Eating for a Strong Immune System

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By: Dr. Amy Rolfsen ND

1. Optimize Your Digestive Health –

Over 80% of our immune system is found in the digestive tract. So, what better way to work on your immune system than go straight to the source. If you have digestive complaints, weak hair and nails, frequent rashes or eczema, low energy, seasonal allergies or stress, there’s a good chance you could use some gut healing. Gut healing protocols usually include herbs, diet, intestinal strengthening and visceral work.

2. Drink Lots of Water

I usually ask my patients to drink 2/3 of an ounce of water per pound of body weight, sipped throughout the day. This helps to keep toxins flushing out of the body and helps optimize bowel function.

2. Avoid Allergens

Eating allergenic foods can increase your susceptibility to infection. If you eat food that causes an immune response in your body, all the attention and energy will be focused on reacting to that food, when it would be better spent on normal immune system activities like scavenging for invading micro-organisms. The foods I see most commonly causing problems are dairy, eggs, soy and gluten, although since everybody has a unique and wonderful body system it is well worth finding out which foods are best for you. Food reactions can be quickly and easily tested in our office.

3. Limit Sugar

Sugar consumption has been shown to make white blood cells less effective for over 5 hours. This immune suppression is dose dependent, so just a little bit of sugar suppresses your immunity just a little bit while a lot of sugar totally devastates your immunity. If you are consuming sugar or sweetened foods throughout the day, you will have a consistently compromised immune system.

4. Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods

Here is another reason to enjoy whole foods daily. Below are just a few major players in your immune system, including food sources.

vitamin C
detoxifies free radicals, promotes wound healing, strengthens barriers, increases activity of immune cells and increases antibody response, direct anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects

  • Food sources: citrus fruits, cantaloupe, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, potato. To keep vitamin C active, foods should be eaten raw or very lightly cooked.

vitamin A/ß-Carotene
strengthens barriers, anti-viral activity

  • Food sources: leafy green vegetables, orange vegetables

Vitamin D
aids in production of our natural anti-microbial immune factors.

  • Food sources: cod liver oil, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)

healthy immune function, essential co-factor for enzymes

  • Food sources: seafood, meats, whole grains, legumes, egg yolk, nuts and seeds

re-vitalizes glutathione, one of the most powerful anti-oxidants

  • Food sources: meat, fish, whole grains, legumes, brazil nuts, garlic, mushroom, asparagus

amino acids are building blocks of cells of your immune system as well as enzymes used in reactions.

  • Food sources: fish, poultry, red meat, nuts, seeds, legumes, quinoa, protein powder

5. Use Bone Broth in your Cooking

Home-made bone broth has so much nourishing goodness in it. It can be used as a soup base or instead of water when cooking whole grains or making sauces. Here is a recipe (not written by me).