October 22, 2009

Use Food to Build Your Body's Immunity

It’s good to get a basic refresher course in self-care, so let's spend some time talking about boosting your immune system so you can help yourself get healthy and remain healthy through this winter flu season. I already went over the subject of rest and how in our keep-doing-more society we rarely allow our bodies and minds to get the rest and rejuvenation they truly need. But ample sleep and making time for rest is vital in maintaining a strong immune system. It is during sleep and rest that the body restores itself.

There are several other factors to creating and maintaining a strong defense from viruses and disease. One that I’d like to discuss today is food. Don’t we hear so much about food these days? There is a lot of talk about the proper diet. Experts advise us on what is best. From vegetarianism, veganism, and raw food diets, to high protein, low carb, gluten-free or ten fruits and vegetables a day, how are you to know what is best for you?

I think it's simple. Eat foods that are found in nature and include some fermented vegetables, which are eaten in various forms in many cultures. Sauerkraut is one form, kimchi is another. Fermented vegetables add to the resilience and wellness of the people who have made them part of their regular diet. Partly this is because they create healthy intestinal flora, something the Standard American Diet (SAD) does not do.

Most Americans are not eating for nourishment because they are eating packaged and processed foods. Anything that comes in a box, can, or package that has been pre-made likely has very few nutrients. I consider these foods to be dead. Void of life. I believe this is the cause of obesity in America. Packaged and processed foods are eaten as a matter of course. They give the body few nutrients while robbing it of others. The “I’m hungry” signal continues to glow and the person is never satisfied.

Also, we have shunned healthy, even saturated, fats found in nature. These are missing from the SAD diet. In their place are processed oils – remember margarine and how it was supposed to be better for you than butter? That is incorrect (for those of you still eating margarine). For centuries many of our ancestors ate butter and didn’t have the rates of obesity and heart disease that we now have. Healthy fats serve many desirable functions within us, including helping keep our hormones balanced. Our ancestors ate foods found in nature and survived in a world with no antibiotics or other pharmaceutical drugs or vaccines. They remained strong enough to spawn the next generation, of which we are descendants, so I think there is something to eating what nature intended for us. You can leave that skin on the chicken.

What does this mean in terms of you maintaining a strong immunity against the flu and other bugs this winter? If you’d like to be well, I recommend eating foods found in nature only. Avoid all processed and pre-packaged foods. This means you won't touch that canned food. No canned soups, chili, or other such substances that can be kept for years in the cupboard. (That means they have no life force.) Same with dry, boxed stuff. It has no life force, so your body won’t receive the nutrients it needs to maintain its vitality over time.

Most packaged products are laden with chemicals that preserve, color, or make them palatable. Many of those chemicals contribute to cancer, among other diseases. Such convenience foods contain sugar in one form or another, the most insidious and life-taking seeming to be high fructose corn syrup, used to sweeten dead food because of its cheap price tag. Sugar, in all its forms, will drain the nutrients from you and deplete your immune system. We have entered the season of sweets. Notice how you feel after you’ve indulged too much. Those who eat a whole foods diet and get plenty of rest will feel fine. Those who don’t will likely feel horrible at some point this winter.

So what is a whole foods diet exactly and how do you make it more prominent in your life? When you arrive at the market, notice that the living food is on the perimeter of the store where it is kept cold or moist. Notice all the dead food is in the center aisles. This makes your shopping quick and easy. If something has come straight from nature, it’s a go, a green light, a yes. If it has been processed by man and has added ingredients, it’s a stop, don't touch.

This way of eating has now begun to sound extreme in our modern, fast-food lifestyle. But it wasn't extreme to your grandmother, your great grandmother, or all the ancestors who ever came before them. It’s only extreme to obese, tired, anxious, and depressed folks with rising rates of heart disease, cancer, and all sorts of other ailments that great grandma didn’t have.

Throughout this winter flu season, one important and powerful step you can take to maintain your health is to consume foods that are alive. Cook them if you wish, stew them, make soups, roast, bake, or however you like. I’m not an advocate of having it all raw. But do be sure to make your choices wisely and give your body food that nourishes instead of food that depletes. You’ll notice some people sniffing and sneezing, taking pharma drugs as they microwave their next processed meal, while you will feel a whole lot better. Besides that, people will start asking you why you look so good.

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