Due to so much talk in the media about viruses and bacteria spreading like wildfires, this seems like a good time to talk about immunity. If the immune system is strong it can fight off most viruses and bacteria. Unfortunately, many people lower their resistance by having too much stress, antibiotics, sugar, coffee, and overall poor diet and lifestyle habits. Here are some simple tips to keep your immune system strong.
Stop popping antibiotics every time you have a cold or swollen glands, sore throat, ear or sinus infection! First, colds and flus are viruses and cannot be harmed by antibiotics, only bacteria can. But, that doesn’t stop doctors from prescribing them. In fact, one of the reasons I got into the field of holistic health was an experience that I had at the emergency room about ten years ago. I had a high fever and could barely move. When the doctor saw me he told me I had some kind of flu virus. He wanted to give me a shot with a week’s worth of antibiotics. I did not know as much about holistic care as I do now, but I did know antibiotics would be useless. I asked him why he wanted to prescribe them to me since they can’t kill viruses, and he told me that is just something that people want. They come in and want some kind of medicine. Did my high fever make me hallucinate this? Sadly no, and here we have one of the biggest problems with the medical system.
Over-medicating with antibiotics actually weakens the immune system. Many people ask me why they got a cold or flu after getting off a course of antibiotics. For one thing, it kills all your body’s beneficial bacteria. These bacteria (flora) are crucial for fighting off pathogens that enter your system. Your beneficial bacteria also fights yeast, another common complaint associated with antibiotic use. If you do take a course, please take a probiotic (beneficial bacteria) supplement and eat bacteria-rich cultured foods such as miso and sauerkraut as well.
Chronic ear and sinus infections are often caused by underlying food allergies. Try cutting out wheat and especially dairy. Dairy creates mucus and dampness in the body. If you are going to have dairy, make sure it is fermented, such as yogurt, kefir, or cottage cheese. When milk is fermented, bacteria and enzymes are created. This makes it easier to digest, creating less of a load on the body. If you are highly sensitive to these foods, you may need to eliminate them completely.
Lay off the sugar and coffee! Sugar lowers your Natural Killer cells; the super-charged white blood cells that fight off invaders. Coffee causes your adrenal glands to release stress hormones. This leads to a crash-and-burn cycle that leaves the body fatigued and unable to adapt to stress. In this weakened state invaders have no trouble getting into your system.
If you feel sick, don’t be a hero and go to work. Stay home give yourself a chance to rest. Your body will thank you, and so will your co-workers, as now they won’t be sharing your illness.
Try herbs and medicinal mushrooms for immune support. My favorite mushroom blend is Host Defense by Paul Stamets for New Chapter. This blend of 17 mushrooms turns a garden-variety immune system into a super-charged immune system. The mushrooms increase those ever-important Natural Killer cells. This can be used preventively: two per day, or for an acute problem, six per day. Garlic and goldenseal are anti-microbial. Echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C are all food for the immune system. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is a powerful amino acid, and antioxidant which supports liver and immune health. It is especially helpful for thinning mucus. This is a relief when there is too much congestion, as with colds, flu, and sinus infections. 1,000-2,000 mg per day is the recommended dose.
As always, eat a diet rich in unprocessed whole foods. This will give your body all the nutrients it needs to be strong and ready to fight off any invaders that come it’s way.
Here is a recipe for a classic healing food, chicken soup. Instead of noodles, this one is with sweet potato. This meal is packed with nutrients to heal the body and soothe the mind.
healing veggie chicken soup
4 lb organic chicken
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
6 celery stalks, chopped
1 sweet potato, cut into bite-size chunks
2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 lemon, juiced
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, sage and basil, to taste
1 bunch Swiss chard, thinly chopped
optional: cayenne pepper (helps clear lungs)
tip: Cut veggies into 1/2 inch pieces
tip: Tie the fresh herbs and put them in whole
directions: Rinse chicken and place it in large soup pot and cover with filtered water. Add apple cider vinegar, 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks and 1 tsp salt. Simmer until chicken is tender and falls off the bone. Take chicken out of the pot. Strain broth, and then put back in pot. Add to broth the remaining onion, celery, carrot, shitakes, sweet potato, fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer, until sweet potato and carrots are tender. Stir in chopped chard and fresh parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks and put back into the pot. You can cut the chicken up while soup is simmering.