With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still posing a threat to each of us, the question of strengthening and maintaining our immune system seems to be at the top of everyone’s minds. Having a strong, prepared immune system can help you prevent and fight illnesses of all kinds.
Our immune systems can be positively or negatively impacted every day by many factors, such as stress, activity levels, exposure to toxins, lifestyles, and how or what we eat. Functional medicine lets us take a holistic approach to our immune systems, by helping us understand our body as a whole when it comes to healing. By using the methodology of functional medicine to promote and restore balance in our bodies, we can make the best choices to improve our body’s functions and help it maintain a strong defense against illness or pain.
To build or maintain our immune system’s strength, we need to focus our energies on the body’s powerhouse: its digestive system.
Our digestive system is how our body handles everything we ingest, including food, drink, or medication. If we aren’t properly digesting and reacting to what we consume, our digestive system might be out of whack and negatively impact the functions of our immune system.
Our digestive system has its own microbiome.
So how can we help keep our gut microbiome healthy and strong? Here are a few tips you can refer to every day:
Get vitamins and minerals through whole foods
Many people deal with deficiencies in one or many vitamins and minerals, for varied reasons. Those deficiencies lead to disruption in our bodily systems, including a weaker immune system. We can empower our body by consuming a vitamin- and mineral-rich whole food diet, which will help our digestive system send these powerful nutrients all over our body.
A natural, whole foods diet will include all the vitamins and minerals you need to boost your immunity. Here are some important foods to make sure you’re eating regularly:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
- Red bell peppers
- Dark berries
Prevent and reduce inflammation
When your body perceives something as a threat, it can result in inflammation. Many of us experience inflammation without even realizing it, but it can weaken our immune system and even lead to chronic pain or other health issues.
Most inflammation comes from our regular diet. Keep an eye on what you’re eating, to make sure your diet is balanced. If you notice stomach pains, brain fog, joint aches, or other symptoms after eating certain foods known to be inflammatory (dairy, sugar, gluten, alcohol), consider taking a break from them to see if things improve. You might try a cleanse or elimination diet.
Another common factor that causes inflammation is stress. Stress can be caused in the body by personal struggles, a lack of work-life balance, over-exercise, or lack of sleep. Try talking to trusted friends or professionals about these challenges if you’re facing them. Natural methods can be very powerful in alleviating stress, such as meditation.
Give apple cider vinegar a shot
It might sound strange, but including apple cider vinegar (ACV) in your diet is a great way to keep our pH balanced. If your pH is unbalanced, your body is either running too acidic or too alkaline, which can lead to challenges in the immune system. Using ACV during a meal is also a great way to increase stomach acid at the proper time helping your body break down and absorb the nutrients. A shot of ACV helps improve the gut microbiome and helps us metabolize fat, which is also important in maintaining immunity.
Keep your adrenals happy
Your adrenal glands are located right on top of each kidney, and they help with the production and balance of our stress hormones. As we mentioned earlier, too much stress in the body can wreak havoc on our immune systems by causing inflammation.
To keep your adrenal glands happy, healthy, and balanced, make sure you’re eating a proper diet, and getting 60 grams of clean lean protein per day (plant or animal). Adrenals benefit from daily stress reduction techniques such as meditation and light exercise.