Dr. Miaken Zeiger | Tuesday August 13, 2019
Building Immune Health, Part I
Often, the only time we think about supporting our immune system is with the barrage of flu shot commercials and banners that grace our TVs, radios, and social media accounts announcing the return of the cold and flu season. Or, perhaps, it’s when we’ve proclaimed our sickness, feeling overall body fatigue and malaise, stuffy head, sore throat, congestion, and fever that we are spurred into action. If this is you, I want to let you in on a little secret, the best time to boost your immune system is now, weeks and months before the cold and flu season even begins!
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC,) influenza (flu) increases in October, peaks in December and February, and can sometimes last into May. And, although we have a season, the CDC indicates that our exposure to the flu virus is detected year round.1 So, if we are exposed to the flu year-round, why do we get sick during specific months? Consider the activities, behaviors and tendencies the average American takes on during colder months. We often move our bodies less, spend more time indoors as our days get shorter. We get less exposure to sun, which can lead to changes in our mood and overall attitude. The added stress of holidays and/or year-end deadlines results in our choosing less nourishing foods… shall I go on? As our environment and seasons change, our choices and behaviors change, leading our body and immune system to be more susceptible to breakdown when exposed to viruses and bacteria that, when present in other seasons, tend to present less challenges.
How do we maintain healthy immune function no matter the season?
Creating a resilient immune system happens every day in the choices we make, whether routine or deliberate. It is multi-faceted. It is intentional. It is an investment. And, it may sometimes seem like work. But the discipline of healthful living to support a strong, vital immune system can reap benefits abound for a quality of life and health for years to come. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight my favorite lifestyle recommendations for building immune health. Where to start? Let’s look at how you are fueling your body.
The food we eat is what our body uses as building blocks to repair and re-build all tissues and cells. A malnourished, deficient state leads to a vulnerable immune system. Our typical diet has a label, the Standard American Diet (SAD,) which is high in processed foods, processed carbohydrates, processed sugars and refined vegetable oils. To produce processed foods, chemicals toxic to the body are used heavily. They include pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, antibiotics, growth hormone, genetically modified foods (GMO), and GMO-fed animals. When we consistently eat foods that come from a box or bag, this leads to malnourished, damaged, and inflammatory health and immune state.
Eating foods focused on quality and not confining yourself to a specific diet can be a powerful, positive shift in mindset, giving you freedom and ease with choosing foods that work best for you. Eat consciously by choosing foods in their “whole foods” form. This choice reduces inflammation and provides a combination of fats, fibers, carbohydrates, and sugars in their natural form.
My recommendations: focus primarily on eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, super-foods, herbs, and high quality animal products. Choose quality: organic, natural, local, in-season, sustainably raised, pasture-fed, and grass-fed. Utilize the Clean 15 / Dirty Dozen in your shopping. Add fermented foods, including kimchi, sauerkraut, vinegars, miso, tempeh, pickled vegetables, etc. to your diet! Eat consciously, slow down and savor each bite. And, if you need a quick bite here and there, don’t get down on yourself. Life is a journey!
Action: a great place to evaluate your eating habits is with a food journal. Write down everything you eat in 7-days. Include the time you eat and how you feel, in addition to your physical symptoms, like: bloating, over-eating, indigestion, etc. and your emotions or feelings: discontent, unease, sadness, etc. At the end of your 7-days, do you see any patterns? Behaviors? Correlations? This will give you a place to start with your nutrition. And, of course, I’m always here to partner with you in your healing. If you have questions, please ask!
Yours in Health, Dr. Miaken
- “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified July 12, 2018. Source Link (click here).