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Boosting Your Natural Immunity

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in July, 2014

It is widely recognized today that the environment we live in, and particularly the food we ingest, has a profound effect on our health. Improper diet has been implicated in numerous degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and others. What is often overlooked is the effect food has on infectious diseases as well.

It has been well known for decades that malnutrition has a negative effect on the immune system. Worldwide, infections and starvation have gone hand in hand for centuries. More recently it has been found that deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals could cause the immune system to function at less than optimum capability. While it is always a good idea to avoid contact with obviously contagious people, the reality is that we are constantly exposed to microbes of various kinds. Whether or not we succumb to them is largely dependent upon the strength of the immune system, which can fluctuate depending upon our daily fare.

A well balanced diet can ensure that we have all the nutrients we need. But there are certain foods that are now known to assist the immune system in its constant struggle to protect the body. Known antibacterial foods include garlic, turmeric, coconut oil, horseradish, and ginger. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and pickles contain beneficial bacteria that are themselves a large part of the immune system. When raw honey is used as a sweetener, an enzyme it contains can be a catalyst for the production of hydrogen peroxide, which is a known antiseptic.

Nutrients and antibacterials, however, are not the whole equation. Possibly even more important than what you consume is what you avoid. Mucus forming foods provide an environment that is sublime for the proliferation of bacteria and viruses. Dairy products and flour products, especially refined flour, are the two most mucus forming foods, and they create a lush breeding ground for bacteria. Add to this the depletion of minerals caused by the consumption of refined sugar and the environment is perfect.

If an infection occurs, following the above recommendations not only can shorten the duration, but it can also make the experience much more comfortable. You will likely experience less congestion, less pain and soreness, and less fatigue. In addition, you can assist your body in replacing cells damaged by the infection by providing it with easily digestible protein. Traditionally, we have instinctively done this by consuming chicken soup, but a better option is soft tofu in a salty broth, made with either miso or a traditional soy sauce such as tamari or shoyu.

You can’t do much about your external environment and the pathogens you will find there, but you can make your internal environment a place that viruses and bacteria will not be welcomed. Then you can breathe a sigh of relief as deeply as you want.

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