Immunity, Inflammation & Diet
Hopefully you have heard by now that inflammation is the underlying factor linked to most health problems. The health of the immune system greatly affects the extent of the inflammation.
The function of the immune system is to protect and heal the body. It is a multi-faceted system working mechanically like skin as a physical barrier against harm, and working on the cellular level, as is the case of white blood cells that attack and kill bacteria and viruses. It is estimated that over 80% of the function of the immune system originates in the GI tract. That is why you read so much about probiotics and detox these days. Dr. Russell Blaylock writes, “next to the nervous system, the immune system is perhaps the most complex and enigmatic system in the body.”
Immunity and the GI Tract
The GI tract supports immunity by secreting IgA, which binds to harmful microbes and eliminates them. It also contains a plethora of beneficial bacteria, which perform many functions including estrogen metabolism, nutritional support, and provide beta-glucan, a powerful immune stimulant contained in the cell walls of specific fungi. This is why long-term antibiotic use is detrimental to the immune system. Antibiotics destroy the natural bacterial flora which protect the body from microbial offenders, provide nutrition, and prevent over-immunity as in the case of auto-immune diseases like Crohn’s disease, arthritis, etc. Another major offender to the bacterial flora of the GI tract is harmful bacteria and fungi such as h-pylori, which causes peptic ulcer disease, and some candida species, which cause yeast infections. These harmful microbes feed on sugar and starches and kill off beneficial bacteria.
Foods That Suppress Immunity
The biggest enemies of the immune system are prevalent in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, canola, safflower, hydrogenated, etc., oils, bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, sodas, coffee, tea, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, French fries, hamburgers, pizza, biscuits, poboys, sandwiches, candy, granola, protein bars, milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc., etc. all keep the immune system busy. The heavy sugars and starches in the SAD diet promote the growth of harmful bacteria, which kill off beneficial bacteria that protect the body from pathogens. Omega 6 oils in all processed foods from chips to spaghetti sauce tax the immune system and produce inflammation. The tannic acid in soda, tea, and coffee kills beneficial bacteria. The amount of wheat in the SAD diet inflames the GI tract and keeps the immune system over-stressed as well.
Sooo…before you eat anything, ask yourself “what will my body do with this?” If you don’t know, put it down. Choose whole foods and eat them as close to whole as possible. That means buy potatoes, not potato chips or potato salad. Buy apples, not apple juice or sauce. Buy thick cut oats, not flavored oatmeal packets. Drink water. A typical meal could be black-eyed peas, a baked sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and a green salad. A typical snack could be a handful of raw nuts, an apple, or a glass of fresh vegetable juice.
Good Nutrition and Immunity
Cold and flu season coincides directly with sugar and sweets season and the reduction of sunlight. Prepare for fall now by withdrawing from sugar to strengthen your immune system. Adding a few supplements can help.
The immune system is dependent on Vitamin A and Zinc for efficient function. Deficiency in these is prevalent in underdeveloped countries and poor or urban/intercity areas of the U.S. Vitamins B, C, D, E, selenium, and magnesium also play vital roles in optimum immunity. Vitamin D deficiency in shut-ins and the elderly is a major cause of complicated and prolonged infections. If you have an active lifestyle in summer but stay indoors all winter, please consider a Vitamin D supplement for at least the winter months. If you are just starting a healthy eating plan, add supplements to jump-start your immunity.
As usual, if you need further information, don’t hesitate to write.
All the best,K
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13 NIV