamins and they are more likely to provide necessary nutrients, as the body can better recognize them.
4 ) Significantly reduce or eliminate sugar. Sugar wreaks havoc on our bodies and contributes to suppressing the immune system: It promotes inflammation, feeds harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut, and it feeds the pathogens that cause illness. (So you might consider avoiding the fruit juice, popsicles or ginger ale when sick).
5) Significantly reduce or eliminate junk food and processed food. It is common knowledge (or at least it should be!) that packaged and processed “foods” are not really food. They are chemicals and empty calories with no nutritional value that damage the gut, harm the body and impact health. The body does not recognize them (because they are not food), and so it perceives them to be foreign invaders. In response to foreign invaders, the body sends antibodies to attack. If the body constantly needs to produce antibodies to battle against these foreign foods, the immune system will weaken over time. No manufactured, “enriched”, or flavoured food can do for us what Real Food does. Our bodies need the nutrients from real food to function properly. You wouldn’t put apple juice into your car’s gas tank!
6) Eat fermented foods as often as possible, ideally with every meal.
The gut is the largest part of the immune system: 80% of the immune system lies in your gut. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in our intestines that keep the “bad” bacteria from taking over. When you have poor gut flora (the complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract), there is more opportunity for illnesses to take hold. Probiotics play a critical role in regulating both our intestinal immune system and our internal immune system. Antibiotic use, which is a typical part of many infant and child’s early life, destroys these healthy bacteria, leaving a child more susceptible to various illnesses and intestinal problems. (So if you are taking antibiotics, it’s a good idea to take probiotics a few hours later, throughout the course, and beyond.)
Fermented foods are full of vitamins, enzymes and good bacteria (probiotics). Cultures around the world have been eating fermented foods for years.
Some fermented foods are: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, pickles and sauerkraut. Making your own fermented foods at home is easy and is usually best for optimal preservation of nutrients and beneficial bacteria, as well as for their immune supporting and digestive enhancing properties. The commercial versions, while better than not eating them at all, generally have less probiotic activity than the homemade versions.
If you are not eating fermented foods on a regular basis, take a good probiotic every day.
7) Be aware of interactions.
For example: calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, while vitamin C enhances it. As such, a person who is deficient in iron might eat iron rich foods with food rich in vitamin C and away from food rich in calcium. So they might eat their (grassfed) hamburger with red peppers, not with cheese!
Another example: grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are high phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient that binds to minerals in the body (including iron, calcium, etc.). So if your children are eating a lot of these, they might not be absorbing a lot of nutrients that the body needs because the phytic acid is binding to them and they are being eliminated. One way to break through the phytic acid barrier is to eat phytic acid rich foods with vitamin C rich foods such as red peppers, grapes, or tomatoes. Another way is to “prepare” these foods through soaking and/or sprouting (prior to cooking), which is said to reduce a lot of the phytic acid.
Another example: Calcium bioavailability from plant foods can be affected by their levels of oxalate (oxalic acid); oxalic acid binds with calcium to form calcium oxalate, an insoluble salt – therefore inhibiting calcium absorption (and other problems caused by too much oxalic acid include gout, kidney stones…. ). Raw spinach, for example, is often eaten as a source of calcium, but it is high in oxalic acid (which would bind to the calcium so that the body doesn’t absorb it). In order to reduce the oxalic acid in spinach, it’s best to lightly boil it. Eating raw spinach regularly (think spinach smoothies) might not be a good idea.
This problem is more with long-term consumption of these foods leading to nutrient deficiencies because the oxalic acid in these foods is binding to calcium and also to other minerals in the gut. Some people will be more sensitive to the oxalates than others. Those with a compromised gut might especially want to take note of this. One way to compromise your gut is to take a round of antibiotics; many antibiotics can kill the flora that degrades oxalate. (Another reason to eat probiotic rich foods with meals!) Cooking vegetables also helps break down the cellular structures to increase the digestibility and nutrient absorption of nutrients in the vegetables.
It is also important to know that many vitamins and micronutrients are fat-soluble; meaning they are best absorbed by the body in the presence of adequate fat. Studies show that those who consume salads with fat-free salad dressing absorb much less of the helpful phytonutrients and vitamins than those who consume their salads with salad dressing containing fat. So a fat-free salad (or smoothie!) is a waste of nutrients. Add fat to your vegetables to optimize the absorption of vitamins.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be time consuming, costly or confusing. Just eat real food. It’s an important key to good health and will supply you with the essential nutrients the body needs for a healthy immune system.
If you are having trouble with “discerning” eaters, or are “time challenged” in terms of making meals, or still have questions, you are welcome to contact me and I’d be more than happy to help you out. Find me through my website!
Despite our best intentions and efforts, sometimes we do get sick. My next post will talk about various natural options that could help when you are starting to get sick, or when you do get sick.
Erin Budd, B.Sc., MBA
Real Food Advocate & Educator
Angel Card Reader/Intuitive Guidance
Erin Budd is a mom to two amazing boys (who rarely, if ever, get sick), and wife to a wonderful husband, Erin is an enthusiastic Real Food Advocate & Educator, a Shamanic Reiki Master/Teacher, and an Angel Card Reader offering intuitive guidance. Her passion is helping people and guiding people to live healthier, happier lives. Among the things she has studied include: aromatherapy, reiki, muscle testing, nutrition, EFT tapping, therapeutic touch, Qigong and other forms of energy medicine.