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May 7 —Written By Tally Atkinson

How to Boost our Immune System

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I have so many thoughts that have been swirling around in my head during this COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine and wanted to share some of them. If I’m honest, I’ve gone through all the stages that I think you can go through. It started with denial, just thinking everyone is crazy and making a big deal out of nothing. Then it switched to fear (not major fear but it was still there) while following some of the media and trying to figure out what was true and what was not. Researching how to prevent my family from contracting the virus. Then I moved to acceptance of the season of quarantine, actually enjoying the slow pace of life. I kept my kids at home, never getting out, going only on essential errands by myself (except the chiropractor which my kids did go to because that is a necessity for us :)). Though during this time I switched my source of information from the mainstream media to fellow natural medicine lovers and natural doctors. The way our medical system is set up makes it hard to know what is best for us in regards to nutrition because there are so many differing views thrown at us on any given day. The extent to which the typical medical doctor is taught about nutrition largely amounts to a 1-hour class portion of their education, creating a dilemma for the majority that are dependent on their knowledge and expertise.

I have realized that if I am wanting to know how the body works together, how to nourish it well, and natural ways to support our body to heal, I have to look for answers other than in the mainstream medical system. I believe that as human beings, we were created perfectly, with everything we need in order to survive and heal our bodies. Whether that means the way our immune system was made or the food that was put on this earth by the same creator that created us. You may not agree with me that God is our creator, but I hope to be able to show you that regardless of what you believe about Him, that our bodies are not failing us. We have such an amazing immune system, created to help us heal and to survive. We also have such amazing nutrients available to us through food. So, so many! I hope that after reading this article you are inspired to make even one change to support your immune system. I always say, start small, pick one thing to change at a time. Work on that one change until it feels normal, until it doesn’t feel like a chore to you but just the way you do life.

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Back to the pandemic and how we can support our immune system. The things I’m going to share, however, will not only help you on your quest for steering clear of COVID-19, but also avoid other diseases like Type-2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, even Cancer. Yup! The same immune system that will help you fight viruses like the flu and COVID-19 also help you avoid those other diseases that we all dread being diagnosed with. Let me tell you, it’s not just a crapshoot on whether or not you are diagnosed with a chronic illness. There are things that you can do now to strengthen your body and your disease fighting capabilities. I am taking information from a few sources that I have been reading and listening to since this pandemic happened. They really know their stuff. I will site them and you can look them up yourself and see what all they have to say. If I have learned anything during this time it is to the importance of taking control of your own health and researching things for yourself. You are your own best advocate.

The majority of people who are having the worst outcomes with COVID-19 are those that are metabolically unhealthy. What is metabolic health? I actually didn’t know this term before I started this research. There are 5 things that go into measuring your metabolic health: blood pressure, waist circumference, triglyceride levels, High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) levels, and your hemoglobin levels. All these things need to be considered “in normal range” in order to be considered metabolically healthy. Of course then, the more of these factors that are “out of range” effect how metabolically healthy you are, it’s called your metabolic age. I listened to a really good podcast put on by Dr. Mark Hyman on The Doctor’s Farmacy Podcast where he and a well known doctor of the UK talked about this topic. I will link it here. It’s definitely worth listening to! They can explain it way better than I can. :) Essentially, all these metabolic factors play into our overall health and what can help prevent us from acquiring one of those chronic diseases that I mentioned earlier (Type-2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, Cancer, even the Flu, and COVID-19).

So, what can we do NOW to boost our immune system and overall health? Are you ready for it? You may not like it. :) Cut out sugar from your diet. Processed sugar or added sugar, even lessening our natural sugar intake. Just cutting out sugar can help you lose weight quickly. Did you know, that every time you eat sugar, it impairs our immune system for up to 5 hours after eating it? “As a general rule, excessive sugar consumption depletes the body’s nutrient balance, which triggers a cascade of inflammation and metabolic disruption.” (Biotics Research Blog). I will try to explain this quickly. Sugar affects the phagocytes of our immune system. The phagocytes are the parts of our body that attack the foreign invaders, bacterias and viruses for example. There are 5 different types of phagocytes: Neutrophils, Monocytes, Macrophages, Mast cells, and Dendritic cells. The blog post from Biotics that I just cited before references a study done on the role that sugar plays with phagocytes. You can read that study here. The study showed that sugar consumption lowered the amount of phagocytes present in the blood and their function, for up to 5 hours after consuming simple carbohydrates. The study showed that sugar didn’t effect the neutrophils but it did effect the other types of phagocytes. What this means is that while sugar is in our system, our ability to fight off invaders is significantly hindered. We have less white blood cells being created and at work.
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Sugar also adds inflammation into our body. Inflammation in our gut causes things like IBS and other things that are linked to chronic inflammation like allergies. Chronic inflammation is hard on our body as a whole, it can lead to becoming insulin resistant, which then can lead to many other issues within the body (diabetes, weight gain, hormone imbalance). If you’re feeling comfortable with less sugar in your life, the next step would be to try an anti-inflammatory diet. This type of diet would have the following guidelines. The aim would be to eat a small amount of low refined carbs, mixed with a Mediterranean diet:
  • Whole, organic veggies
  • Low-sugar fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oily fish
  • Healthy oils like coconut oil, avocado oil, EVOO, butter, and ghee
  • Meat - coming from grass-fed, free range, ORGANIC sources
  • Pastured eggs
  • Full fat, raw dairy
  • Void of strachy, sugary veggies and foods (pastas, bread, etc.)
  • No low quality carbohydrates
We can do to also boost our immune system with some supplementation. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong proponent of getting nutrients from foods. However, we can also increase our ability to fight off illness with some key supplements. These are things I have learned through my studies at the NTA as I am becoming a Functional Nutritional Therapist. A couple of vitamins that are essential to our immune system are vitamin D and C. Both of these vitamins help “turn on” the thymus gland. The thymus gland lies in the center of the chest underneath the breastbone and it is the main place that makes white blood cells, called lymphocytes. These lymphocytes help us fight infections. Proper thymus function determines if we have a good immune system, so you can see why these two vitamins are important for supporting our immune health. You can take well over the RDA (recommended daily allowance), especially when you are sick.

Another supplement that I would recommend in helping boost your immune system is called NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine). It is a potent antioxidant and a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione plays a vital role as a cofactor for some antioxidant enzymes. It is also is also important for the liver, as the liver utilizes it for detoxification. NAC contributes also to breaking up mucous and supporting a healthy respiratory system, especially those who may struggle with chronic bronchitis. Which if you have followed along with COVID at all, you know that it tends to attack the respiratory system pretty hard. I would also recommend NAC for overall health because glutathione plays such a huge role in our gut health and blood sugar regulation as well by helping to reduce inflammation. Some other important uses of glutathione are making our DNA, breaking down free radicals, transporting mercury out of the brain, as well as the before mentioned, supporting our immune system. It has lots of great uses! You can research more on the web.

Lastly, I want to point out the importance of movement and sweating for our immune health. Movement, even gentle stretching and walking, is absolutely necessary to supporting our immune health. By doing it we can help our heart pump more blood and oxygen throughout our cells. Movement helps us sweat. Sweating is one of the easiest ways of detoxifying our body. Our body uses the sweat glands to release lots of toxins that come into our body each day. And we of course encounter toxins everyday! We need all the help we can get to rid ourselves of harmful toxins.

I really hope that this article gives you some encouragement that there is LOTS you can do to support your immune health! Again, I will point out again that my strategy is to start small. Find one thing to change and do that. Work on that particular thing until it feels normal and not new, like you’ve always done it. :) Then try another one of these things and so on. I really do believe that if we all took the chance to look at our lives, what we are eating and putting into our bodies, we could choose to make a choice for our health and take a step towards freeing ourselves from the box that we are put in. It is mostly our societal norms and conveniences that has put us in this box. Let’s be honest, We LOVE sugar…we crave it, and most likely are totally content with this reality! It’s in everything, sometimes it’s hidden forms of sugar and sometimes it’s not. If someone told you that making this one step towards change can help set you on the path towards better overall health and wellness would you do it? Well, consider this your invitation to step into a new way of feeling and a new you.
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