September 15, 2015 | Dr.
Fall is practically here, vacations are winding down, and the new school year
has begun. That means colds and flus are lurking nearby, waiting for the
earliest chance make their seasonal debut. It’s a good time to start preparing.
We often talk about boosting immunity but, like so many biological systems, the
immune system is tremendously complicated. Immune cells have to make difficult
decisions from moment to moment: friend or foe? Is this a pathogen that needs to
be eliminated, or a cell that must be preserved? If it is a pathogen, how do we
How our immune cells behave and react has critical implications for health.
Failing to identify a foe can lead to a serious infection. However,
misidentifying one’s own cells, tissues, organs, etc. as an enemy generates a
destructive autoimmune response. When healthy, the immune system is balanced on
a knife’s edge, neither over-reacting nor under-reacting. And there are many
ways to achieve this equilibrium naturally.
The first step towards balancing our immune response is to provide the right
fuel. Remember, immunity is intertwined with virtually every other bodily
system: gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, and hormonal. It all
In particular, the digestive system has been called “the second immune system”
because of the intense immune development and activity that takes place there.
That’s why healthy eating is so critical to strong immunity. We need to make
sure our defense mechanisms are well fueled, and that our digestion is strong
and efficient. Unhealthy ingredients like refined sugars, trans-fats, and
processed food additives have been shown to significantly impair immune
function, sometimes right after we eat them. Just think of the long term damage
they can do.
So we need to start with the basics of healthy eating: lean protein, sprouted
whole grains, nuts and legumes; lots of organic fruits and vegetables, and
healthy fats like olive, coconut and omega-3 oils. Brightly colored fruits and
veggies are particularly important, as the phytonutrient compounds that give
them beautiful pigments also provide exceptional nutritional value in the form
of antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory support, sustenance for immunity and
much more. I recommend beets, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, peppers, mangoes
and blueberries, but there are countless options.
Cruciferous vegetables are also important. Broccoli, kale, cabbage and
cauliflower contain beneficial glucosinates, molecules that combine glucose,
nitrogen and sulfur and have been shown to protect against cancer and support
Cultured foods like yogurt, miso, sauerkraut and others are rich in probiotic,
beneficial bacteria that have been found to play important roles in modulating
immune activity — particularly in our digestive system. These friendly microbes
work in ways we’re only beginning to understand, such as influencing gene
expression to train the immune system for better responsiveness.
Medicinal mushrooms: nature’s smart drugs
Another excellent and time honored way to improve immunity is with medicinal
mushrooms, which function as powerful immune modulators. In other words, they
both energize a weak response and moderate an overactive one.
Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucan, a complex carbohydrate which energizes
macrophages and other immune cells. In addition, mushrooms support cell
signaling, a critical immune function as first responders alert the rest of the
body about a dangerous pathogen and coordinate an effective response.
Medicinal mushrooms provide other health benefits, such as fighting cancer,
lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol, modulating blood sugar, improving
neurological health, protecting the liver and reducing inflammation.
There are a number of ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet. Culinary
medicinal varieties, such as shiitake, oyster and maitake are particularly good
in soups and sauces.
There are more than 270 medicinal species, but fortunately you don’t have to
spend hours selecting specific varieties. I recommend a formula called MycoPhyto
Complex that includes Coriolus, Ganoderma, Agaricus, Cordyceps and others to
maintain strong immune function during times of need. The beauty of MycoPhyto is
that the mushrooms are grown on a blend of immune-supporting herbs, which helps
to enhance their effectiveness.
In addition to these recommendations there are a few vitamins, minerals and one
supplement in particular I’d recommend for their strong track records in
boosting the immune system . Watch for tomorrow’s issue for that full list and
more tips that can give you powerful, protective immune-supporting benefits all