Many people believe that hand sanitizers and preventative vaccinations are the best ways to keep illnesses away. I’ve seen a huge increase of the use of anti-bacterial substances which are supposed to keep our bodies healthier. But actually, are toxic chemicals that don’t necessarily kill all the bad viruses and bacteria, but they do wipe out all the good bacteria, and our bodies need good bacteria to function optimally.
There are so many ways to keep your body healthy. For instance, if your body doesn’t have the right nutrients every day, it will weaken. If you are stressed and consume processed foods, sugar and fail to get proper rest, you are setting yourself up for illness.
Did you ever notice that if you get sick early in the season its harder to avoid getting sick later on in the season? Think of your immune system like the power gauge on a video game. When you run out of power, or lives or ammunition, your a goner. Your immune system is the same way. Receiving a blow here and there will lower your resistance to illness. Daily, repeated blows to your immune system deplete it to the point that you are pretty much guaranteed an infection. By having more fuel going IN to POWER UP your immune system than is coming out you are far more likely to weather this winter, and many more to come, infection-free.
Processed foods and sugar
Sugar will deplete your immune system for hours after you partake in the Krispy Kreme donut or a Coke with those french fries. Studies have proven this. While comfort foods in the form of sweets might seem to help, the actually REALLY hurt. Even having an organic toaster pastry is going to have a detrimental effect on your immunities. Processed foods are filled with chemicals, unhealthy fats and usually corn syrup(sugar). Diet foods are also terrible attackers of the immune system! Stay away at all costs!
Vegetable oils and trans fats are deadly. Vegetable oils from the store are typically already rancid, turn carcinogenic upon heating and contain far too many omega 6’s which in turn will cause inflammation and damage your immune system. In addition, corn- and soy-based oils are almost always genetically modified which is doing untold damage to your digestive tract. Stick to the healthy fats I list in Power ups.
Pesticide-ridden produce. Despite efforts to wash off pesticides before you eat your produce, studies show that it does little to remove them. Pesticide use is up as is the use of GMO crops. So avoid the Dirty Dozen at the very least and if you can switch to organic in at least this area, you will be doing yourself a huge favor. By choosing Organic you are also guaranteeing that you aren’t getting a genetically modified product. If you are wondering what the big deal is about GMO’s locate a copy of Seeds of Deception and see what you think. Don't go by what you have heard...read for yourself.
Drinking in excess is bad for your blood glucose, bad for your kidneys as well as your liver. It can also affect your blood pressure and your heart. Occasional alcohol is not going to destroy your immune system but make sure you counteract the diuretic effects with plenty of water and eat properly.
The number one Power-up in my book is getting plenty of rest. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, getting to bed early and getting a good nights sleep can help a lot. Have you ever noticed how you feel better in the morning vs. at night as you wind down? Your body is telling you that you need rest and its clear that it helps. So while you may not get everything done, sacrificing a few items on your to do list to avoid spending several days sick in bed seems like a fair trade.
I know its boring. I know you can't get it in a drive-thru. But munch on fresh fruit and veggies. Preferably organic to boot. Dip them in hummus or pair with some goat cheese based dip. You will learn to love them. They are not a form of denial. We have gotten away from God's perfect foods in favor of deep-fried and plastic package snacks. We need to get away. Whole grains, homemade treats(not from mixes) and foods with short ingredient lists. If your six-year old can read all the ingredients on the box, its likely to be safe.
Healthy Fats and Proteins
Organic grass-fed butter, pastured meats, extra-virgin olive oil, cold pressed coconut oil. These are the words you need to look for. Even lard from a pastured pig is far superior to “healthy margarine”, which by the way is an oxymoron. I discovered a few years ago that eating healthy fats is good for your body in so many ways, including your cholesterol if you are pairing them with a well-rounded healthy diet. Pastured and grass-fed meats are high in CLA(conjugated lineolic acid) and EFA(essential fatty acids). CLA is found in ruminants; animals that eat grasses. Cows are supposed to eat grasses, but in feedlots they are fed grain, and garbage and things you don’t really want to know about (if you don’t believe me, do some research). So feedlot meats aren't as good for you as grass-fed cows. The practice of finishing cows on grain to fatten them also depletes the CLA that was in the meat in the name of speed and profit. These are usually called pastured. Look for GRASS-FED.
Conventionally raised meat has little CLA. But they do have growth hormones and antibiotics, which as you may suspect are bad. So while I digress(you knew I would), it would be wise to avoid anything but grass-fed, locally raised meats. Yes, they are more expensive but the disservice you are doing to your body and the enabling of corporations to profit from the mistreatment of animals are reason enough to switch as you are able.
Pastured chickens provide excellent eggs and meat. Find a local farm that raises chickens and is willing to sell eggs. Eating an egg from a chicken that was confined to a space the size of an iPad and forced to sit in its own excrement for two years till it was killed because it wasn’t laying fast enough is not a life any animal should endure and by purchasing eggs from a local farmer you are supporting a sustainable lifestyle that honors God and our planet and supports a small business-person who’s just trying to make a life for him/herself.
High quality fish oils are excellent as well. My favorite is Green Pastures Cod Liver oil, which is fermented and preserves all the nutrients you need. You can find other forms of fish oil that are safe. Just remember that the vitamin/supplement industry wants a piece of the pie and if it takes high temp processing and hexane and other nutrient robbing chemicals to sell you a fish oil cap, they will do it. Shop wisely and stay informed. Cold pressed organic coconut oils and freshly ground flax seed are excellent sources of EFA but use coconut oil for cooking, not flax seed oil since it doesn’t tolerate heat well.
I am known to whip up a pot of soup at the hint of a cold in our family, but don’t wait for an illness to make a healthy broth. And I am not talking about opening a box and pouring it in a pot. I always start with bones from pastured/grass-fed animals. Animal bones are full of minerals and essential nutrients as well as collagen. It is a great vessel for simmering lots of garlic (which is an excellent immune booster and antiviral food) and onions as well as whatever fresh vegetables I have in the house. If the tummy is upset, plain bone broth is easy to digest and an excellent source of fluids. Here is my recipe for Beef Broth
Digestive enzymes help your body utilize the foods you consume. I like the Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme formula and usually purchase it from our Frontier Co-op but it is easy to find in Earth Fare, Whole Foods and at online pharmacy stores.
Probiotics as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut, beet kvass, and plain yogurt(preferably made at home with grass fed, raw milk if possible) not only help you digest your foods but enable your body to better use the foods you eat by populating the gut with healthy bacteria. They also aid in moving food through you body and excreting what you don’t need.
Make sure you make time for you. Exercise is excellent for stress relief and since stress is bad for your immune system you should make time to manage your stress. If exercise is not your thing, try reading; meditation; prayer or a quiet walk in the park. All of these things do a body good.
Get your water
Drink water. Lots of it. It helps you flush out the toxins in your body. It mobilizes the vitamins you get in your foods. Add minerals to it. I recommend Concentrace. This will ensure you get the minerals your body needs. With our soils being depleted from over-farming, with water no longer coming from natural sources but water treatment plants we are missing vital minerals in our diet. Adding a small amount of concentrace to your diet can replenish this deficiency.
You can do so many things with water to keep it interesting and water keeps your body functioning at optimal levels. If you are on city water and its not optimal, buy mineral water or another safer source of water. Get a water filter to improve the water you drink. Add fruit to your water, juice, make green tea. Get water kefir grains and you make your water a probiotic. Make a kefir soda. Do what you must to make it palatable short of adding sugar and chemical laden flavor enhancers. But just drink it.
What to do if you start to feel sick
Making the Power-up steps a part of your normal lifestyle is the first step in staying healthy, but if after all of this you do feel that scratchy throat coming on, its your last chance to head it off. My routine, which may or may not work for you looks something like this:
I take echinacea in the form of a tea or capsules, I make sure I get plenty of vitamin C either via a citrus drink I get from Frontier or with capsules. I drink plenty of water and go to bed early. I repeat when I wake up and avoid sugar at all costs. I eat only healthy Power-Up foods and rest as much as possible. I repeat with my supplements again at bed. If I still feel like I am getting sick the next morning, I may add other supplements and herbs for specific symptoms. One of my favorite reference books is The Herbal Drugstore by Linda White. My main goal is to not get sick so I get pretty aggressive at fighting it off, but if I do get sick, I will continue to do whatever I need to in order to get better quickly.
I do tend to avoid traditional medicine for my own personal reasons but if I do need to see a professional I will seek out an alternative form of medicine first. I want the treatment to work WITH my body rather than against it. While modern medicine can be a lifesaver it isn’t always necessary and can sometimes deplete your immune system further than the illness. I find the chemicals and food dyes in over the counter remedies to be counter intuitive and prefer to work with natural products that achieve similar results.
As with all recommendations on this website, my opinions are just that. Opinions. I am no trained professional. So please do your own research and try what works best for you and your family. My hope for you and anyone that reads this is that you find some new ideas here that help you to be smarter and stronger the next time an illness visits your doorstep.