As moms, dads and guardians of school aged children we all know how much exposure our children have to cold and flu viruses in the classroom. The reality we all live with is it would be impossible for us to protect them entirely against this exposure meaning; it is our job to ensure they have a strong and supported defense system. This post aims to provide you with some incredibly valuable information on simple strategies to you can use at home to ensure the entire family is eating for healthy immune Protection.
I am sure we all know why the immune system is important, but for the sake of clarification, “Our Immune systems protect us against harmful organisms, bacteria, viruses and even cancerous cells!”. It plays a pretty big role in our day-to-day health and quality of life, and your diet has one of the biggest impacts on how strong and efficient your immune system is.
Lets first look at what could be a cause for concern when it comes to symptoms of a poor functioning immune system. As a Nutritionist, I see many of these issues in my practice and my experience has shown that even simple dietary strategies can make a huge difference.
Symptoms that can be related to a poor functioning immune system
Now you don’t have to have any of the above listed symptoms or conditions to be concerned. My goal is not to instil fear, but emphasize the importance of a lifestyle that promotes a healthy immune system. For some people once their immune system “crash” or become “suppressed”, it can be very difficult to get them back up to a healthful state. Also once we have the above symptoms it is very likely that our immune system has been suffering for some time, and now you are at the point where the symptoms are a results of a poorly functioning immune system. As a practitioner who works with chronic illness and disease, I can promise you one thing, you don’t want to wait until there is a problem to address it! Preventative Nutrition and Lifestyle habits are key, and a major reason why as a mom of four children we stay consistent with immune boosting strategies at home.
Moving forward lets take a peak at what suppresses the immune system.
Refined Sugar – It is well known in the natural health field of study that sugar suppresses the immune system. Dr. Bill Sears, a Renowned (and most published) Paediatrician states on his website (www.askdrsears.com) “The harmful effects of excess sugar can depress immunity and cause a 50% decrease in white blood cells ability to kill bacteria and 40% decrease in white blood cells to attack other germs”. Lets not forget that refined sugar found in soda’s, sugary foods, refined breakfast cereals, granola bars, candy bars etc. is also a Major contributor to diabetes, Cardiovascular disease and mood instability.
Convenience Foods – These are our processed and fast food options. Not only do these foods lack in naturally occurring nutrients (required by the immune system daily), but they also contain many “anti-nutrient” chemicals such as preservatives, colourings, and flavour enhancers all of which require the body to use its own stored nutrients in order to assimilate and eliminate these potentially harmful chemicals. These foods are ok every once and while, but absolutely destructive to our health and immune systems if consumed on a regular basis!
Too much of the wrong protein – Now in North America protein deficiency is not common, however the type of protein we consume makes a difference! Animal products are an excellent source of protein however it is also a significant source of unhealthy saturated fats. Animal protein also leaves behind and acidic ash after it is digested and if consumed in excess or as the primary source of protein it can disrupt the natural ph. of our bodies and is linked to diseases such as osteoporosis (calcium is leached from bones to neutralize acids). Plant based protein (discussed below) is a much more health promoting choice for dietary protein. (I know, I know, I am going against our beloved food guide, but the research is there! The more plant protein and less animal protein we consume the healthier we will be!! The book the China Study written by Dr. Campbell and Dr. Schurman.) http://nutritionstudies.org
We have looked at why the immune system is important, some symptoms of a suppressed immune system and now what we want to avoid, so what is it we are suppose to do?
Here is the good stuff, the simple strategies any family can incorporate!!
#1 – EAT PLANTS. Sounds simple and it is, eating a variety of plant foods also known as whole foods daily will supply your body with not only a wide variety of immune boosting nutrients, but also provide your body with clean burning protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Whole Foods Include (should be 80% of daily caloric intake):
The listed food groups above should be in the least processed form. E.g. eating and apple over drinking processed apple juice. Most cancer organizations recommend the average Canadian adult consume 7-13 servings of fruit and vegetables a day! This can be a challenge for busy families and is entirely the reason I recommend Juice Plus to my clients. http://canada.juiceplus.com/clinical-research/juice-plus-clinical-research
Plants are also the most bioavailable source of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients), which are essential for a healthy functioning immune system. These include nutrients that when we are lacking in them can contribute to immune deficiency symptoms (vitamins – A,D,C,E, folate; Minerals Zinc, Magnesium)
SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WITH JUICE PLUS+.
Juice Plus+ supports key measures of immune system function in healthcare professionals with direct patient contact; in young law school students; in an elderly population; and in athletic men.
Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin, Germany
University of Florida
University of Arizona
Medical University of Graz, Austria
#2 – STAY HYDRATED – Drinking lots of water helps oxygenate your blood and helps your body to eliminate toxins. A clean body has a less stressed immune system. Water also helps your body to produce lymphatic fluid, which is where your white blood cells travel to reach and destroy harmful bacteria and viruses!
#3 – CHOOSE NATURAL OVER SYNTHETIC – In our busy world many parents are looking for convenient solutions to bridge the gap between what they are suppose to eat vs. what they are actually eating. Many families rely on synthetic vitamin and mineral formulations to supplement missing nutrients. The problem with synthetic nutrients (If it has a dosage mg, mcg, IU, Its synthetic!) is they are poorly absorbed and current nutritional science shows that taking mega doses of one nutrient can cause deficiencies in other nutrients. Mother nature has perfectly packaged our nutrition in a safe and bioavailable way. The more plants you consume the more nutrition your body gets without the potential for imbalances, also reducing your need for man made vitamins.
#4 – FOCUS ON PLANT BASED PROTEIN – Plant based protein (all plants actually contain protein) provides the amino acids necessary for building antibodies which helps our immune system defend itself against viruses and bacteria. Plants are considered a “smokeless fuel” meaning they don’t have the acidic by-products that come from consuming animal protein. We also know that the more plants you and your family consume the lower your risks for many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, auto immune conditions, Inflammatory conditions and risks for infections!
Good Plant Sources of Protein
Organic soy (Edamame, Tofu)
Steel Cut Oats
Dark Green Veggies (Spinach, Kale, Chard)
Legumes (Beans, peas and lentils)
At our house we make healthy protein smoothies as a way to supplement our children’s diet. This is not an uncommon practice for families in today’s busy world. I do want to stress that if you are going to use a protein supplement for children, choose a plant based shake mix (preferably a non GMO organic plant sourced) over a whey-based product. Whey is incredibly difficult for the digestive system to digest and can cause liver and kidney concerns if over consumed or used with children. If you have questions on what protein shake mixes I recommend for your family feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Summary our immune systems are vital to our health and quality of life, and it takes daily attention to ensure a healthy well function defense system. Avoiding processed and focusing on whole food choices, staying hydrated and plant-based proteins will go a long way in supporting a strong immune system.
ORDER PLANT BASED SHAKES HERE
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Alisa Herriman has been researching and teaching Nutrition since 2003. Leaving her job in the health care industry to share her passion for healthy living, Alisa travels all over Canada sharing her mission and teaching communities how to prevent and fight disease with Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.