Love may be a battlefield, but life itself – it’s a war zone. Seriously and literally. Scientists recently documented that the bacterial cell count on planet earth has reached 50 million for every 1 gram of soil. We may have the brains, but they, my fellow sapiens, have the numbers. Your immune system is the one thing standing between you and complete physiological mayhem. So if you came to win, you’re going to want to send in reinforcements. Here are 4 simple ingredients you can add to your day to help shore up your defenses.
This should not be news to you. If it is news to you, welcome to the 21st century, a lot has happened since you went to live under that rock. Antioxidant, a word usually found in the company of either a yoga mat or a very expensive juicer, is defined as a substance that inhibits oxidation. When you don’t have enough antioxidants available in your body, harmful oxidants, such as free radicals, will steal electrons from molecules faster than a Kardashian (another 21st century phenomenon) steals boyfriends. This sets into motion a series of partner poachings so dramatic they could have been written by the mastermind(s) behind The Young and the Restless (still somehow alive and airing new seasons). The basic plot is free radical steals electron from molecule, molecule’s electron (hates the single life) steals new electron from other molecule, other molecule steals new electron from other other molecule, and so on until someone is lying unconscious in a hospital bed. If you’re looking to rewrite this script, consider adding generous portions of anything listed below (not that we’re trying to influence your decision, but watermelon is in season).
Sources: goji berries, blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, blackberries, watermelon, dark chocolate, artichokes, pecans, ginger, parsley, cilantro, cinnamon, turmeric, this list goes on forever, google can take it from here
In the microscopic underground eco-verse recently titled “your microbiome,” there’s a whole good vs. evil, light vs. dark, superhero fights super villain but no one ever really wins kind of saga unfolding. What we mean is there two types of bacteria, good (i.e. probiotics) and bad (i.e. pathogens), and they are locked in a never ending struggle for control. The reason that it’s important to know this, is because every day we are all exposed – sometimes by choice (donuts for breakfast, not sorry), sometimes not (woke up older today) – to factors that damage the good bacteria. If the good bacteria diminish, the balance is lost, the bad bacteria rise up, and the microbiome becomes a dark and dangerous city, which does not bode well for the person in charge (heads up, that’s you). Some potential threats linked to low probiotic levels are weak immunity, asthma, allergies, yeast infections and skin conditions. Luckily replenishing your intestinal flora can be as easy as starting your day with a cup of yogurt. And if yogurt isn’t your thing, there are other things on the list, so find something that is your thing and start with that.
Sources: cultured or fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, miso soup, sauerkraut), probiotic supplements or powders
Even if you’ve been an active participant in the 21st century since it started, you might have missed this one. That’s because it’s been standing in the shadow of the other, taller, trendier, more popular biotic (see above). But the thing about prebiotics is they provide the fuel that keeps the probiotics fed, and I’m pretty sure we all know what happens when the diva doesn’t get his all natural, gluten free, vegan, non GMO, sweetened with oak barrel-aged unicorn tears donut. Prebiotics are essentially dietary fibers that don’t break down during the digestion process. Instead, they travel to the colon, and there they are fermented into a tasty snack, arranged on silver platters in some excessively impractical but highly instagrammable fashion, and served to the gastrointestinal microflora who have been waiting, for ages, in the green room. The health of your gut is closely related to the efficiency of your immune system because it affects your ability to absorb nutrients, so if you want to keep the probiotics happy, keep the prebiotics coming.
Sources: raw garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, raw jicama, raw dandelion greens, raw asparagus, and onions (cooked or raw), prebiotic powders, prebiotic supplements
Yes, collagen. As in, skin filler. As in, face cream. As in, I am on the losing side of an argument with gravity. There are actually more than 15 different variants of collagen produced in your body, and their roles vary from skin structure and elasticity, to teeth and nail strength, to cartilage and tendon formation. They say it’s the substance that glues our bodies in the shape of a body, rather than, say, the shape of a puddle on the ground. As you age you produce less and lower-quality collagen, and if you have a sweet tooth, that goes double for you (sugar and refined carbs actually interfere with collagen’s ability to repair itself). Excessive sunshine and smoking aren’t planning on doing you any favors either.
While collagen hasn’t been directly tied to immunity, it has been linked to a wide range of health benefits that can help take a load off your immune system, giving it the chance to preserve some of its energy for fighting other battles. The most common dietary source for collagen comes from animal proteins, but since, as a general rule, most of us don’t go gnawing on rib bones or chicken feet, we’re not actually getting much collagen in our diet. That’s why it’s important to supplement your collagen supply with high-quality collagen sources such as bone broth or gelatin. They’re easy to find in powdered form, so if you just go ahead and mix that into your morning goji berry dandelion live cultured yogurt, you’ll have hit all four at once.
Sources: bone broth protein powder, bovine collagen powder, fish collagen supplements, beef, chicken, fish, bone broth, egg shell membranes, egg yolk. Vitamin C (while it doesn’t contain collagen, it’s crucial to the process of your own collagen production).
It’s not always easy to stay in the fight, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Your immune system isn’t going to fail just because you don’t eat sauerkraut with every meal. But in the long term, small choices can make a big impact. If you can just focus on a few small choices a day, those choices will domino in ways you never expected.