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Boosting Your Immune System: 6 Things You Need to Be Eating

• The Organic Prepper by Daisy Luther

Do you want glowing skin, boundless energy, and a nearly super-human resistance to germs and viruses?

It's time to step up your nutritional game. With flu season bearing down on us, we're hearing a lot in the media about how we should be rolling up our sleeves for a toxic flu shot. Instead, perhaps we should be focused on immunity-boosting foods that will help our bodies to fight off the bugs that come knocking. Previously, we discussed what NOT to eat, but it's a lot more fun to think about the delicious bounty we should be consuming.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

~Hippocrates

There are so many wonderful nutritious whole foods out there that it would be impossible to make a comprehensive list of everything that enhances your immune system. It probably goes without saying that I strongly recommend organic, local versions of these items whenever possible. If you can't get the food locally, the next best choice is usually frozen, since that was done at peak ripeness. Food that was picked two weeks ago while unripe, then shipped and artificially ripened, just doesn't have the same benefits. As well, not all of these foods are healthy for everyone. Obviously, if you're lactose intolerant, you shouldn't be downing a glass of raw milk. If you're a vegetarian, look for other sources of certain nutrients. Adapt these suggestions to fit your lifestyle.

Garlic

Garlic contains the chemical compound "allicin", which can also be found in veggies like onions and leeks to a smaller degree. It also contains beneficial levels of sulfur, arginine, oligosaccharides, flavonoids, and selenium. One study showed that daily consumption of garlic increased the subject's resistance to the common cold by 2/3s and a shorter duration of symptoms for those who did catch a cold.

One hundred forty-six volunteers were randomized to receive a placebo or an allicin-containing garlic supplement, one capsule daily, over a 12-week period between November and February. They used a five-point scale to assess their health and recorded any common cold infections and symptoms in a daily diary. The active-treatment group had significantly fewer colds than the placebo group (24 vs 65, P < .001). The placebo group, in contrast, recorded significantly more days challenged virally (366 vs 111, P < .05) and a significantly longer duration of symptoms (5.01 vs 1.52 days, P < .001). Consequently, volunteers in the active group were less likely to get a cold and recovered faster if infected. Volunteers taking placebo were much more likely to get more than one cold over the treatment period. An allicin-containing supplement can prevent attack by the common cold virus. (source)

Simply including garlic in your cooking is a delicious way to reap the benefits. As well, include things like onions, shallots, and leeks in your diet.

Tea

Both black and green teas increase your resistance to illness. Both types of tea contain L-theanine, an amino acid that can not only improve your physical health but also your mental health. L-theanine enhances the function of gammadelta T lymphocytes. These t-cells are your body's first line of defense against the microbes that can make you sick. A Harvard study showed that the production of antibacterial proteins was up to five times higher in the tea drinkers than in non-tea drinkers, via blood tests.

These primed gammadeltaT cells have an enhanced capacity to proliferate and to secrete cytokines upon ex vivo exposure to a wide variety of microbes and tumor cells. The largest dietary source of alkylamines is L-theanine, an amino acid unique to tea beverages that is catabolized to ethylamine. Supplementation of subjects with capsules containing L-theanine and catechins has recently been shown to decrease the incidence of cold and flu symptoms, while enhancing gammadelta T cell function. (source)

For optimum benefits, consume at least 3 cups of black or green tea per day.

Beef

When I say, beef, not just any old hunk of cow will do. It's better to go with smaller servings and to spend the extra money for grass-fed, hormone-free beef to reap the maximum immune-boosting benefits.

The reason beef is so great for your immune system is because of the mineral zinc.  Even a small deficiency in that mineral has been linked to increased incidences of infection.

Zinc deficiency impairs overall immune function and resistance to infection. Mild to moderate zinc deficiency can be best detected through a positive response to supplementation trials. Zinc supplementation has been shown to have a positive effect on the incidence of diarrhea (18% reduction, 95% CI: 7-28%) and pneumonia (41% reduction, 95% CI: 17-59%), and might lead to a decrease in the incidence of malaria. Zinc has also proven to decrease the duration of diarrhea by 15% (95% CI: 5-24%). Maternal zinc supplementation may lead to a decrease in infant infections. Two studies have shown zinc supplementation to decrease child mortality by more than 50%. Zinc clearly has an important role in infant and childhood infectious diseases. (source)

Although not as bountiful as beef, other sources of zinc are seeds (especially pumpkin), shellfish, poultry, pork, and dairy products. If you do happen to get sick, grab some organic zinc lozenges and chomp them throughout the day to help fend off your illness.