Holistic doctors and practitioners will tell you to boost certain supplements such as vitamin C. Vitamin C in the form of an isolated ascorbic acid is essentially a drug like substance that can be used over short periods of time for healing. In the long run, isolated ascorbic acid will not act the same as the vitamin C complex of nutrients in food. Although this approach is superior to relying on your flu shot or taking antibiotics when you get an infection, it still is missing the big picture.
Chinese and similar oriental medicines have a different view of the body that can give us deeper insights into how to strengthen the immune system to prevent or pass through colds and flu more gently. I incorporate this knowledge into my Full Spectrum Macrobiotic Approach.
From an energetic view of these oriental medicines, the immune system is seen as being the most aggressive and active energetic aspect of the body. In order for the immune system to function well, the overall vitality of the body has to be highly functioning.
We derive energy from what we eat and digest, and from our breathing. We preserve this energy by putting out the right amount of physical and mental activity, and getting adequate time for resting and recuperation.
Energy or vitality in the body arises then from our diet and eating habits, our lifestyle which includes balanced rest and activity, the appropriate type and amount of exercise, body posture and movement, and a correct mental attitude.
To boost our immune system, we need an abundance of energy that comes from each of these areas. In this article, I will outline the most important elements in food to strengthen one’s immune system.
Diet: What we eat is the foundation of our energy or vitality. Longevity culture studies around the world show what was primarily eaten is what in Chinese medicine they call a clear light diet. For most people this is a diet centered around mostly cooked organic vegetables and whole grains, with small and moderate amounts of natural high-quality animal foods. A mild use of spices is known to aid digestion in the form of ginger, black pepper and other pungent or hot spices.
Humans are omnivorous by nature. Most people do better eat small amounts of a variety of naturally raised animal food 1-2 times per day in 2-4 oz portions depending on one’s size. These include wild fish, naturalyl raised beef, poultry, eggs and grass-fed dairy products.
For those who are vegan, I recommend the article on my website, How to be Safe on a Vegan Diet. For vegetarians, it is important to include dairy products from grass fed animals especially raw cheese and pasture raised eggs.
Small and moderate amounts of natural fats, wheat products such as noodles and sourdough bread, cooked fruit, prepared nuts and seeds, natural fats, natural seasonings, teas and other natural foods round out what I call a Full Spectrum Macrobiotic Approach to diet as eaten by most people in temperate areas around the globe.
If not enough animal proteins are eaten, the body does not produce adequate white blood cells for proper immune functioning or produce digestive enzymes to aid in digestion. Yet, if too many animal products are eaten, it hampers and weakens digestion so that the body can’t derive enough energy from foods. The animal products that are hardest to digest when overeaten are pork and beef.
Small amounts of natural sugars from natural sweeteners and cooked or dried fruit can be helpful for health in moderation. If sugar is over consumed, it puts a strain on digestion and creates inflammation that hampers digestion and vitality.
Human beings are designed to eat primarily cooked vegetables. Animals that eat raw vegetables have a rumen, a stomach that has bacteria in it that breaks down the fiber in raw vegetables. In this way, these animals can digest and absorb all the nutrients from raw vegetables. When raw vegetables are overeaten by humans, inflammation in the digestive tract occurs. This hampers digestion.
In traditional Chinese medicines, they understood that if certain foods were overeaten, it creates what they called dampness. In my Full Spectrum Macrobiotic Approach, I believe that dampness is in modern terms, inflammation and swelling of the digestive tract.
Certain foods if overeaten will create dampness. Natural foods in this category are super abundant in nutrition. In moderation, they are important for health. They include beef, pork, wheat products, added fats, dairy products, tomato sauce, nuts and seeds.
Modern food concoctions that are especially dampening causing inflammation in the digest tract include juices, ice cream and pizza. 100 years ago, these foods did not exist in the food chain. Only because of modern transportation, refrigeration and baking methods are they so easily accessible.
This understanding can help us to avoid taking too much of a good thing. All the above foods and drinks when taken in excess weaken the digestive system. When combined with overeating, the stomach overheats (gets inflamed) creating more digestive weakness.
Strengthening digestion is a key factor in boosting your immune system. The modern diet is a modern invention created after World War II based on technology first invented for the war. Traditional eating in all the temperate zones of the world was very modest, but now an abundance of foods is present.
To boost your digestive power, it is important to avoid highly processed foods. These foods stimulate the brain to overeat which creates inflammation known as dampness in the digestive system and heat/ inflammation in the stomach. In oriental medicine, excessive heat in the stomach over stimulates the appetite.
The modern habit of eating cold foods and drinks will hamper digestion. Energetically, the digestive system is like a fire, working more efficiently at body temperature.
When the digestive system is weakened, the overall vitality including the most active energy of the immune function is lowered making us more susceptible to get colds and flu.
Besides focusing on what traditionally was called a clear light diet or what I call a Full Spectrum Macrobiotic Approach to diet, there are foods, food concentrates and herbs that boost the immune system. Vitamin A rich supplements and foods strengthen the immune system. Fermented cod oil, pastured eggs and liver from naturally raised animals are high in vitamin A.
Zinc rich foods such as natural red meat, wild shellfish and roasted pumpkin seeds are important for the immune functioning.
Vitamin C is important for immune function. Vitamin C is high in lightly cooked vegetables, fruits, and cabbage pickles/sauerkraut. The Indian herb, Amla, is a natural whole vitamin C complex. Be careful of vitamins that say they are from whole foods. Most of them in the market place include isolated vitamins.
The Chinese herb astragalus strengthens the immune system. This can be prepared as a tea or taken in pills or an extract powder. It is best to buy high or medium grade astragalus to get the best effect.
Around the colon is a great number of immune cells. The health of the colon makes sure that these immune cells are neutralizing viruses and bacteria. If the condition of the colon is poor with the wrong type of bacteria, your immune system is busy fighting these bacteria. It can’t then ward off the cold and flu viruses.
Fiber rich grains and vegetables aid the function of the colon along with fermented foods such as miso and pickles that are made without vinegar, sugar or preservatives. Pickles also include raw fermented sauerkraut. These kinds of pickles are available in the refrigerator at natural foods stores.
It is easy to see that many people eating a modern diet and even eating natural diets are comprising their digestion with the result of weakening their immunity. It is not only the modern diet that is a new invention. Many people are eating natural diets that are only possible because of modern technology and that no people around the globe traditionally ate. The result is that people even eating many natural foods are also more susceptible to getting winter illnesses.
By working on your eating in the ways I mentioned, you can help your body to have enough energy for a healthy functioning immune system.
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