Everyone I know is sick. Alright not everyone, but on Facebook yesterday my News Feed informed me that four of my male friends had runny noses and fevers. You can hear it in people's nasaly voices, see it in their red, teary eyes and hear when they hawk their disgusting loogies, which, by the way, grosses me out more than you can know.
The sad part is not that you're miserable and ailing, but that you think this is normal. "Yeah, I guess it's just time for my bi-monthly phlegm infection. Is that the way you want to live? Constantly recovering from brawls between your immune system and little, tiny bacterial or viral invaders? And if it's not a cold, it's seasonal allergies.
So you take your NyQuil and your DayQuil, and don't forget your daily allergy medication that may or may not render you unable to operate heavy machinery (your car). If you don't like taking conventional medicines, you go for the more "natural" options: herbal remedies, homeopathic pellets, burning candles in your ears, or inhaling steamy tea tree oil to cleanse the sinus cavities. But the only gooey wax you see after burning those ear candles is from the candles themselves - they do nothing but cost you money.
I'm not saying natural remedies like your Kick Ass Immune tincture, Neti pots, and C Monster supplements aren't useful when used appropriately. I'm just saying that it would be nice if we didn't get sick in the first place. The reason everyone is so sick and snotty all the time is that our immune systems SUCK, and a little echinacea is not going to fix that, guys. There's something much more potent to help you with those colds and allergies, and it's not sold in a bottle. Since you all seem to need catchy phrases to sell you on immune boosting products and programs, I'll call it my MaxImmune NutriProgram for Optimal Wellness. In other words, eat better.
Here's a sequence of events that happens to the best of us:
- Get born.
- Eat shitty, refined, sugary foods (that Mom may or may not have known were shitty).
- Due to shitty food, you don't get enough nutrients (protein, vitamins and minerals) to create a strong immune system.
- Immune system gets tired and can't attack things properly (flu virus, that pesky syphilis, etc.).
- Immune system gets confused because it's really over-worked and under-educated.
- Immune system starts attacking things it shouldn't attack (weeping willow bits, foods, YOUR OWN BODY).
- Immune system is so tired and confused that it doesn't respond quickly or efficiently to viruses and bacteria.
And thus we end up with weak, confused immune systems that don't know what they're supposed to be doing. We get sick a lot, we have allergies to random things, including foods, and we get autoimmune disorders (where your immune system attacks your own body) like multiple sclerosis, celiac and Hashimoto's. Much of your immune system is made up of proteins, and it takes many different nutrients to get it to work well. You get these proteins and nutrients in large part from FOOD. Let me repeat that. Your immune system, as well as every other part of your body, is produced from the food you eat.
Here are your instructions for building a strong immune system so you don't get sick in the first place:
1. Eat regularly. Your body needs to have a constant supply of energy so that your immune system can do everything it needs to do. You can't create cells and tissues without good food, much less heal them. Eat protein, fat and complex carbohydrates at every meal and snack, and don't go more than 3 or 4 hours without eating. Breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, sleep, repeat. You may just lose some weight doing this, too.
2. Don't eat things your body doesn't like. For various reasons, people's immune systems often flare up when they come into contact with certain foods. Your body sees the food as a foreign invader and attacks it, which causes you to feel symptoms. In the case of true food allergies, your lips may swell up and go numb, hives might appear, and your heart could potentially stop due to anaphylactic shock. Food sensitivities are similar in that your immune system attacks a food and causes symptoms, but the mechanism is different. To be exact, food allergies are mediated by immunoglobulin E and sensitivities are caused by other parts of your immune system. Again, being sensitive to a food just means that your immune system has a negative reaction to it. It could be that it makes you depressed, it makes your joints achy, or it gives you a headache. It might give you hives or diarrhea, acne or a yeast infection. Many symptoms are possible because your immune system has a lot of different tactics.
When you're continually eating things that are causing negative immune responses, it's really hard on your body, and it leaves a weaker immune system to fight off things like the flu. So if you just love sunflower seeds, but you're actually sensitive to them (and have headaches all the time), your immune system is constantly working on responding to the sunflower seeds. When you want your huge, well-fed, agile army on hand to attack the bacteria your kid just sneezed all over your face, you have half of a poorly-fed, tired-ass army instead.
If you want to know what foods you're sensitive to, you can find out. You can either take out foods you suspect cause problems and see if you feel any better, or you can get tested through several different companies. If you're interested in this process, contact me and set up an appointment. A lot of people have problems with wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, sugar and/or chocolate, but you personally may have an issue with raspberries or beef or garbanzo beans. Or all of the above. I can tell you this: I've never seen a food sensitivities test come back negative, and I've never seen anyone NOT improve after taking out their offending foods.
3. Eat foods that have a fantastic array of nutrients in them. When I say that, I know you conjure some superfood in your media-washed brains like acai berries from the Amazon or pomegranates from ancient Greece. While those foods are great, I'm not talking about them. All whole foods (vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, seeds) have nutrients in them, and even more so if they're organic and raised properly. Grains and legumes have some nutrients in them, too, but we won't go there right now.
Let me remind you about why you need these nutrients. Let's take, for example, the antibody (aka immunoglobulin). The antibody is the part of your immune system that identifies and neutralizes foreign objects, such as bacteria and viruses. It's crucial for responding to that nasty flu virus quickly and efficiently so that you don't have to feel awful for 3 weeks, or even 3 days. You need protein and B vitamins to build these antibodies, both of which you get in the largest quantities from animal products. You also need vitamin C from fruits and vegetables to keep your antibodies (particularly immunoglobulin A) from being depleted. Here's a link to an article on that.
If your diet is mostly made up of refined grains, pasteurized cheese and sugar, all of which have little usable goodness in them, think about adding more veggies, meats, nuts, seeds and fruits in order to get your protein and vitamins. Think of sugar as a caloric wedge between you and your nutrients. Sugar takes up calories in your diet that could otherwise be spent on nutrient dense foods that will help you build a strong immune system. Plus, sugar makes you fat and tired. It's what's giving you your muffin top. It can also lower your libido, make you depressed and give you acne. I guess all of those symptoms work well together because, well, who wants to have sex with you if you're fat, tired, sick, depressed and have acne? Ha! Just kidding. But seriously...