I have not been sick in SIX years!! Seriously though… this is a big deal, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve been around a plethora of sick humans over these past 6 years, and I’ve even shared straws with some of them, and I still haven’t caught whatever virus or bacteria is ailing them. This is a really big deal to me, because growing up I had an incredibly weak immune system due to a highly processed food diet… I’m sure you can relate… some of my favourite staples were:
- Cheese and crackers
- Cheese sauce on toast (cheese sauce on everything actually, broccoli, cauliflower, steak, chicken… etc)
- Grilled cheese with orange cheddar, margarine, and ketchup
- Stoned wheat crackers with margarine and orange cheddar
- KD with ketchup
- Basically anything with cheese…
- Quaker oatmeal muffin mix mixed with water in a bowl
- An entire box of fruit roll-ups in one sitting
- Kraft peanut butter on toast with extra margarine
- Dried ichaban noodles straight out of the bag
- Soda pop and more soda pop – especially grape crush
- Powdered peach juice
- Licorice! my god I loved licorice….
- 5 cent candies
- and the list goes on and on
To be clear, I don’t blame my Mother for buying these groceries, she raised me the best way she knew how. Back then a lot less people were conscious about what it takes to have a strong immune system. Now-a-days more of the younger generations are willing to spend more money for better quality food.. perhaps it’s because we are seeing a ridiculous amount of chronic disease and it doesn’t seem like the western medical system is helping much if at all….
How sick was I?
If I was around somebody that was sick, I was pretty much guaranteed to catch whatever it was they had. Besides catching a cold or flu several times a year resulting in being out of commission for a couple weeks at time… there was one time when I was about 15 years old I was deliriously sick with a fever. Bed ridden in this state for well over a week… I still remember it like yesterday. The strangest thing happened, my jaw locked up. I couldn’t open my mouth more than 1cm (strange right?) I ended up unlocking it myself (stupid right?) and to this day it still cracks when I open it all the way.
Fast forward to 19 years old, I started having severely sharp pains on the left side of my rib cage. I couldn’t breathe in more than a tiny sip of air, so off to the hospital I went. They checked my heart, and came to the conclusion that I had inflamed muscles on my ribcage. Inflamed muscles on my ribcage? How the F did that happen!?! They prescribed me some anti-inflammatory medication and sent me on my way. I changed nothing, and of course nothing changed (except my ribs didn’t hurt anymore – thanks Big Pharma!).
At age 20 I moved to Kelowna and kept living life the best way I knew how…. having fun and doing whatever I wanted when I felt well and energized, and taking time off work to do nothing but rest when I was sick. It was a viscous cycle. I’m sure everybody who has been sick knows how much it sucks. When my roommate decided to move back to her hometown, a regular customer at the coffee shop I worked at told me of a friend that was looking for a roommate. I believe in serendipity, and even though many of my coworkers told me this girl is ‘crazy’ I went to meet her anyways and agreed to move in. Turns out – she’s a nutritionist!!
When I moved in, I saw the difference between her cupboard, and my cupboard. She had vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, organic meats, and supplements… I had.. well you saw the list above. She began to open my eyes to the connection between how I was feeling and what I was eating. So I began to make small changes and ate more salads and stir fries with her. Even though I had starting eating a lot more vegetables and cut back on the processed and packaged “foods”, I STILL caught colds and flus!! It turns out there is more to the secret of having a strong immune system than I thought.
Over the years I went through a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for me, and I learned these important points about our food and our bodies:
- White sugar paralyzes your white blood cells for a few hours (as if it’s not bad enough already, forcing your body to extract minerals from your bones and all). If you’re around somebody who is sick, you best not be consuming any of that white powdered stuff anytime soon. Your white blood cells have to be – you know… not paralyzed if they’re going to fight foreign invaders.
- A whopping 70-80% of your immune system is inside your intestines! You have what’s called a microbiome, or a delicate complex ecosystem of bacteria also living inside of your intestines. In an ideally healthy human, most of these bacteria are friendly, and the minority is pathogenic. More often than not in today’s world, the pathogenic bacteria are the majority and the friendly bacteria are the minority. If there’s an overabundance of pathogenic bacteria, how strong do you think your immune system is going to be? How distracted and pre-occupied do you think your white blood cells are going to be?
- Most of the fruits and vegetables you’re eating have been picked before they are allowed to ripen. This is common knowledge… everybody knows that you can’t ship a yellow banana from Mexico to Canada – it will be brown and mushy well before it even arrives. The critical point to note here is that 70-90% of the nutrition from fruits and veggies is formed in the last 48 hours before ripening – this does not happen once it’s been picked! Yes your banana turns from green to yellow and looks more ‘ripe’ but because it is not forming more nutrients, I see it as more of it rotting process than a ripening process.
- The nutrients from fruits and veggies that really keep us healthy are called phytonutrients. Yes, vitamins and minerals are vitally important, but what we really want from fruits and vegetables in phytonutrients (e.g. beta-carotene, lycopene). Did you know that phytonutrients outnumber vitamins and minerals 10,000 to 1 AND we’re still discovering new ones?! The fact that we are still discovering new ones bluntly tells us that we need to be consuming whole foods. This is why I do not promote or recommend multi-vitamins or any nutrient in it’s isolated form (besides the one exception you’ll see below). Nature is synergistic and so are we, therefore we need to be eating synergistic foods.
- Phytonutrients gives fruits and vegetables their taste, colour and smell. Thats why locally grown strawberries melt in your mouth and are red the whole way through, and California strawberries are white inside. More flavour + vibrant colour + delicious ripe smell = more disease fighting nutrition.
Here is what I do every single day to ensure my body has exactly what it needs to prevent illness:
- I start my day with good old H2O – that’s right – water! But not just any water… I’m talking two to three BIG mugs of my secret morning kick-start drink (lemon, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, honey). You see, water is needed for basically every single bodily function, and without it, all them functions just don’t work properly. I also drink delicious lemon water throughout the day between meals to maintain hydration and aid in my body’s natural detoxification processes.
- I eat and drink fermented foods everyday. This adds beneficial and friendly bacteria to my gut/intestines aka my microbiome. My faves are sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, water kefir, and kombucha. Your microbiome is the foundation of your health – if you don’t know what it is I urge you to click on the link to find out.
- The majority of my plate at every meal is vegetables, a lot of these I grow myself! Aim for 80% of your plate to be good-quality vegetables at every meal.
- I use maple syrup, raw local honey, stevia, cane sugar, and erythritol to sweeten my foods. There ARE healthier version of the sweet flavour out there believe it or not.
- I supplement with Juice Plus+ and have been for the past 6 years (besides my nutritionist roommate, this is what made me realize the power of whole food and inspired me to become a nutritionist). Before you go all “pyramid talk” on me you have to realize that there are good and bad products out there regardless of where they come from. I judge a product by what the ingredients are, my own personal results, the results of my clients and friends, and the science.
- I supplement with Bio-Strath. A deactivated yeast rich in B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. This nourishes my adrenal glands from the inevitable stresses of today’s world.
- In the winter, I supplement with liquid vitamin D3. Got winter blues? You probably need Vitamin D. Besides that, Vitamin D plays a huge role in the health of your immune system. I wont get all science-y on your ass, but if you wanna check out some the research click here.
Besides constantly focusing on maintaining the strength of my gut bacteria aka my microbiome, those are my secrets to keeping the colds and flus away every single year, year after year. You can do it too!