food-and-immune-systemDoes Food Influence Your Immune System?

When was the last time you had an unhealthy meal, i.e. double-cheese burger, super fries, chocolate milk shake? In about one hour, how did you feel?

You may have felt like you needed a nap, rather than awake, alert, and energetic. Immediate symptoms of wrong food choices may be just part of the results. You may not be aware of how long-term eating habits of nutritionally-bankrupt foods, such as this, can eventually break down your immune system.

Your body needs the proper nutritional tools, so that it can function correctly. Whole grains, fresh vegetables, nutrient-rich meals are important to maintain your health. Diets consisting mainly of saturated fats, simple carbs, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, will sooner or later weaken the immune system.

Unfortunately, due to fast-paced lifestyles, the typical American diet is usually fast-food. Most meals may contain highly processed, refined foods that can make your body more susceptible to illness and common viruses. Without the proper nutritional building-blocks, your body will not be able to retain its immune-protective abilities.

Avoid corn syrup or white table sugar. The immune system is weakened in less than 30 minutes by eating simple sugar. Even, one teaspoon of white sugar suppresses immunity for up to six hours.

Proper nutrition from health-filled foods will protect your body from the viruses and germs that are so prevalent during the holidays and winter months. Your best bet is to focus on nutrient-rich foods daily, for optimum immune function.

Here are some suggestions for choosing health-filled foods:

1. Choose un-processed, whole foods: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, low-fat cuts of meat, chicken, fish. Avoid chemicals, preservatives, trans fats, MSG (and other names for it, such as autolyzed yeast) and dyes. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. The less-processed foods and the fewer ingredients in prepared products will generally mean healthier eating habits.

2. Choose spice: Did you know spice can mean more than salt and pepper? Certain spices can actually accelerate your immune response, when you feel a virus coming on. Some spices and foods contain substances called “mucolytics”, which help reduce congestion in your sinuses and breathing passages, such as cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic, radish, hot mustard.

One spice known to contain potent antioxidants is cinnamon. One teaspoon is comparable to ½ cup of blueberries, or 1 cup of pomegranate juice. Other “super” spices that contain potent health benefits are ginger, oregano, rosemary, paprika, thyme and turmeric (commonly found in yellow curry powder).

3. Choose healthy sweets – Sweets should be consumed with extreme moderation. When you are in the mood for something sweet, it’s wise to choose complex, raw sweeteners like maple syrup, raw unfiltered honey, or raw dark agave – as a few examples. Avoid corn syrup or white table sugar. The immune system is weakened in less than 30 minutes by eating simple sugar. Even, one teaspoon of white sugar suppresses immunity for up to six hours. An over-consumption of sweets will decrease your white blood cell count, making it difficult to fight infections.

Even more importantly, religiously avoid artificial sweeteners. If in doubt, do some reading and research to discover the significant health problems caused by these chemicals.

4. Choose healthy drinks, such as filtered water with fresh lemon/lime juice or fresh vegetable/fruit juice. Many herb teas are filled with antioxidants that promote health.

Try drinking 4 or 5 cups of steeped herb tea for the sore throat or achy feeling. AVOID carbonated beverages and soft drinks which have negative effects on health.

5. Choose to eat less. Overeating and high calorie intake are linked to depressed immune response. Weight management is important, since being more than 20 pounds overweight has been shown to suppress overall immune function. By consuming fewer calories per day (for those who tend to be overweight) T-cell function and thymus gland can improve, resulting in a more active immune system.

Yes, food does influence immunity, so as you choose daily foods, be wise… choose foods that strengthen your immune function. You can experience the positive results.

This is part 1 of a 4-part series.4 Ways to Boost the Immune System

[reprinted from Applied Health Journal No.118]

[Applied Health Publications are registered in the United States Library of Congress, ISSN: 1525-6359]