With all the hype about the swine flu, the media and health officials have done a super job of creating a panicdemic, which could actually increase your risk through added stress. However, you hear very little about improving your immune system to help prevent swine flu — and all other diseases from the common cold to cancer.
Here are some ideas:
Reduce stress. It might be best to turn off the TV and toss that newspaper. Stay informed but especially avoid the ridiculous crap like Larry King Live and those banality sweepstakes stories about local hog farmers. Also make a list of things that stress you out. Go through the list and cross off those you can’t control and make the conscious decision to quit wasting energy on those things. Then work on eliminating those that you can control (like too much media exposure and eating poorly). This will help your body to better cope with stress.
Take your sunshine vitamin. Why do flu cases subside in the summer? Part of the reason may be because people have higher vitamin D levels from spending more time in the sunshine. Obviously you don’t want a sunburn, but most health experts who are aware of current scientific literature agree a certain amount of sunshine promotes health and is safe.
Avoid unhealthy foods. Don’t eat foods made with white flour — reduce or eliminate refined, processed wheat products like bread, rolls, tortillas, bagels, cookies, crackers, etc., and cut out refined sugar. These foods can have an adverse effect on the immune system. They also promote weight gain and disease through overproduction of insulin.
Eat immune-boosting foods. Top immune enhancers are ginger, turmeric and garlic, but virtually all vegetables and fruits can help the immune system. Eat 10 servings a day. In addition, some foods may be helpful in helping the body produce its most powerful antioxidant — glutathione. These include spinach, broccoli, peas, kale, raw nuts and seeds, and whey (ricotta cheese is a good source).
Improve gut function. For the most part, your immune system resides in your gut. This starts with proper natural acid levels in your stomach (optimal stomach acid can destroy viruses and bacteria but is reduced by stress) and continues with properly functioning intestines. I regularly eat a smoothy made with ingredients that may help improve gut health and enhance immunity. The recipe follows.
Hal’s Gut Balm
In a good blender (I use a Vita-Mix which is capable of pulverizing even small seeds):
1/2-3/4 cup good plain organic yogurt (the ones with the least amount of carbs on the label are more fully cultured)
1/8th cup (or more as desired) whey protein concentrate (not isolate)
1 small banana
1/2 cup blueberries and/or blackberries
1 tbs psyllium
1 tsp flaxseeds
1/4 tsp sesame seeds
1 scoop Primal Defense probiotic powder
* Depending on the banana, you may need to sweeten with a small amount of honey or agave nectar
* In the Vita-Mix I sometimes add one whole carrot.