Our immune system plays a crucial role in maintaining our quality of life. Whether in prevention of common colds and flus, or supporting our longevity through consistent resilience, it’s importance is widespread.
Our intestinal system is one of the most integral parts of our immune system. Host to immune cells and lymph nodes it is also a primary site for nutrient absorption. The bacteria balance in our intestinal system is crucial to overcoming microbes or viruses we are exposed to, but also for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
The link to cardiovascular health & risk factors for heart disease:
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria in our gut (and in several foods). They create an acid which signals the liver to cease cholesterol production (yes, we naturally manufacture it…it’s not just in foods). Probiotics also breakdown cholesterol, using it for nourishment. If this isn’t enough reason to pay attention to your gut (literally and figuratively!), probiotics also breakdown bile acids produced in the liver. This is significant because the liver makes bile (used in fat digestion)…from cholesterol. Therefore when probiotics breakdown bile, the liver needs to manufacture more, and thus uses up excess cholesterol. Excess cholesterol is a biomarker for heart disease.
Probiotics become depleted, and our intestinal flora imbalanced when we consume sugary foods, refined flour/grains, drink chlorinated water, are over stressed, have poor digestion, and from antibiotic use (the effects of which can linger for months or years!).
How does our immune system become compromised?
- Poor quality sleep (remember: it’s quality over quantity)
- Too much stress
- Over training
- Poor quality nutrition
Having been sick for two weeks now, I really feel confronted with the reality of imbalance. A whirlwind of germ exposure at a trade show, inconsistent sleep & work piled up (aka stress). Add on a couple of hard workouts, a few nights of drinking, and overindulging in sugar, and you have a recipe for disaster. I shouldn’t be surprised! Just a “safe” self reminder, I am not invincible. It’s reminders like this that cement good habits for me. Listen to the signals your body sends you!
I really believe it’s less about the germs you are exposed to, than the condition of your immune system. If your immune system is suppressed or compromised, you’re more likely to get sick…not the more germs you are exposed to.
From trial and error, and research, here’s how I recommend re-setting and supporting your immune system:
Clean up your diet: Refined flours, sugars, artificial food ingredients and any foods your highly sensitive to just don’t belong. They are neither necessary or nourishing.
Support your sleep: Get black out shades or use an eye mask, white noise machines (or use an app) if you live in a noisy space; change your sheets and tidy your bedroom. Set the scene for a restful night. You may also want to try these yoga poses 15-20 minutes before bed.
Choose not to take things personally, and always try your best: These two simple practices can help you let stress roll off your back, and feel confident that you did everything you could, even if things don’t always turn out.
Consume plenty of chlorophyll, antioxidants and essential fats: You may choose to supplement the diet, or emphasize these on your grocery list.
- Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants and aside from being rich in vitamins and minerals, it supports red blood cell production by increasing blood volume. Chlorophyll mimiks the structure of red blood cells, but has a central magnesium ion instead of iron. Eat chlorophyll (green) foods with iron rich foods like nuts & seeds.
- Focus on eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. As a general rule of thumb, the richer the pigment, the higher the antioxidant value. Athletes should consider an additional antioxidant supplement.
- Foods high in essential fats can be found in my recommended grocery list coming in a post later this week.
For the active crowd:
Train smarter, not harder: Instead of focusing on maximizing the hours spent sweating it out, focus on impactful training sessions and ample recovery time and nutrients to rebuild the best quality muscles for cardio or strength performance. Impactful training could mean working with a coach or trainer who will customize your workout, cross training & adding variety to your workouts, interval training (cardio), and techniques such as back to back sets, or compound exercises for strength training.
Eat plant based & nutrient dense foods 24 hours before & after a tough workout: Building on the above, this is important to reducing inflammation, maximizing your energy & accelerating recovery. Any athlete will know the importance of these three performance gains…
You are what you eat! Here’s to health.
Potential of Probiotics in Controlling Cardiovascular Disease from The Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research
www.thriveforward.com A free e-learning program about plant based nutrition. Focus particularly on the lesson “Immune Function”