Learn How To Optimize Your Disease-Fighting Ability
Pathogens are everywhere and are a constant threat to our good health. Especially with the whole Covid-19 thing going on right now, having a strong immune system is vital!
Some things that contribute to the weakening of our immune system are aging, stress, antibiotics, steroids, poor sleep, high glucose levels, and a diet that doesn’t provide sufficient nutrients to our bodies.
Keto To The Rescue
The ketogenic lifestyle is ideal for optimizing our immune system because we are eating nutrient-dense foods and lowering our blood sugar (and thus our insulin) level. Here are ten things you can begin doing right now to help create a healthy immune system.
1. Get enough Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It has multiple beneficial effects for our immune system, and has been shown to be effective in killing viruses and bacteria, speeding healing after an injury or surgery, and even destroying cancer cells.
The current RDA for Vitamin C is much too low. An amount closer to 2500 mg a day is considered optimal by many natural health doctors.
Some foods that are high in Vitamin C include unpasteurized sauerkraut (this one is a real powerhouse – just one cup has 700 mg!), broccoli, berries, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, hot peppers, parsley (and by the way, parsley also has a diuretic effect, and can sometimes be useful in getting you past a weight loss plateau. I speak from personal experience on this!)
2. Optimize your Vitamin D level. Vitamin D is a potent killer of pathogens and having an optimal level is one of the best ways to minimize your risk of getting sick. Again, the currently recommended RDA amount is insufficient; an ideal range for Vitamin D is between 60 and 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). In Europe, the range you want is 150 – 200 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). A blood test is necessary to measure your Vitamin D level.
Sensible sun exposure is by far the best source of vitamin D. Elderly and darker-skinned people will require longer exposure to reach the proper level. If you opt to take a supplement, such as in the winter months or if you have limited opportunity to get outside, look for vitamin D3 in at least a 2000 mg dose. If you can find one that also contains vitamin K2, all the better, as these nutrients work together to provide maximum benefit to your body.
3. Include Essential Fatty Acids in your diet, especially Omega-3s. Our cells are protected by two lipid (fat) layers that help ward off invasion by pathogens. Having sufficient fatty acid levels helps maintain this protective layer. Some great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are avocados, fatty fish like wild caught salmon, sardines and anchovies, some kinds of nuts and seeds (check these out on your macros tracker for carb content), coconut oil, olive oil, butter and ghee (clarified butter).
4. Consume bone broth. The collagen and amino acids in bone broth (especially broth that you’ve made at home, where you have complete control over the ingredients) help close up any openings in the gut lining. This is important to keeping your immune system strong.
5. Use probiotic foods and supplements to optimize your gut flora. Friendly gut bacteria (or flora) are known collectively as your microbiome. About 70% of your immune system is housed here.
There are over 10,000 varieties of friendly bacteria in our bodies. Having high amounts of these in your gut crowds out the bad bacteria and makes it more difficult for them to survive, so in this case, more is definitely better! Having insufficient amounts can cause you to have leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which the contents of your digestive tract are able to pass unchecked through the wall of your intestines and into your bloodstream. Leaky gut is a big contributor to autoimmune diseases and food sensitivities.
Sauerkraut is a great fermented food to consume for its probiotic content. Besides having a TON of vitamin C, it also contains TRILLIONS of friendly bacteria! That’s a LOT more than you will get from a probiotic supplement.
6. Get Enough Minerals. Things like zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and other minerals all play a role in creating a healthy immune system. Zinc especially plays a major role in the health of your immune system. Good food sources of zinc include oysters and other shell fish and seafood (always wild caught, never farm raised), red meats and pumpkin seeds.
It’s worth mentioning here that any time you decide to use a supplement of any kind, it’s always best to choose one that is made from a natural, whole food source rather than a synthetic version that may be made up of one or two isolated components of the whole nutrient. Vitamins and minerals work synergistically, so getting them in the proper ratios and in their entirety is always most likely if you’re consuming them from a whole food source.
7. Eat Garlic. Garlic is one of the most potent killers of pathogens. From a keto perspective, it’s a little high in carbs; either raw or cooked, one tablespoon of chopped garlic contains about 2.6 g of carbs. But if you love it (like I do!) and want a great boost for your immune system, just make sure to figure it in when calculating your macros for the day.
You’ve probably noticed that quite a few of these foods provide multiple benefits. Parsley is just one good example; a 1/4 cup of fresh parsley has about 20mg of Vitamin C, but it also has nearly 300% of the daily RDA of Vitamin K, which works with Vitamin D to optimize its benefits.
8. Implement intermittent fasting. Going for an extended period of time without eating improves the health of your microbiome in several ways. It decreases your exposure to any chemicals that may be in the foods you eat; it increases the diversity and amount of good bacteria in your gut and thus your resistance to pathogens; it helps repair the intestinal lining, and helps eliminate candida (yeast) from your body. You can read more about intermittent fasting here.
Some additional “miscellaneous” things you can use that are helpful in boosting your immune system are herbs such as echinacea, elderberry, ginseng and ginger, as well as green tea and oregano oil can all be beneficial.
These next two suggestions, while maybe not directly keto-related, are nonetheless important for a healthy immune system.
9. Manage stress. Stress, and the resulting increase in cortisol level, has a huge impact on our immune system. Managing your stress level through exercise, meditation, yoga, or whatever means you choose is vital.
10. Improve sleep. If you’re anything like me, this can be easier said than done. Minimizing the amount of light and noise in the room, keeping the temperature at a comfortable level (on the cooler side is best), and keeping anything that emits electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) away from you (things like cell phones and wireless routers) can all be helpful. Having a magnesium deficiency also affects sleep quality.
Having a strong immune system is absolutely a cornerstone of good health. By following these suggestions you will go a long way toward improving yours. Be well, my friends, and keto on!