Boosting Your Immune System

Kara-bout Your Body
By: Kara Fragale; Nutritionist, Holistic Nutrition Consultant,
Board Certified Master Herbalist, Whole-Foods Chef, Fitness
It is time to cut out gingerbread cookies, decorate the tree,
put out the Menorah, boost the holiday music and
your……immune system! Maybe not so festive, but just as
important if you want to get through the parties, festivities,
gatherings, hugs, and holiday kisses!
Did your mom ever tell you to put on your coat or you will
catch cold? Well, you cannot really catch a cold from not
wearing a coat, but it is not the wisest thing to do. Colds, the
flu, RSV, and covid tend to be stronger in the winter for two
reasons. One, we are indoors more and in closer contact with
each other. Second, viruses linger longer in the cold air.
Most of the time we pop a little vitamin C and feel we are on
our way to a strong immune system. But do you really
understand what the immune system does? Our immune cells
start in our bone marrow. This is the home base. There are
two parts, the innate immune cells, and the adaptive immune
cells. Let me start with our kids or our younger days.
You are born with the innate immune cells. This is your child’s
rapid response system. It is the first to respond when it finds
an invader. It is made up of the skin, the eye’s cornea, and the
mucous membrane that lines the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts. These all create physical barriers to
help protect your child’s body. They protect against harmful
germs, parasites (such as worms), or cells (such as cancer). The
innate immune system is inherited. It is active from the
moment your child is born. When this system recognizes an
invader, it goes into action right away. (John’s Hopkins). When
a child is born without a functioning immune system, they are
considered to have severe combined immunodeficiency
(SCID), this is rare.

Next is our adaptive immune cells. Adaptive immunity is a
type of immunity that is built up as we are exposed to
diseases or get vaccines. For example, let us say you get the
measles. Your immune system will remember this intruder
and you will not get the measles again. These cells are the
guardians to our bodies. They are hanging out, making sure
only what is safe enters our body. When a virus or disease or
infection is detected, a healthy immune system goes on the
attack. These soldiers fight the fight, and are brilliant,
because they will remember the invaders for future attacks.
Have you gone out with a group of friends, sat together at a
restaurant, gone to the movies and driven home in the same
car, then find out the next day you are the only one with a bad
cold? You say, “What the &%#$@?” how did I get sick and
everyone else is fine? Maybe your immune system is not as
strong as it could be.

There are signs to watch out for: Lots of tummy issues, you
catch colds frequently, wounds are slow to heal, you feel tired
all the time, you get infections easily, you have high stress
levels in your life. If this is you, all is not lost, there are ways
to make sure your immune system is strong and ready to go.
Keep in mind if you have any autoimmune diseases, you do
not want to boost your immune system with immune
supplements. Boosting the good part of your immune system
will also boost the bad and trigger a flare up. Still eat healthy
though! If you do not have an autoimmune disease, let’s get
those soldiers ready to go to battle for your body.

First, get sleep. Sleep provides essential support to the
immune system. Getting sufficient hours of high-quality sleep
enables a well-balanced immune defense that features strong
innate and adaptive immunity, and a better response to
vaccines. Next, eating foods that are high in antioxidants. Try
sweet potatoes, squash, asparagus, kidney beans, kale,
broccoli, spinach, and carrots. Red grapes, apples, berries,
peaches, and cantaloupe. Cooking with spices make your
meals loaded with antioxidants, like cinnamon, oregano,
turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, curry powder, ginger, pepper,
and garlic. Eating lean proteins like fish, chicken and turkey
are key. Eliminating stress from your life is not easy but
minimizing it will help with your health.
Exercise is also important to keeping your body strong in the
winter. Can exercise strengthen immune system?

Not only does exercise get the immune cells moving
throughout the body during activity, but it also promotes a
lasting presence of these immune cells for up to three hours
after exercise is completed. This provides extra time for the
immune cells to identify unwanted intruders and keep you
from getting sick.

Supplements like vitamin C or D and Probiotics are good.
Elderberry can also help keep your immune system in top
shape. When you feel the first signs of being sick, Echinacea
tea is great! It is a stimulant to the immune system and can
help your body heal and feel better faster. However, imagine
your immune cells on full alert, they will eventually get tired
and worn out, so you only take echinacea for 5 to 10 days. Then give your body a rest.

In conclusion, your body is amazing, you are born with cells
meant to keep you healthy and able to survive and thrive
through any infection, virus, or disease. But…. your cells need
the best fuel and support you can give it. Have a wonderful
holiday, stand under the mistletoe, hug your friends and
family, and protect your immune system.

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