Call me an optimist, I’m always looking for silver linings, even in the most testing of times. Perhaps I have my parents to thank for my glass half full attitude or perhaps its my mental preparation for when I engaged in competitive sports (or maybe a combination of the two). I believe staying at home day in and day out is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact I see wonderful benefits. For example these challenging times have allowed us to slow down, reflect on what is truly important in life, learn new ways of being, doing and creating—that includes cooking.
Before we all emerge from our homes, we may need to think of how we can boost our immune systems and better equip our “temples” to deal with exposure to viruses and bacteria. We also need to consider how we can prevent lifestyle diseases which would leave us more exposed with a compromised immune system. Sadly, I haven’t quite figured out the magic pill for anti-aging, but there are ways to stay youthful and thrive as we grow older, I’ll cover that in another article.
COVID-19 has definitely created a certain level of fear within each and every one of us and our zest for health and life has become apparent. Now is the time to take action and make positive lifestyle changes rather than chasing trends.
FOOD: THE FOUNDATION STARTER
Hippocrates had it right in 300BC-ish when he proclaimed “Let food be thy medicine.” Food can provide us with the critical building blocks to health and vitality and more importantly, keep our immune system in fighting shape.
Our gut health is a critical component of overall health and a marker for the state of the immune system. The stomach essentially performs the task of separating the inside of our body from the outside world. It acts as a filter by removing toxins and waste from the body and allowing nutrients through. The highest and densest microbe population in your body can be found in your gut, where it plays a critical role in digestion, weight regulation and immune system function.
Building healthy gut bacteria and avoiding foods that could damage this vital organ are just some ways you can support your immune system function. If the stomach is damaged in any way your immune system spends much of its time and energy fighting the toxins that leak through your gut into your bloodstream. Like going to war, your stomach would be in a better position being proactive vs. constantly being on the defensive lines.
So how do you support your gut?
- Eat fermented foods in order to get a wide variety of probiotics such as Kombucha, Kimchi and sauerkraut which provide an array of good bacteria.
- Take a prebiotic supplement or find foods that contain prebiotics which support the good bacteria as they are the precursor for good bacteria.
- Eat lots of fiber. Animal-based foods contain no fiber, but plant-based foods are loaded with it. Make sure you are getting a wide variety of plant-based foods, including whole grains, a wide range of fruit and vegetables, plant-based meats (like Fry Family Foods range) are usually very high in fiber and are pesticide-free.
- Avoid fruit and vegetables which have been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals. One of the most popular herbicides sprayed on crops contains the chemical, Glyphosate, which disrupts the gut wall which then allows bacteria to pass through the gut lining. This affects the functioning of the immune system. Try to buy organic wherever possible.
- Limit intake of highly processed foods and animal products. Animals reared for human consumption contain the very chemicals that damage the stomach lining. The primary food source for these animals is genetically modified corn and soy which has been sprayed with herbicides containing glyphosate. The glyphosate accumulates in the animal’s body, which we then consume.
SUPPLEMENTS: THE REINFORCEMENTS
Supplements can certainly help when trying to build a powerhouse of an immune system. There are literally hundreds of natural herbs and vitamin supplements on the market and it can be confusing to decide which ones to buy. There are, however, no magic pills you can take to prevent a virus or a cold, but there are some simple ones you can add to your everyday diet to give you a fighting chance.
- Vitamin C: Can be taken as a supplement or found in high levels in peppers, guavas, oranges, strawberries and broccoli
- Vitamin D: A few minutes in the sunshine can boost your Vitamin D levels or take a supplement. A blood test will show your Vitamin D levels
- Zinc, Echinacea, Ashwagandha: All support immune system function and are my go-to’s when I’m feeling a little run down
- Garlic, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, and turmeric: Can be added to your cooking to boost immunity and reduce inflammation in the body
GET YOUR BUZZ ON BY FEELING GREAT
Although you may be tempted to turn to alcohol out of boredom, stress or even to celebrate (or cope with) being at home with your family or partner, try and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. Alcohol disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood and reduces the number and function of macrophages and T and C cells, all crucial to a well-functioning immune system.
KEEP CALM & ZEN ON
By nature I’m high energy and I tend to worry—a lot. I have to work at focusing on calming my mind and letting go, even for just a few minutes or a few hours at a time. When “stressed out” or anxious, your body produces stress hormones, which can suppress your immune system. So, in this incredibly challenging time for the human race, make sure you spend some time on some activities to minimize stress – doing a puzzle, practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises, give meditation a go, do yoga in your bedroom (there are plenty of free yoga classes on YouTube – I personally love “Yoga with Adriene”), take an exercise class, get into your garden, or start cooking. I also recommend using essential oils in a diffuser and playing calming music in your home. Whatever makes you feel relaxed and happy—do more of that!
In a study conducted by international lecturer and researcher Dr. Joe Dispenza and his team, average IgA levels (an antibody protein that forms part of your immune system), went up by 49.5% on average when study participants elevated their emotional state by practicing love, joy, gratitude and inspiration for 10 min, 3x per day.
Sleep. To. Feel. Unbelievable. Sleep is a wonderful immune booster and let’s face it, a good REM sleep not only feels good, it grounds you by giving both your body and your mind the rest it needs to mentally, physically and emotionally stave off whatever comes your way. Now that there are no late-night parties, dinner with friends, or drinks at the pub, you can more easily prep to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Studies have shown huge benefits to the immune system and increased number of T-cells (immune cells which protect the body from cancer cells and other pathogens), when getting your full sleep quota.
Warriors: Stay safe. Stay strong. And keep your family healthy by sharing this article with them.
Tammy Fry is a Health and Lifestyle Expert and one of the driving forces behind Fry Family Foods, producers of over 60 different plant-based brands which can be found in 28 countries around the world. Tammy has made it her life’s passion to, as she mentions in the article, let thy food by thy medicine.