Cheat Sheet

Boosting Your Immunity For Dummies

From Boosting Your Immunity For Dummies by Wendy Warner, Kellyann Petrucci

Your immune system is something you can manage: When you begin to eat the right foods and live in a way that boosts your immunity, you look and feel better. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder or just want to take control of your health and increase your energy level, you can take simple steps in the areas of nutrition and detoxification to keep your immune system healthy and happy.

Using Nutrition to Keep Your Immune System Humming in Perfect Order

Nutrition is really the basis for a good immune-boosting plan. Your immune system is complex and needs a variety of components to make it work optimally; you can get most of those components through food by following these tips:

  • Eat whole foods. Eating whole foods means you don’t have to figure out how to read an ingredient label, because whole foods don’t really have ingredient labels. It means you’ll cook from scratch — don’t worry; it doesn’t take much time once you discover a few tricks. It also means that you’ll avoid processed foods (anything in a box, bag, or can), thus avoiding stabilizers, thickeners, coloring agents, and other additives that are human-made and not recognized by your body. Eating whole foods means your immune system doesn’t have to work so hard to decide what’s okay and what isn’t, plus it gets the support it needs.

  • Give your body protein every day. Not in excess, but in modest amounts. Without adequate protein, much of the function of the immune system gets bogged down. If animal protein is part of your diet, make sure that animal ate only grass, was processed humanely, and was never fed antibiotics or food it wasn’t designed to eat.

  • Accept that fat isn’t the enemy — as long as it’s the right kind of fat. If the fat in your diet comes from fish, eggs from pasture-raised chickens, avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, you’re fine. If it comes from most other plant oils or human-made trans fats, that’s not okay. Every cell in the body is surrounded by a membrane made up of fats, the composition of which is determined by the diet.

  • Make produce the mainstay of your diet. Most of what you eat should be plants, and most of that should be plants that grow above ground. Vegetables provide the nutrients that run the immune system. Fruit helps, though be careful not to eat too much (one to two servings a day is plenty). Although fruit is healthy, too much fruit can lead to insulin issues, just as too much candy does.

Improving Immunity by Detoxifying Your Body and Your Life

The immune system works hard all the time to keep an eye out for “dangerous strangers” to the body, which gets harder to do when the body is also busy dealing with toxic chemicals, hormone overload, and a sluggish system. Here are some strategies for assisting your body’s detoxification systems; the reward is a healthier immune system.

  • Drink more water! Your kidneys flush out toxins, but they need water to do their job. Most people are chronically dehydrated, and coffee, tea, soda, and sweetened drinks just make it worse. Shoot for drinking half of your weight in ounces of water each day; for example, if you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces of water.

  • Support your liver. The liver does most of the detoxification. Support it with green tea, loads of cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower, and enough protein.

  • Get moving to stimulate your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump the way the blood’s circulatory system does. It requires the work of the muscles around it to move lymph, so exercise and movement are key to good detoxification. Lymphatic massage is also helpful, as is dry skin brushing — a technique that uses a soft brush to stroke the skin from the extremities toward the heart, moving lymph gently along the lymphatic pathways.

  • Clean up your world! The less environmental pollution you have to contend with, the happier your liver will be. You can detoxify your environment by simply not using plastic, eating organic whenever possible, and cleaning out the duct work in your home. Using air purifiers and water filters and avoiding most dry cleaners also can have a huge impact on the amount of damaging toxins in your day-to-day life.

How to Manage Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune disorders, like lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, are much more prevalent in women than in men and tend to run in families. Although these conditions all look different, what they have in common is an overactive immune system that can no longer distinguish “self” from “non-self.” When this reaction gets triggered, it’s hard to make it completely go away, but you can do the following to modify the course of the disease and minimize any damage:

  • Eat more anti-inflammatory foods. Foods like fatty fish, loads of brightly colored vegetables, and minimally processed foods go a long way toward slowing down the immune system’s overreaction.

  • Avoid gluten. Research shows that continuing to eat gluten stokes the fire of inflammation in those with autoimmune conditions and leads to further cell damage.

  • Adjust the proteins you eat. Arachidonic acid, found only in animal products, is inflammatory. Less of this acid exists in red meat than in chicken and even less in fish, turkey, and pork.

  • Balance your hormones. If your estrogen and progesterone are out of balance, they push the immune system to overreact in women who have autoimmune conditions. Work with a holistic practitioner to lower that estrogen!

  • Get the mercury out of your life. Mercury has specifically been shown to stimulate the immune system in a negative way, so if your old dental amalgams are cracked, get them out of your mouth.

  • Supplement with fish oil, vitamin D, and anti-inflammatories, such as turmeric, rosemary, and green tea. These supplements all work to improve immune function directly as well as lower inflammation. Better immune function and less inflammation means less autoimmunity.

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