How Diet Affects Our Immune System: The Challenge
Our immune systems are constantly challenged by external and internal changes. Things like stress, anxiety, depression, lack of exercise, chemicals in our foods, environmental pollution, and radical viruses, threaten the body’s ability to live a daily healthy and balanced life.
The immune system is the body‘s natural way of fighting off disease. When our body lacks the proper nutrients our immune system can become deficient in its ability to protect us from disease. We know from studies that people who live in impoverished areas around the world are more prone to infectious diseases for the very reason that they lack nutritious foods that can strengthen the immune system. Nutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin A, B, C, D and minerals such as zinc, iron, selenium, have shown to weaken the immune system.
There is most definitely a connection between diet and a healthy immune system. Along with regular exercise, and the ability to handle stress, diet is a wonderful way to strengthen your ability to ward off disease and infection. Let’s look at some of the 10 most powerful foods and spices that can increase our immunity.
Garlic has been used for Centuries in many of the southern European and Asian countries. Not only is it known to lower that cholesterol levels, but is very effective in boosting our immune system. Garlic has been shown to help the body fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In fact, in 2015 the Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University Health Science Center, published a study that researched the effects of fresh garlic extract and it’s anti-microbial activities of antibiotics on resistant strains. Results from their study showed that fresh garlic extract increased the antibiotics potential to kill pathogen’s that were initially resistant to treatment.
Kale is known as an anti-inflammatory full of Vitamin A, C, calcium, and fiber. It has been shown to enhance heart health, lower blood sugar levels, and strengthen the immune system. In 2012, a fascinating study led by Dr. Michael Greger, showed that when white blood cells were dripped with kale, their ability to produce antibodies not only increased but quadrupled! (he notes that Americans only eat half a teaspoon of kale per week per capita) Dr. Greger then showed that even cooking kale or boiling it, further “improved” it’s effectiveness in producing antibodies. Kale is a wonderful and powerful way to boost our immune system without a doubt. So the next time you are in the kitchen, stuff this beautiful strong and dark green leafy vegetable into as many meals as you possibly can! Rock on with the power of a strong immune system.
Turmeric has been used in cooking throughout Middle Eastern countries for thousands of years. When used in meals it turns the dish into a lovely warm yellow color. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and strengthens the immune system by increasing antibodies. Throughout India and Pakistan it is also used to cleanse the body from toxins and helps improve liver function. Turmeric is also good to relieve diarrhea, heartburn, stomach ulcers, and lowers cholesterol. So the next time you are thinking about relieving your body of excess toxins while strengthening your immune system, make a beautiful cup of turmeric tea, also known as “Golden Milk”. You will not be disappointed!
Lemons and Limes
Lemons and limes are probably one of the oldest foods used to strengthen the immune system. In fact during the 16th Century, many ships carried limes to ward off infection among their sailors. While both fruits seem very sour they actually create an alkaline environment within the body. This is very important to ward off disease as research shows that acidity within the body causes a breakdown of the immune system and allows the probability of infection. Lemons and limes are packed full of Vitamin C, essential oil‘s, zinc and flavonoids, all of which boost our immunity. In fact, a Swiss group of researchers released an article in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism showing that zinc and vitamin C improve the function of natural killer cells; aiding in the body‘s ability to kill infection. As if it could not get any better, the plus side for us ladies, is that vitamin C also helps to increase collagen production. No more wrinkles or puffy skin. As your morning ritual try pouring a glass of water and squeezing a slice of lemon or lime into it. It will flush out your body and start your day off as a clean machine!
Echinacea has been used by the North American Native People’s for thousands of years as Medicine. It was used for everything from sore throat’s, pneumonia, bronchitis, snakebites, and even topically to treat wounds. Echinacea is an antioxidant and strengthens our immune system by encouraging healthy cell growth. It was during the 20th century that Germany adopted Echinacea as a popular Medicinal herb in the attempt of minimizing the use of antibiotics. The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has even said that in several animal studies, Echinacea was shown to boost immune function while reducing inflammation. Many health food stores now sell echinacea tea and tinctures. It is a beautiful flower that holds a lot of immune punch!
Ginger... it’s probably pretty safe to say that many people around the world know about the health benefits of ginger. This gnarly looking root is extremely powerful in boosting our immune system and is an absolutely wonderful addition to many dishes. Ginger has been shown to not only have antiviral and antibacterial properties, but is also a strong anti-inflammatory. The compound called gingerol found in ginger, is what gives this root it’s immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, and even antioxidant properties. Ginger is also a wonderful way to reduce your cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar. Many athletes also use ginger to rev up their metabolism to burn fat. Try making ginger tea or using it in a lovely vegetable stir-fry. Even peeling the root and boiling it cleans the air in your kitchen!
Believe it or not, sweet potatoes are a terrific immune boosting food. It is full of beta carotene which when ingested converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A produces white blood cells responsible for fighting off infection. Think of white blood cells like “little warriors” in the body that recognize any foreign bacteria or virus that ultimately must be destroyed. They are extremely important in the function of a healthy immune system and cannot ever be taken for granted. Even for weight loss, sweet potatoes keep us feeling full and give us that pumped up energy. Sweet potatoes are wonderful for improving eyesight and brain function too. In addition, because they have a lower glycemic index than potatoes, sweet potatoes are a wonderful alternative for diabetics. So the next time you’re wanting to improve your immune function while eating fulfilling meals, try using sweet potatoes for your next dinner!
Cinnamon, one of our favourite spices here at Edica Naturals. It is not only a delicious addition to so many nutritious dishes, but it’s health benefits are absolutely amazing. One of the first cultures to recognize its medicinal qualities were the Egyptian‘s. In ancient Egypt the bark of the Cinnamomum tree was used to fight infections and reduce inflammation. For anyone trying to lose weight cinnamon also offers a powerful war on unwanted fat. It increases the metabolism and burns fat within the body at a much higher rate. Cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde which is thought to be the medicinal property within this spice. So if you want to spice up your immune system, spice it up with the cinnamon spice!
The unique flavour and smell of cardamom makes it seem like a very exotic spice. Used for thousands of years throughout India and Pakistan, cardamom is very effective in strengthening the immune system. Medicinally it has been used to relieve colds, coughs and respiratory infections. It is loaded with phytonutrients which are known to not only relieve health issues such as the common cold but can also be used to relieve asthma and even tooth pain. This spice also supports the immune system by destroying oxidative stress which we know is caused by free-radical damage. This can severely weaken the immune system so that the body can no longer fight off infection. Cardamom possesses antibiotic properties and has even been shown to aid in weight loss. Like ginger, it stimulates the metabolism to burn unwanted fat. Cardamom is wonderful as a detox tonic when made into a tea and stimulates kidney function. It acts as a natural diuretic. It’s unique flavour allows it to be a lovely addition to any curry, soup, and even casserole.
Now this is definitely is a spice found in almost every kitchen! As already stated, white blood cells are responsible for fighting off disease and infection. Black pepper is one of those spices that allows the white blood cells to increase and grow stronger. It is also loaded with Vitamin C helping to build our immune system naturally. Furthermore, a study released in the Journal of Medicinal Food, (2010 Vol.13, No. 2), demonstrated the immune building properties of both black pepper and cardamom. Not only did their findings demonstrate an enhanced immune response, but suggested that black pepper and cardamom have anti-tumor properties. So the next time you are at your family dinner, do not hesitate to say “pass the pepper please!”
Our present day immune system is riddled with challenges. Everything from our changing environment, radical viruses, and mental health issues, our weakening immunity has recently become the focus of many herbalists and Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine. The good news is that we have the power and ability to strengthen our immune system and defend our body’s natural ability to remain healthy. The spices and foods mentioned within this article demonstrate how easy it is to change one’s diet. The simple action of adding ingredients that strengthen your “personal machine” will allow you to live a healthier life. It makes sense to become proactive in determining your own health and wellness. The power lies in knowledge and education while enjoying these beautiful and natural foods which have been gifted to our planet.
Enjoy….and Eat Well Friend!