By Marian Mitchell, INHC (AADP)

Our immune system is intricate and amazing. Vaccines stimulate the immune response in hopes of the body developing antibodies to specific strains of viruses. Unfortunately, viruses are constantly mutating and not every person’s immune system develops antibodies. Vaccines may also cause the immune system to hyper respond to other pathogens and allergens, as well as potentially causing debilitating side effects. Luckily, we can boost our immune system so it can do a better job of protecting us from harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

There are things we do every day that suppress and weaken our immune system. These common lifestyle mistakes lead to frequently getting sick, staying sick for extended periods, and interfering with our professional and personal lives.

These lifestyle factors include:

Excessive sugar intake — Sugar has been proven to reduce the germ-killing ability of white blood cells, reduce the production of antibodies, interfere with the transport of vitamin C, and make cells more permeable to invasion of allergens and microorganisms for up to 5 hours after ingestion. The sugar in your coffee, sweet tea with your lunch, afternoon chocolate fix, and ice cream after dinner are keeping your immune system suppressed, leaving you vulnerable to invading pathogens.

A nutrient deficient diet — A diet deficient in vitamins A, D, E, C, and the mineral zinc leave your immune system weak and unable to defend itself from foreign invaders. Reducing your sugar and carbohydrate intake while increasing the amount of healthy, nutrient-rich fats and dark leafy greens will provide your immune system with the nutrients it needs to stay strong.

A leaky gut — It is estimated that 90% of Americans have increased intestinal permeability, a.k.a. leaky gut, due to our grain heavy, nutrient deficient, pesticide laden, antibiotic dependent American culture. It takes our bodies about one year to recover from one round of antibiotics if we are including a quality probiotic and fermented foods in our daily diet. Addressing and a healing leaky gut is the first step to protecting our bodies.

A high stress lifestyle — Americans have a high stress culture as we tend to value all work and no play. For example, we rarely take vacations, answer phone calls and emails after work, overschedule ourselves and our children, function on little sleep and run ourselves to exhaustion. In fact, about 40% of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep according to a recent Gallup poll. Living this way impairs our immune system. Luckily, all of this is within our control. We have the power to support and boost our immune system! Here are my six tips to nourish our bodies and strengthen our immune system.

Slash your sugar intake — Replace your bagel and cream cheese with nutrient dense eggs, butter and vegetables for breakfast. Switch out sugary, chemical-laden coffee Our immune system is intricate and amazing. Vaccines stimulate the immune response in hopes of the body developing antibodies to specific strains of viruses. Unfortunately, viruses are constantly mutating and not every person’s immune system develops antibodies. Vaccines may also cause the immune system to hyper respond to other pathogens and allergens, as well as potentially causing debilitating side effects. Luckily, we can boost our immune system so it can do a better job of protecting us from harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungi. When you start feeling worn out, or it’s flu season, keep elderberry syrup, echinacea, vitamin D, C, and zinc in stock. Switch out sugary, chemical-laden coffee creamers for whole milk and honey. Drink water or unsweet tea with your meals instead of soda or juice. Instead of ice cream after dinner, eat fruit. If you really want something sweet, pair your fruit with a tablespoon (and actually measure it out!) of dark chocolate chips.

Add nutrient rich foods — In addition to cutting the sugar, adding foods rich in vitamins A, D, E, C, and the mineral zinc is essential. Foods rich in these nutrients include dark leafy greens (spinach and kale), wild caught fish, pasture raised beef, butter from pasture raised cows, fermented cod liver oil, liver, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, avocado and winter squashes.

Address the leaky gut — Include homemade organic bone broth, meat stock and probiotic-rich foods as these will help your gut heal. Probiotic-rich foods include homemade fermented foods (such as sauerkraut, pickles, and other vegetables), kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha. Very importantly, reduce inflammatory foods such as gluten containing grains, vegetable oils (grapeseed, safflower, canola, and sunflower seed oil), sugar, soy and conventional dairy.

Reduce Chronic Stress — The first step here is to honestly identify the sources of chronic stress in your life. Is it your job? If so, what aspect of it? Are there personal relationships that are taking more than they are giving? Maybe it’s time to make some necessary cuts or start searching for more fulfilling, mutually-giving relationships. Or maybe everything is good, but just stressful. We can reduce the stress with a few simple strategies including meditation, journaling, yoga, reading and exercising 3 or more days per week.

Improve the quality and/or quantity of sleep — My favorite strategies are to turn electronic devices off 2 hours before bed (or install blue light filters on your devices) and dim the lights an hour beforehand. Also keep the temperature in your bedroom cool enough that you want to be covered by a blanket and make your room very dark by hanging blackout curtains if needed. Don’t forget to drink most of your water in the morning versus at night to prevent midnight bathroom trips.

Include immune system boosting supplements — When you start feeling worn out, or it’s flu season, keep elderberry syrup, echinacea, vitamin D, C, and zinc in stock.

While boosting your immune system is absolutely necessary, it is also important to understand that getting sick isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We will get sick from time to time though it’s how we recover that matters. With a strong immune system, you’ll recover much faster. With proper support, your immune system will be armed and ready for foreign invaders and will eliminate them quicker than in previous years.

Here are a few recipes that will support your immune system. Enjoy!

Fermented Carrots

1 glass spaghetti jar that’s been sanitized

3 organic carrots

1-2 cloves garlic

1-2 tbsp sea salt

¼ tsp celery seeds

Distilled water

1 cabbage leaf

1. Cut of ends of carrots and cut into ¼ to ½ inch slices.

2. Put celery seeds into jar.

3. Stuff jar with carrots completely until it’s hard for them to move but not impossible to get out.

4. Mix sea salt into the water to make a brine. Add to jar and cover carrots.

5. Place a cabbage leaf on top of carrots and make sure it is submerged in the brine completely. If it’s not completely submerged mold will grow. Place on lid tightly.

6. Place in a dark cabinet and check on it periodically to make sure the cabbage leaf stays covered with brine. If needed, add more water. Leave for at least 10 days and up to 28 days.

7. Place in fridge when desired taste is achieved. Will last for up to one year.

Bone Broth

2-3 lbs bones from pasture raised cow or chicken

Chicken feet (optional)

1 organic yellow onion

1 organic bulb of garlic

2 organic carrots

3 stalks organic celery

2 tbsp raw organic apple cider vinegar

2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp black pepper

5-6 cups filtered water

If using stove top combine ingredients above and cook as follows:

• Cow bones 12 hours on low

• Chicken bones 6 hours on low

If using crock-pot combine ingredients above and cook as follows:

• Beef bones 18-48 hours

• Chicken bones 12-24 hours

If using pressure cooker combine ingredients above and cook as follows:

• Beef Bones 2.5 hours

• Chicken bones 1.5 hours

1. Once the broth has cooked for the allotted time, grab a large bowl and set next to your pot. Using tongs, remove the bones and big pieces of vegetables and place them into the bowl.

2. Once all the big parts have been removed, grab another bowl and set a metal mesh strainer on top of it.

3. Using a soup ladle, or your muscles by lifting the pot, pour the broth through the metal strainer. This will remove any sediment and small pieces of vegetables left in the broth.

4. Store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To store in the freezer, I like to freeze in ice cube trays, then store in freezer bags. Then I remove as many cubes as I need to drink or use for cooking.

5. Consume one to three cups daily as a drink or use in cooking. You can also use to flavor your grains and use as a base for soups.

Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seed squash soup

Serves 4

1 6 – 8 inch butternut squash

1 small sweet potato

1 yellow onion

1 gala apple

3 cups chicken bone broth or broth or vegetable broth

1 clove garlic

1 tsp salt plus some for roasting vegetables

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs

1/2 tsp dried thyme

4 tbsp raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut off the ends of your butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Cut into fourths. Coat lightly with olive oil and a little salt. Place on baking sheet meat side up

3. Wash off skin of sweet potato and place on baking sheet.

4. Cut onion into quarters. Lightly coat with olive oil and salt. Place on baking sheet.

5. Cut apple off core into 4 pieces. Place on baking sheet.

6. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until butternut squash is soft. If you need to remove apple and onion before the squash is soft just remove from the oven, put in your blender and wait.

7. Once squash is done. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

8. Warm desired broth type until hot. Add to your blender.

9. Scoop squash and potato out of skin, leaving skin behind to toss. Place in blender.

10. Add salt and herbs.

11. Blend until smooth and serve warm.

12. Pour into bowls and add 1 tbsp pepitas to each bowl.

Marian Mitchell
Marian Mitchell is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (AADP) and owner of Road To Living Whole, LLC. She is passionate about helping her clients discover their love of food that loves them back. You can learn more about her at her website www.roadtolivingwhole.com.