The immune system protects you from harmful germs and toxins that enter your body and cause illness, disease and other ailments. Although our immune systems are our natural defense system, it’s up to us to ensure we’re maintaining healthy habits to support optimal immune function.
We know that proper sleep, exercise, low stress, and a healthy diet play a huge role in overall health. So if you mentally checked off most or all of these things then you should be in pretty good shape!
But we’d like to take it a step further and offer you some information on what to avoid for a healthy immune system from top health experts...
DR. RHONDA PATRICK
If you listen to the Joe Rogan Experience, chances are you’re familiar with Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a fan favorite and regular guest on the show. She’s a top health expert who’s big on nutrigenomics, which is essentially eating based on your genetic requirements.
Dr. Patrick enthusiastically speaks of her healthy diet habits; which includes salmon roe, green smoothies, and adding broccoli sprouts, that contain sulforaphanes which has a protective effect on human genes, to her daily diet to keep her mentally and physically sharp.
She’s big on avoiding refined sugars and suggests everyone do the same as it’s one of the best choices we can make for our health. High sugar diets have a negative effect on immune cells and effectively play a big role in sabotaging your immune health.
Patrick is also a big proponent of cryotherapy (cold therapy) which reduces inflammation, improves immune health, and ramps up metabolism for weight loss. On top of a healthy diet, daily exercise, and cryotherapy, she incorporates meditation into her lifestyle to boost her immune system, improve awareness, and decelerate the aging process.
Keeping your immune system strong is imperative to staying healthy, especially in current times. Dr. Oz is a go-to source for pretty much anything related to living a healthy lifestyle.
In a recent interview with TODAY, Dr. Oz did a Q&A session about protecting the immune system against germs.
One of the main things he recommends, especially now more than ever, is avoiding a handshake, which passes the most germs from one person to another. A high five transfers half the germs but the best greeting or farewell is a fist bump which is about one-tenth of the germs.
Touching your face with germ-ridden hands can also transmit a high amount, contributing to a compromised immune system.
Here's what he recommends to keep your immune system strong...
- Get adequate sleep, exercise, and practice meditation to improve and maintain your immune system.
- Supplement with vitamins D and C, Elderberry, and Zinc.
- Consume berries and greens that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Jessica Cording M.S., R.D., and author of ‘The Little Book of Game Changers’ explained the importance of limiting alcohol for optimal immune system health, according to an article by Prevention.com
“High alcohol intake has been shown to suppress immune function”. Plus, booze “can be dehydrating, and hydration is really important for protecting yourself from illness,” she explained. When you’re dehydrated, your cells aren’t able to function at their optimal level—and that can open up the door for you to get sick.
Moderation is key when it comes to essentially everything. But limiting alcohol consumption is especially important during times when immune health is crucial, such as the current health crisis.
Sure, it can be hard to avoid, especially when stress sets in which is even more heightened right now for everyone. But pre-existing health issues and excessive alcohol intake can be a deadly combination.
Robb Wolf is a best-selling author of the ‘The Paleo solution,’ health expert, and former research biochemist. He believes in the Paleo (caveman) diet for immune system health and foods he believes cause health issues are grains, legumes, and dairy.
In one of his articles, Wolf claimed the following about the Paleo diet...
“Is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic!
Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.”
He’s also a big advocate of the Paleo diet for preventing autoimmunity which is when the body’s immune system attacks the cells in our body. Now, obviously a lot of people follow diets that consist of grains, dairy, etc so this may not be appealing to everyone.
So, we recommend doing your own research on Paleo to decide whether or not it’s a good approach for you.
In his article ‘Why We Get Sick and How To Get Well,’ Kesser explains that there are eight causes of disease. Immune dysregulation was on his list as one of the main issues.
But the premise of the article was based on the fact that Kresser recommends doing what’s necessary to get to the root of the problem. He explained that patients are only given medications while being told the symptoms are due to an unknown cause, which definitely doesn’t prevent it from getting worse.
It’s a common belief that all sickness starts in the gut but if this isn’t addressed and symptoms are only covered up by medications, the immune system is going to suffer as most of the cells are located in the gut.
Kresser, who also advocates the Paleo diet, answered some questions recently about current events.
He recommended some important habits for promoting good immune health which include a nutrient-dense diet, sleep, stress management and physical activity, which he explained “become even more critical in this situation”.
As far as the foods to eat which he says “can have an antiviral immune-boosting effect,” opt for more garlic, ginger, citrus fruits, and red bell peppers that are high in vitamin C.
Fermented foods are also vital for supporting healthy gut flora in addition to having bone broth, Zinc, elderberry to name a few more healthy options.
DR. STEVEN GUNDRY
Dr. Gundry is a heart surgeon and best-selling author who is a go-to source for immune health. If you’ve listened to any of his talks then you’d know he typically talks about how gut health determines overall health.
In a very recent episode from his YouTube channel, “The Dr. Gundry Podcast,” he explained that leaky gut is the biggest issue for compromised immune health in most people...
“Their pre-existing condition tells me that they have a leaky gut and they have a dysbiotic microbiome that’s completely out of whack.”
He then went on to explain how important it is to avoid lectins in the diet which are found in grains, legumes, and dairy products. He also says to avoid simple foods such as breads, pasta, tomato sauces, milk, orange juice, etc.
“Stay away from these foods,” he says.
His recommendation for reversing this is to eat soluble fiber-rich foods and resistant starches, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc. According to research, just three days of changing your eating habits can result in drastic improvements.
His best food suggestions for a fast gut turnaround include mushrooms, broccoli, cabbages, and similar foods.
DR. ERIC BERG
Dr. Eric Berg has some great information on stress and your immune system. Short term stress is fine for most people but when it’s prolonged, you’re asking for disease. Stress releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which can wreak havoc on the body if you’re in a constant state of arousal.
In one of his articles on stress from 2018, Dr. Berg mentioned some very key points on what hurts the immune system... “when someone has a chronic health problem, it almost always originates from a stress event”. He also wrote, “stress makes you very susceptible to sick poor immune function and disease”.
Short term stress is fine for most people but when it’s prolonged, you’re asking for disease. Stress releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which can wreak havoc on the body if you’re in a constant state of arousal.
In fact, it causes chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, digestive issues, etc.
Stress suppresses white blood cells and T cells which are essential for immune function. Plus, it tears up the gut which contains a large percentage of immune system cells.
To remedy this he recommends walking, avoiding stressors, B vitamins, adequate sleep, and even accupressure to relieve tension which makes the situation worse. Dr. Berg also promotes intermittent fasting for a healthy immune system, which is essentially alternating cycles of eating and fasting.
Studies are generally mixed on intermittent fasting although, there have been more recent studies to support its efficacy. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce/prevent oxidative stress, inflammation, and it has positive effects for the health of cells in the body.
Therefore, the immune system naturally benefits.
DR. ANDREW WEIL
Dr. Andrew Weil is becoming increasingly popular due to his contributions in the health area (also seen on Joe Rogan Podcast). Dr. Weil published a piece on the importance of exercise for optimal immune function. He mentioned a study that showed cyclists aged 55 and 79 who exercise daily, to have the immune system function of much younger people.
He mentioned the “use it or lose it theory” and recommends daily walks for improved health ranging from improved cognitive performance, to reduced risk of cancer, and of course, better immune health.
Not being active will surely sabotage your immune system health and you should be every day even for a short duration. That doesn’t mean you have to engage in high-intensity activity but get your heart pumping and blood flowing.
DR. MARK HYMAN
Dr. Mark Hyman (Functional medicine Doctor) recently sat down with Tom Bilyeu in an episode of ‘Tom Bilyeu’s Health Theory’ amid the current events to discuss immune health.
He talked about food and our immune system/general health and even authored a book called ‘Food’. In the episode he talked about how food is information and how most processed foods are detrimental to your health (nothing we didn’t really know already).
He advocates a mostly plant-based diet as many health experts do and also explained how wheat is worse for your blood sugar than table sugar. And the fact that we eat so much of it over the span of a year is alarming.
Most people don’t quite understand the healing and health-maintaining properties of proper breathing, and as a result, we succumb to sickness and weakened immune systems.
Well, Wim Hof is a Dutch athlete and one of the top health influencers famous for his breathing techniques (Whim Hof Method) that he swears can regulate your immune system, nervous system, and prevent you from getting sick.
And he’s 100% right about that which we’ll get into momentarily. Hof was a guest on Tom Bilyeu’s Impact Theory and he explained that our stress adaptation response has been compromised due to us wearing clothes and living in our own comfort zones.
“By being non-stimulative in our behavior, we lost the connection in the depth of our physiology,” he said.
“Because we got into this comfort zone behavior, hundreds of years, our genetics and physiology has changed and we’ve lost the full power of the mind.”
The takeaway here is that we have to learn to tap into our minds. By not doing so, we have no defense against external stressors.
Wim Hof also made an appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast where he talked about his breathing methods which he also performs in freezing cold environments. And through testing, he has shown that you can control your nervous system and immune system by focused breathing.
In fact, one review of a study from 2014 found that it is possible to voluntarily influence the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system within a short time frame through practicing these easy to learn techniques.
Hof was even mentioned in the study for his amazing techniques…
“results from a recently performed case study on a Dutch individual, who holds several world records with regard to withstanding extreme cold, suggest otherwise. It was shown that this individual was able to voluntarily activate the sympathetic nervous system through a self-developed method involving meditation, exposure to cold, and breathing techniques.
This resulted in increased catecholamine and cortisol release and a remarkably mild innate immune response during experimental endotoxemia compared with more than 100 subjects who previously underwent experimental endotoxemia.”
The breathing techniques are essentially an exercise that can be performed and we recommend checking out Whim Hoff’s content for more information on his methods.
Keep in mind, there isn’t sufficient research that guarantees specific lifestyle changes will improve or reverse a weakened immune system. However, what we do is that a healthy lifestyle is your best bet for maintaining overall health.
The experts we mentioned provided helpful information but it’s not intended to promote self diagnosis.
Use this information only as a guide for further research and if you suspect that you have a weak immune system, consult with your medical provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment.