Ask people how they can build strong muscles, they will have lots of answers. Now, ask them how they can build a strong immune system, they won’t have much to say. Well, there is science on how to do it.
I used to get sick all the time, at least three or four times a year. Then, about 12 years ago, I started researching about health and found amazing and shocking information. I changed my diet and changed my life. Here are the highlights:
- I have not had a flu or even a cold since then.
- I have not taken any vaccine during that time either.
- I have not taken any prescription drug except for a week when I was on an antiviral drug to fight chickenpox that I got as an adult.
This blog post is not a medical advice. And this may or may not work for the reader. But here is what I did to boost my immune system and stay free from flu and cold. Oh, I am still unvaccinated for COVID-19 and haven’t been sick at all in the last two years.
It may seem like a lot of things. Yes, there is no one silver bullet for health. At the same time, I am not sure which of these things have the most impact. Perhaps some of them are not that important. However, based on my research, these are all helpful. Finally, I don’t follow all of them all the time. For example, I may go for a week or two without eating onions or garlic, although they rank high in my list. Okay, let’s get started. And when I travel or stuck in a social situation with no choice, I make exceptions.
- Vitamin D — Perhaps the most important of all nutrients. It’s no coincidence that flu season starts when winter begins. Vitamin D deficiency skyrockets in winter, making people more susceptible to infectious diseases. This magical vitamin turns on hundreds of your genes, including those responsible for producing antimicrobial peptides (AMP). (Peptides are like small proteins). These AMPs — such as Cathelicidin and Defensin — protect your respiratory tract from pathogens and make your immune cells more effective in killing viruses and bacteria.
- There have been numerous clinical studies — even placebo-controlled randomized trials — that show Vitamin D can reduce flu infections by 42% or more. (Vitamin D and the Immune System)
- Vitamin D has been found to boost the innate immune system and stimulate the adaptive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Many randomized control trials (RCTs) and clinical trials have shown that vitamin D supplementation can potentially reduce the severity of COVID-19. (The role of vitamin D in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infection)
- Lots of fiber — Probably the most important factor for immunity. The Standard American Diet now has about one-third of the fiber that Americans used to eat in the 19th century, when obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases were rare. Fiber is what we cannot digest … but it’s the only food for the trillions of gut bacteria in our large intestine. The gut microbiome trains our immune system.
- Vitamins C and A — Two other important vitamins for the immune system. However, rather than taking supplements, I prefer citrus fruits for Vitamin C and carrots for Vitamin A.
- Zinc and Magnesium — Two most crucial minerals for immunity. Nuts are great sources for both. Just have different types of nuts (cashew, walnuts, almonds etc.)
- Omega-3 — From fish or get supplements
- Apple — Thanks to quercetin and other polyphenols, an apple a day will keep the flu away
- Mushrooms — These are amazing tools to boost your immune system. Shiitake and maitake are good edible mushrooms easily found in Japanese stores. Buy organic. If you want to be a bit adventurous, try “wood ear mushrooms.” To take it to the next level, make tea out of Turkey tail mushroom, which has FDA-approved clinical trials for its amazing power to cure cancer.
- Onion, Garlic, Ginger — These are the Trinity of antiviral, antibacterial, immune-boosting things to have on a regular basis. When I sense the first sign of a cold/flu, I chop up garlic cloves and swallow them like pills!
- Turmeric — This is the Herb God for anti-inflammation. Thanks to Turmeric, I have not had a painkiller, not even over-the-counter, over a decade.
- Italian Herbs — Sage, Oregano and Rosemary. Another Trinity of wonder herbs. Add them to your tea or food. They are antioxidant, antiviral and immune-boosting.
- Asian Persuasion — Occasional ginseng and astragalus added to tea. Or, Korean ginseng supplements.
- Echinacea — Native Americans loved this plant. Now you can buy it as as herbal tea.
- Cocoa — Without any sugar, have pure organic cocoa. And it does amazing things to your gut microbiome, reduces blood pressure, fights cancer, and boosts your immunity.
- Cranberry — Excellent antiviral. Avoid cranberry juice and even dried cranberry, which have tons of sugar. Defeats the whole purpose. I buy cranberries, boil them in little water, and make cranberry “jam” at home, and it has zero added sugar.
- Star Anise — Did you know that Tamiflu is actually just an extract of star anise? I just add star anise to tea.
- Probiotics — These are important for your gut microbiome and immunity. Kimchi and Miso soup are the best. Sauerkraut, organic yogurt (with no added sugar) and kombucha are also awesome. Apple cider vinegar is also good.
- Extras for COVID-19: read some studies on how black tea as well as black cumin seed (Nigella Sativa) have shown to fight SARS-Cov-2. So these two have become more common in my weekly diet.
- Good fat, Good carbs — After a lot of research, I have added a lot of good fat to my diet — organic butter, virgin olive/coconut oils, avocado, grass-fed beef etc. Stay away from all the industrial “vegetable” oils — soybean, corn, Canola etc. As for carbs, stick to vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain flours. Low-carb diet is good if you want to lose weight or control your blood glucose.
- Antioxidants — Good fruits like blueberries, strawberries and pomegranates are full of antioxidants, which not only fight aging but also prevent chronic inflammation.
Sleep Well, Sh*t Well
Sleep is immensely pivotal for immunity. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every day. And make sure the bowel movement is healthy and routine — preferably once a day.
What I Avoid
Another important thing is avoid harm to our body. Thus, I have given up on following things for a long time.
Ultra-processed foods — you know, things like chips, snacks, bars … basically 70% of the stuff in a typical grocery store, or 95% of what’s in a 7-11 store. They are just nasty chemical soups with no nutrition. They destroy your immune system and the body.
Sugary beverages — Excess sugar causes inflammation, stresses out your immune system, and destroys every organ in your body. Thus, I say no to Coke, Pepsi, Vitamin water, Diet drinks, fake “fruit” juices … anything that comes in a can or a bottle. The only exceptions for juices for me are carrot juice and OJ — both with zero added sugar and no additives. OJ is best if it’s fresh squeezed and not pasteurized.
Refined flour — Basically avoid anything that’s not made from whole-grain flour. And brown rice instead white rice.
GMO — This is hard but I try to eat as much organic food as possible. Nobody needs insecticides, herbicides and GMO in their meals.
Fast food — No pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, donuts. Yeah, you get used to it.
Exercise is also important. However, if you don’t have the time, just walk briskly for 10-15 minutes every day. Even if you burn 60 calories, that’s 15 grams of sugar taken off your body, and that will help the immune system.
As for all the food items, if you have them in your kitchen, it will become an easy routine to incorporate them into your diet. The mainstream medicine and nutrition are full of lies and misinformation about health, because they are all corrupted by Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, and Big Food, whose only motives are profits.
There’s a lot of mass psychosis about COVID now. People are so paranoid. However, you can see that even during the regular flu seasons. These people obsessively use hand sanitizer and are extremely germaphobic, yet they get sick all the time. However, if you take care of your immune system, you can be a lot less paranoid and lot less sick. You know that natural immunity is the best offense and the best defense.
Finally, a good immune system is not just to stay free from flu, cold or COVID, but also to prevent autoimmune diseases or disorders, which have been skyrocketing in the last 30 years.