Building a Strong Immune System
Since I came down with a nasty bug, I thought to post on building a strong immune system. Even those with the best immune systems fall victim to ugly viruses, bacteria, and fungi. But the better your immunity the less often you feel under the weather.
Before I tell you how to build a better immune defense, let’s first take a look at what allows these nasty bugs to take hold of your health…
Free radicals aren’t activists out on bail. In basic chemistry 101, you learn that your body is made up of trillions of different cells, and cells are made up of molecules, and molecules are made up of atoms… and atoms are made of 1 or more elements joined by chemical bonds.
Phew! That’s a lot to remember.
These atoms seek to maintain stability by filling the outer shell with electrons. This happens during oxidation and reduction, when atoms gain and lose electrons by pairing with other atoms.
If the world were always rainbows and puppy dogs, you wouldn’t have to worry about this system ever failing. But it does… and free radicals form.
Free radicals occur when weak chemical bonds leave atoms with unpaired electrons. These unstable atoms will do anything to gain that needed electron and spares no expense in doing so.
They bounce around inside your cells, stealing molecules from stable atoms, setting off a chain reaction that forms more free radicals.
This is part of normal metabolism and your body has a pretty good defense system against this occurrence including neutralizing enzymes and antioxidants.
However, when you have more free radicals than enzymes and antioxidants… well that’s when things go haywire.
Things like environmental toxins, pollution, stress, poor diet, exercise, and life in general all increase your exposure to free radicals. Unless if live the life of Â Wagyu cattle in the environment of bubble boy, your going to face off with free radicals all the time. Your body is constantly warding them off, and your natural defense isn’t always enough to protect your cells.
Human evolution is slow
We like to think that man is evolving quickly. However, just because technology evolves doesn’t mean that man can keep up. And as technology evolves, we create greater amounts of waste, weird foods, pollutants, and stress.
Our natural defense systems are likely still in the Neolithic period, or something close. So your body needs a little help when it comes to fighting off invaders.
When free radicals are greater than antioxidants, they weaken your cell’s electrical charge. A weaker charge means cellular health is low, and this can even cause death of a cell.
Losing a cell might not seem so bad. But if you think that your entire body is made up of cells, and your health depends on the health of your cells… well, you probably want to hold onto as many as possible.
When free radicals weaken your cells, this can cause cell mutation, damage immune function, contribute to disease like cancer, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and… GASP… wrinkles!
So when your mama told you to take your vitamins, she wasn’t kidding!
Steps to building a strong immune system
A healthy immune system translates to greater overall health and wellness because your body can naturally ward off free radicals, which reduces the amount of cellular damage your body faces.
So, here’s what to do:
- Stop the sugar madness: I write about sugar often, and admit I am a lover of the sweet stuff. But it’s terrible for you. And not just because it makes you fat. Sugar actually weakens the immune system. In the 1970’s Linus Pauling learned that white blood cells needed high doses of vitamin C. This is when he came up with the theory that vitamin C combats colds.
Glucose (the basic form of simple sugar) has a very similar chemical structure as vitamin C. So glucose and vitamin C compete for cell entry. When you consume large amounts of sugar your body produces more glucose. Pair that with low levels of vitamin C … what do you think gets in the cell faster? Without the antioxidant support, your immune system slows to a crawl.It gets far more complicated than this… but I think knowing that every tablespoon of sugar you eat suppresses your immune system for a couple of hours… well, that’s enough to make you slow down consumption.
- Increase antioxidant support: now we go back to taking more vitamins. A huge debate in the medical field made us think that we don’t need to take vitamins. This is far from the truth.Today’s medical school graduates don’t spend a single semester in nutrition courses. But, how much time do Â you think they learn about medications? Funny since the classical version of the Hippocratic Oath states, “I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.”Enough about that… Vitamins are essential to your immune health, but make sure you take the right ones. Commercial brands often contain large amounts of corn byproducts and other nasty fillers like sugar or sugar alcohol. Find raw vitamins made from natural whole foods. I like Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code.
- Avoid processed foods: I can’t say enough bad things about processed foods. They offer very little nutritious value, and the worst offenders are products labeled as “diet” or “health” foods. I know it’s not possible to eat 100% raw organic foods all the time. But make a strong effort to eat at least 50% of your diet from fresh, whole products with minimal processing.
- Go to bed: lack of sleep plagues our society and we think that running on empty means we are productive. You need AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep a night. If you can’t get that, then take a nap. 20 minute cat naps are all you need to boost your defense and restore your energy levels.
- Reduce stress: I know this is easier said than done. But for some reason we think that if we aren’t doing 5 things at once, then we aren’t productive. In reality, multitasking actually decreases your productivity. Take a deep breath and understand that the “less is more” principle applies to everything in life.
- Exercise, but recover: the funny thing about exercise is that it offers tremendous health benefits, but without proper recovery you can fall victim to oxidative stress. When you workout, oxygen levels naturally increase. And when oxygen levels increase, you also produce more free radicals.Oxidative stress occurs when you don’t have enough antioxidants to neutralize those free radicals. So recovery is very important. Exercise causes stress, and leaves you in a very vulnerable state afterward. To reduce stress and decrease free radicals, you have to give your body time to recover after training. And you can do so by following what I wrote above.
- Enjoy life: happiness boosts healthy hormone levels, reduces stress hormones, and helps to maintain homeostasis. The more balanced you are, the less likely those terrible invaders will take control and make you sick.
What not to do
Modern technology also created paranoia. Now it seems we have antibacterial everything. And this stuff is actually what creates superbugs.
Avoid antibacterial soaps, gels, hand sanitizers, prescription antiobiotics, and any other anti-microbial that isn’t offered by nature.
The earth gives us plenty good stuff to protect us from evil. Instead take probiotics and natural anti-microbials like oregano oil, garlic, grapefruit seed extract, ect.
Remember, the more manmade anti-bacterial agents you use, the less natural defense your body has. Before the dawn of monoculture farming and pesticides, our soil had plenty of healthy microbes to protect us. Dirt was our friend. Now it seems we rush to santize our families every time they touch something.
That just doesn’t make any sense. You are crawling with microbes all the time. Everything you touch is as well. It’s part of nature. Sanitizing yourself and family every five minute isn’t.
We all get sick. It’s unavoidable. But protecting yourself the right way will reduce the amount of times per year you succumb to infection ,and also reduce the length of time you are infected.
Here’s to good health!