To Flu shot or not? A natural alternative to boost your immune system.

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First off, I want to send some big love to all those who have been affected by the devastating effects of hurricane Sandy – our positive thoughts and blessings go out to you and we at Eat Naked wish you a swift and peaceful recovery from the storm.

As we move into the winter months, it’s a good time to talk about boosting our immune systems.  The stressors of everyday life, the bugs that are going around – not to mention a hurricane! – all of these events can really weaken our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to viruses, bacteria and unwanted pathogens.

Here’s a little background information to help you understand of how our immune system works.

Did you know that 80% of our immune system is found in our digestive tract?

It’s found in the delicate mucosal lining of the small intestine in what are known as Peyer’s Patches.  This is why when you have a food sensitivity or allergic reaction to something you’ve eaten its effect can be almost immediate!  And, this is also why prolonged exposure to an allergen, for instance gluten, will eventually cause what is known as “leaky gut” – a situation where there are small (or large, depending on the severity/length of exposure) holes in your intestinal lining that allow large proteins access into your bloodstream where they absolutely DO NOT belong.  At this point the lymphatic system, responsible for producing and circulating White Blood Cells (WBC), is called into action to start gobbling up foreign invaders of all types: cancers, allergens, viruses, bacteria and pathogens, etc…  This is why when you have an increased WBC count it’s very clearly an immune response.

Here’s the thing: to stay healthy in the face of winter colds and influenza as well as prolonged stress, or even cancer, we need to ensure our immune system is operating optimally. 

So.. why not get the flu shot?

Flu Shot Flu shots are indiscriminate in their ability to predict which virus might be on the horizon.  Health officials take their best shot at predicting what might be coming our way, and inject several possibilities into our arm (ouch!), but this is in NO WAY a foolproof method for making sure you don’t get sick this winter. Far from it, I’d say.  So, I’ll take my chances, skip the shot, and do the best I can at supporting my immune system by following these guidelines below.

Here are some of the very helpful things we can do to support immune function so we don’t get hit this winter:

Move your body!

The lymphatic system wherein lymph fluid (and, thus WBC) follows a similar path as our circulatory system (veins and arteries) with one caveat: it doesn’t have a pump, like your heart, to move the fluid.  Instead, it relies on muscle contraction; and what moves it best is BOUNCING!!  So anything like jogging, running, rebounding, jumping rope, jumping jacks, or simply standing in placing, with knees slightly bent, quick heel lifts to the ball of the foot with arms gently swinging in opposition (perhaps overhead) is super for getting your lymph fluid flowing!

Eat immune-boosting foods

Probiotic-rich foods: Probiotics keep the flora of our intestines in pristine condition and increase nutrient absorption.  They are also the first line of defense. Add cultured veggies like kim-chi or raw sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt to your daily routine.  Check out Chef James and Margaret’s video for making your own cultured veggies.

garlic Garlic & Ginger: Throw these in everything: green smoothies, stir-fry, soup, salad dressing and sauces.  Or try the ginger blast tea: ginger, cayenne, lemon and a tiny bit of honey with its own antimicrobial powers!

Soups and stews: Miso soup is excellent, or try a base of homemade bone-broth which is a powerful immune-booster on it’s own and add to it dark, leafy greens and loads of vegetables.

Hydrate:  If you want to flush out toxins you need to stay hydrated!  Water, herbal tea, bone broth, kombucha anything that is not going to deplete you (coffee, alcohol and sugar are all dehydrating).  A general rule of thumb for how much water we need to be taking in daily is half your body weight in ounces.  So, if you weigh 160 lbs.  you should be drinking 80 oz. of water.  If you drink one 8oz coffee, counter that with 1.5 x’s water to replenish, bringing your total to 92 oz.

Get some sleep

Nothing serves your body more than a good 8 hours of sleep (or more if you feel something coming on).  Our body does ALL of its repair work at night.  The days are shorter now and the body naturally wants to be sleeping more….so give in, power down the technology, grab a book, take a bath and go to bed.

Reduce stress

Nothing impairs immune function like stress and cortisol running through your bloodstream.  I know, I know, I talk about this all the time – so check out my previous post for helpful hints on stress reduction.

Get the sugar out!

Nothing shuts down our immune system like sugar – using precious vitamins and minerals to process and metabolize the stuff, when those minerals such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and a whole host of others should be reinforcing our immune system.  This includes fruit juices which have a lot of sugar and which are actually quite challenging for your body to process.  Eat the fruit with its fiber, vitamins and minerals….just not too much of it.

And if you do get sick…

Woman sick in bed In the unfortunate event that you do get hit this winter and suffer an immune blow-out, EMBRACE IT!  This is how we make our immune system stronger, when we get taken down hard, and have to spend those 4 or 5 days in bed, the immune system is working at maximum capacity, proving itself to be up to the task and increasing its effectiveness, sort of like training for the Olympics of immune function.  Hang on, let it the infection run its course (don’t try and push it) sleep and stay hydrated….you’ll be stronger in the long run, I promise:)

If you’d like some help getting your immune system in tip-top shape to battle the cold and flu season ahead, set up an initial consult – I’ve got an arsenal of immune boosting ideas I’d love to share with you!

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