Think back to the days of ancient civilization. A world untainted by pollution. No grocery stores packed full of frankenfoods. Just good, clean living off the earth’s bounty and hard work. Some might say we have it much easier these days. Allow me to make some generalizations of our current cultural situation? For a lot of people, work means doing something that requires little to no physical exertion. Our bodies are in poor physical condition. Most people do little more than heat up their meals, much less grow and harvest them. Everything we need to make it through our day is conveniently prepared and packaged for our use at the nearest grocery store. These “foods” are full of unhealthy fats, added sugars, excessive salt and other chemical additives and preservatives that our bodies can’t process. We are overweight but undernourished. As a result of our depleted health, we get sick too often. But not to worry, modern medicine has a “solution” to help us get through any symptoms of illness we might experience. Don’t worry about the potential side effects listed on the label…when that problem develops, there will be another great option on the drugstore shelf to help you deal with it.
This is not a picture of a vibrant life. Our bodies were designed to move. Our bodies were designed to eat real food. Our bodies were designed to fight their own battles. So how do we break the cycle in our own lives and live vibrantly? I’m going to let you in on the secrets I’ve learned.
Food is powerful medicine and our life-giving source of energy. However, in our modern society, there are some major hurdles to overcome before we can even begin to nourish our bodies with good food. A healthy body ready and able to fight its own battles certainly starts with and is nourished by a good diet, but if we’ve not always had a good diet, our immune system has been compromised (e.g., antibiotics were deemed necessary to kick an illness, resulting in an even more vulnerable immune system for the next round of germs), our digestive system is backed up as a result of or in addition to any of the above, and/or our liver is under-performing to rid the body of toxins (found everywhere of course – air, water, food, etc.) even a “good diet” will be hard pressed to get the body back in good working order.
When it comes to illness, it seems we have a few things mixed up in modern society. Thanks to Mr. Pasteur, we’ve adopted what is commonly called the “germ theory” of health – avoid them and you’ll be fine. If you happen to get them (which happens on a regular basis during what has come to be known as the cold and flu season in particular), eradicate them at all costs. Unfortunately, one of those costs is that our healthy tissues/bacteria are also attacked by our germ killers. Our bodies are our best line of defense against sickness, but we weaken them with medications that damage healthy tissue/bacteria and allow them very little practice in defending themselves, so when they are thrown up against something big, they are out of shape and out of practice. So they “need” medication to conquer the next invader…it’s sort of a vicious cycle.
In every ancient culture, fermented food of one kind or another was a part of the traditional diet. Fermented foods promote intestinal health by providing us with a steady supply of good bacteria. Some cultures continue to include fermented foods in their diet on a regular basis, but most have moved on. Some have started bringing fermented foods back into their lives, but others are not brave enough to drink that tea from the “mother” growing on the counter or eat bread made from the science experiment growing in the fridge. Enter probiotics. Probiotics are especially important after taking any antibiotics, but really beneficial as a daily staple. Our diets are just not full of fermented foods anymore but we need good bacteria in our systems to keep us clean. If we are unable or unwilling to go to the effort it takes to prepare fermented foods, probiotic supplements can be an excellent option (one of the few supplements I recommend taking regularly). The most important things to look for in a probiotic are a large quantity (over one billion) and variety of both lactobacillus and bifidobacterium as well as survivability of the cultures. Billions of organisms or not, if they are not prepared in such a way that they can get past your stomach acid and into your intestines they won’t do you much good. My husband and I use Udo’s Choice Adult Blend Probiotic. My children take Udo’s Choice Children’s Blend Probiotic. If your kids cannot swallow a pill, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic is a good option. Warning: if your gut flora is severely out of balance and/or you are extremely unhealthy, supplementing with too much too quickly can cause very undesirable side effects (e.g., diarrhea, gas, bloating), so start slow for the sake of an easy transition.
In addition to what we purposely consume (or don’t), our bodies are inundated with toxins from every front. The liver is the organ responsible for cleansing our blood of toxins. From the air we breathe (which is full of toxins from cleaners, carpets (formaldehyde), furniture/paint (VOCs), and the lovely person in line in front of us wearing chemical-laden fragrances) to the so-called “safe” chemicals we use every day in our shampoo, lotion, dish water, toothpaste, etc. that soaks into our largest organ (our skin), there are a lot of things the liver has to process. For this reason, a periodic and/or on-going gentle detox is a good idea to assist the liver in its overwhelming task of purifying our blood. Use herbs that either support or clean the liver regularly (e.g., dandelion root, burdock, and milk thistle teas). Eat a high fiber, anti-oxidant rich diet to help carry the toxins out of your system. Consider the periodic use of a gentle detox program such as Flor-Essence Liquid Tea Blend, an herbal anti-oxidant based detox designed to cleanse and nourish the liver. More rigorous detox methods are available, but can be very hard on your body if they are too harsh or full of synthetic chemicals.
With a healthy digestive flora and a clean, supported liver, the body is much more likely to absorb the nutrients we are consuming in our “good diets.” Now we can more successfully strengthen our immune systems with colorful fruits and veggies.
Need suggestions for additional immune system support? Here are some simple suggestions for boosting the immune system.