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Episode 167: 6 Proven Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

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Summary 

With fall around the corner and another uptick in covid cases, I thought it was about time to dedicate a podcast episode to improving your immune health. 

I can tell you from experience, my immune system used to be shot. 

I got bronchitis multiple times per year.

Whenever I did get sick it would linger for weeks, if not months.

And I landed myself an autoimmune disease. (I know, good times!)

These days, my Hashimoto's is in remission, I get sick maybe once per year, more often than not I can stop an illness in the first couple of days before it has a chance to get bad, and knock on wood... no covid yet. 

So, if you want to empower yourself with my favorite tools to make your body more resilient in the face of invaders, read on my friend!

1. Support your gut health.

I'm sure you've heard by now that 80% of your immune system lives in your gut. Which is why when you have imbalances, inflammation, and pathogenic overgrowth in your gut, your immune system is going to suffer. 

"Supporting a balanced intestinal microbial community is essential for the integrity of the immune system, for the prevention and response to infections, and for recovery from illness" -IFM.org

There are even studies coming out showing a strong potential link between gut health and covid resistance!

How do you support your gut health for optimal immune function?? Well that would take an entire episode to cover it, which is why we recorded one! Click here to learn the 4 steps to fix a broken gut!

2. Incorporate these immune-boosting vitamins!

Vitamin A: This vitamin protects agains infections by increasing white blood cell production (which are the main cells of the body's immune system that help identify and fight off invaders) and supporting T-cell function (T-cells bind to and kill infected cells). You can find vitamin A in cod liver oil, liver, and beta carotene-rich veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, butternut squash, cantaloupe, red bell peppers, apricots, and broccoli. 

Note: beta-carotene is difficult for our bodies to convert into active vitamin A, so if you're a vegetarian you likely will need to supplement.

Vitamin C: We all are familiar with vitamin C's immune boosting super powers. It's antiviral, antibacterial, antihistamine, it boosts antibody production (which bind to and inactivate foreign substances), and improves antibiotic therapy. I know oranges are always touted for their vitamin C content, but these foods boast even higher amounts: guava, kiwi, bell peppers, and strawberries. Other honorable mentions are papaya, broccoli, and tomato.

Vitamin D3: This is a bit of a misnomer, because vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, it's a hormone. And it activates T-cells, decreases the severity of autoimmunity, and enables monocytes to kill more viruses. The best way to get it is through sunlight (to do this safely, get 20 minutes of sunscreen-free exposure during non-peak hours, and check the UV index to make sure it's low). You also can get vitamin D3 through liver, fatty fish, egg yolks, and fermented cod liver oil. Or of course via supplementation.

3. Incorporate these immune-boosting minerals!

Zinc: This mineral is necessary for the development and optimal functioning of immune cells.

Selenium: This is an antioxidant that helps take pressure off of the immune system by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. 

To get more of these vital nutrients make sure to include liver, beef, oysters, scallops, lamb, oats, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and/or brazil nuts into your diet. 

4. Try some medicinal mushrooms.

Mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, chaga, turkey tail, and reishi contain betaglucans that help modulate your immune system. Meaning they can rev up your immune system when necessary but also help cool it down when necessary. They're antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, they help protect the liver, and they act as powerful antioxidants in the body. They also activate macrophages which identify and destroy intruders in the body. 

5. Enjoy the power of herbs.

Elderberry: Elderberry is an immune enhancing herb that helps with the flu, upper respiratory infections, shingles, joint diseases, allergic conditions, colds, coughs, and diarrhea. 

Note: Proceed with caution if you have an autoimmune diseases as elderberry can increase immune activity, potentially causing a flair up. 

Garlic: This is one of the most effective antimicrobial plants out there. It acts on bacteria, viruses, and even parasites and is commonly used for chronic bronchitis, colds, influenza, and other respiratory and digestive infections. It's especially great because while it helps to kill pathogenic organisms, it feeds beneficial bacteria to help improve your gut health. 

It's most beneficial when eaten raw, and since no one is munching on garlic cloves here's what I like to do when I feel like I'm coming down with something: simmer (do not boil) 1 cup of bone broth with salt, pepper, and a dash or 2 of turmeric. Pour it into a cup and add 1/4-1/2 lemon juiced, 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, and 2-3 cloves minced garlic. 

Turmeric: Turmeric helps the body on so many fronts. It helps modulate the immune system, it's an incredible anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and it acts as an antimicrobial. Make sure you enjoy it with some black pepper as piperine helps curcumin (which is the anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric) absorption by up to 2000%!

Astragalus: This is one of the most popular Chinese herbs here in America and works great as a daily immune tonic (it's benefits build over time so you don't want to wait until you're sick to incorporate this one. 

"Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver. Astragalus has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. People sometimes use it on the skin for wound care." -mountsinai.org

You can take it as a capsule, liquid, or boiled in tea.

6. Reduce these immune zappers.

Sugar: This increases your blood sugar which activates an enzyme that causes dysfunction in the cells responsible for destroying invading microorganisms. It also inhibits proper tagging of foreign invaders and disrupts messages between cells necessary for a proper immune response. 

Dairy: Dairy is known to increase mucous production which exacerbates symptoms of the cold and flu, it increases inflammation, and is damaging to the your gut. Also if you aren't eating organic dairy, you're getting a dose of antibiotics that kills off your beneficial bacteria (a major necessity for immune function).

Gluten: Gluten stimulates a protein called zonulin which loosens the tight junctures of your gut lining, basically causing leaky gut. This allows toxins and food particles to escape in the blood stream which then raises inflammation and signals the immune system to attack. Now your immune system is tired and is focused on fighting the wrong guy. 

So I know when you're sick the temptation is to lean into comfort foods like grilled cheese and tomato soup or even ice cream. But that is honestly one of the worst things you can do if you want to feel better, faster. 

Stress: Stress hormones reduce the number of white blood cells which are needed to fight foreign invaders like viruses. It also reduces our body's ability to regulate inflammation.

Did you find this episode helpful? Don't forget to share it with your friends, family, and on social media and tag me @follow.your.gut.nutrition on Instagram and @followyourgutnutrition on TikTok!

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