How To Improve Immune Function With Diet & Lifestyle Changes

Updated: May 3, 2021

"Our immune system’s are and will ever only be our only defense against any microbe or antigen.”

Let’s start changing the conversation. Instead of talking about how we can “hide” from a virus, let’s talk about how we can enhance our immune systems so that the virus doesn’t cause problems.

A healthy immune system will save us. Adequate nutrition, vitamin D levels, low stress and decreased environmental exposure (mold and chemical toxins) are where our conversations needs to focus.

The immune system represents a complex network of organs, tissues, and blood products whose role is to balance a state of tolerance with swift and decisive action. As an integrative practitioner my focus is to promote lifestyle balance and immune optimization by minimizing the impact of stressors and maximizing therapies that positively modulate the immune response. Fundamental tools include a comprehensive understanding of the immune system, its diagnosis, and its management; proper application of healthy diets, food elimination, and detoxification; exercise; dietary supplements; lifestyle interventions such as stress reduction, sleep, meditation, and acupuncture therapy.

1. Optimize Gut Health

The microbiome plays an integral role in keeping the immune system ready to fight off any intruders. Humans have more bacterial cells—a lot more—than human cells. Bacteria live on the skin, in the nose and ears, and, most of all, in the gut.

Until recently, if most people thought about those bacteria at all, we tended to think of them as fairly separate from us. They help with digestion, but otherwise they stay on their side of the intestinal lining, and we stay on our side. But, in fact, there is a lot of interaction between the body’s immune system and bacteria in the gut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins are now in the early stages of figuring out how the composition of the gut changes in different diseases, how the body’s immune system interacts with these tiny hitchhikers and particularly how that relationship may function in disease.

“A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract,” says Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The immune system is inside your body, and the bacteria are outside your body.” And yet they interact. For example, certain cells in the lining of the gut spend their lives excreting massive quantities of antibodies into the gut. “That’s what we’re trying to understand—what are the types of antibodies being made, and how is the body trying to control the interaction between ourselves and bacteria on the outside?” (source)

However If you have an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and parasitic infections, your body is going to have a challenging time regulating your immune system.

How can you optimize gut health? Take out the pathogens and parasites. Everyone has parasites. Not just if you have travelled, but if you have pets, eaten sushi, pork, been around farm animals, had food poisoning etc.

I work with clients to eliminate parasites to optimize gut function.

2. Eat Fermented foods and other foods with antiviral properties

These include coconut oil, raw garlic, oregano, ginger, walnuts, pomegranate, green tea, apple cider vinegar, and medicinal mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi, cordyceps, turkeytail).

Fermented food: The probiotics contained in fermented foods have tremendous immune-boosting powers and aid in healthy gut functioning. Some examples of delicious fermented foods include sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kefir, and kombucha (low sugar).

Learn to Make your own HERE.

3. Community and Connection

Studies have shown that people who are more socially connected to family, friends and community are happier, healthier, and live longer.

People who are more isolated than they want to be are less happy, their health declines earlier in their midlife, their brain function declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely. (source).

Who are the 5 people you surround yourself with most? These are the people who help shape your identity. Are they toxic or do they bring you joy and happiness?

4. Expand Your Palate and Eat the Rainbow

When you diversify your diet with a variety of nutrient dense organic foods you are strengthening your microbiome. The closer your plate is to the garden the better! Organic CSA and farmers market resources are a go to when your own backyard is not producing. Choosing to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables is an important way to boost your immunity. Each color provides a different antioxidant power, so be sure to eat the rainbow every day.

By choosing variety and not eating the same thing everyday, you are allowing your body to utilize an abundance of different health compounds that are extremely health promoting. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy wild foods so much. The flavors in the wild are are unique and intense, quite different than the grocery store variety, (that are cultivated, sprayed with pesticides and taste like watered down versions). Next time you go to the grocery store try something different like okra, or how about that water chestnut, its delicious and often ignored. Or check out your local farmers market where you can get higher quality fruits and veggies and experiment with something new every week.

5. Stay hydrated

Stick to water, herbal teas, and bone broth. No soda or sugary drinks —these can cause deleterious effects on your immune system. What’s an estimate of how much water you need? Divide your body weight (in pounds) in half and drink that number in ounces.

Water quality is important. Water should be free of heavy metals, chlorine, fluoride and contaminants. I like to use a Big Berkey Water filtration system.

If you live in the U.S, you can check your water quality source HERE for heavy metals and pollutants in your tap water.

I also like to add a pinch of sea salt to my water to replenish electrolytes and add minerals. I also love the bioactive Carbon Mineral product from CELLCORE BIOSCIENCE. (use my code SJLWWHE8)

6. Drink bone broth

Bone broth has amazing immune-supporting properties. Animal Bones contain an abundance of minerals and 17 different amino acids, many of which are found in bone broth as proteins like collagen and gelatin. While ancient folk wisdom suggests that a hot cup of bone broth can help soothe the sick and cure the common cold, modern studies have confirmed that the components of bone broth can boost the immune system. Researchers believe the amino acids in broths and stocks—like arginine, glycine, cysteine, and glutamine—help reduce inflammation and boost our immunity. Make it at home or pick up some organic broth at the grocery store.

5. Avoid simple sugars, deep fried and processed/junk food.