The most valuable lesson I have learned is that the most meaningful journey is the inner journey.

Winter Wellness

How to boost our immune system through the cold and flu season

Jean Edelman: Great to be with you this week. This week I would like to talk about our immune system. I know February is heart month, but I think folks are still getting a little flu and a little sick and a little this and a little that and sniffles and stuff. And so I just want to talk a little bit about how our immune system works. Our immune system is our security guard against illness. Our immune cells, they work to clear away any germs and viruses before problems arise. Did you know that we have an innate immune system? This innate immune system senses all general threats and fights off pathogens before they settle in and create full blown illness.

We also have an adaptive or acquired immune system. This is pretty cool, and this creates a memory of past invaders so that it protects us from future threats. So every time we do have an illness or every time we do get sick, our adaptive immune system is building upon itself. It’s like I’ve talked about, life is cumulative. Well, our immune system is cumulative. So we have a variety of immune cells. They are housed everywhere from our skin to our bone marrow. They’re constantly circulating and patrolling our blood system. Even our heart plays an integral role by transporting these cells to the proper location. It’s a miraculous symphony every moment of every day.

As in all life, there’s balance, and that is what’s necessary for our immune system. We want the right cells at the right time to go to battle for us, while the others are taking a rest. We don’t want a hyperactive immune system. This can lead to autoimmune issues where the body is actually fighting against itself. Our immune system does a great job on its own.

But you know what? We get involved and we mess it up when we smoke, when we drink excessive alcohol, when we have lack of sleep, when we have chronic stress, when we have social isolation, when we have lack of exercise, when we are vitamin D deficient, when we have a diet heavy in sugar and fats and animal products and processed foods. Our immune system does not like any of this. All of this weighs down our immune system. But listen, when we remove the weight of all the bad food, the alcohol, the stress, the sugars, the fats, our immune system will repair itself and it will bring us back to good health. We just have to give it the opportunity.

And also a nice fact to understand is that 80% of our immune system is in our gut. I’m sure you’ve read recently about the microbiome. And this microbiome is in our gut, and this empowers our immune cells for optimal function. So taking care of our gut we’re taking care of our immune system. We’re stopping eating three hours before we go to bed. We’re not overeating. We’re getting good rest. We’re hydrating properly during the day. All of these little things that we’ve talked about are good practices to help our immune system.

So the action item for this week is, I’d like you to look and see if you can add more plant-based foods to your diet, to your day. Maybe have Meatless Monday, maybe Meatless Fridays; two days of plant-based foods. There’s so many vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and it is this wide variety of food, with the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and phytochemicals that they offer us, that help our gut and our gut health and our immune system. And we improve our odds of staying healthy when we have this varied diet. I know a lot of times we get into ruts and routines, but you really need to go shopping and just surf the outsides of all the wonderful fruits and vegetables available.

We also improve our odds of staying healthy when we got our exercise into our day, when we get good sleep, when we manage our stress, when we’re having lunch or time with our friends, making sure we hydrate each day. So when we do get sick, and we will, but when we do, if we’ve done all these kind things for our immune system, our symptoms will not be as severe. And remember, we’re building our adaptive immune system. So we want it to have a memory of different germs and viruses that are out there because they’ll be beneficial down the road. It’s all baby steps. It’s all little things. But I think it’s having awareness that we need to befriend our immune system and stop being mean to it and start loving it more and taking good care and eating cleaner food.

So my word of the week is Germ.

The G is for Guard because our immune system is our guard against illness. If we take good care and nourish it with good food, we get our sleep. We have our time moving outdoors. We manage our stress. We’re going to know good health.

The E is for Enchant, to delight and mesmerize. I think if we make small changes and give our immune system what it needs to keep us healthy, we will be surprised. Because you know what? Our body wants to be healthy. It wants balance. It wants good health. So let’s do what we can to help it out.

The R is for Rare, few and precious because that is us. There is one of us, and understanding our body and how to optimize our health is the journey, one step at a time, one bite at a time, one meal at a time, one breath at a time.

The M is for Movement, to get out and move. Clean the house. Do something. Get up. Get outside. Breathe and walk. Our immune system will be so happy. So I think having a bit more awareness and understanding of our immune system is what we need when we make good choices. When we say no because we’re exhausted, our body will jump for joy, because it will know rest and it will know good health. Have a wonderful week everyone.

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