You may not be aware of this, but there is a war that's constantly waging in your body. Your immune system has to keep constant vigilance for foreign pathogens, where its components are on a continuous "seek and destroy" mission. How successful each line of defense in keeping harmful pathogens away from your body is very much dependent on a well-nourished immune system.
The components of the immune system are many and varied. The main ones include the bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, appendix, Peyer's patches (lymphatic tissues of the ileum region of the small intestine), and lymphatic vessels.
Each of these constituents has its specific function working simultaneously or at different times as and when the need arises to protect the body against dangerous toxins and invading micro-organisms. As such, each component of the immune system requires sufficient energy and nutrients to do its job well.
So, it makes sense to pay close attention to what you put into your mouth because good nutritional habits can enhance your immunity. Despite the immune system's fantastic strength, however, a continual onslaught of unhealthy foods will eventually take its toll. Most of today's degenerative diseases are the direct result of immune dysfunction and can often be traced to poor dietary habits.
But here's the thing, changing your diet now to a healthy one packed with nutrients will not lend much help to your immune system if your Gastrointestinal Tract is damaged. If you, like many others, have disregarded your body by consuming all kinds of processed and unhealthy foods, it's quite likely you could have a damaged digestive tract.
It's only through a healthy tract that your body can absorb and metabolize the nutrients and minerals from food to properly nourish and boost your immune function.
So how do I know if I have a weak digestive tract? Below are the most common signs:
- Intestinal pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating;
- Acid reflux;
- Joint and muscle aches;
- Headaches, brain fog, memory loss;
- Excessive fatigue;
- Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema;
- Weak immunity against infections such as cold, cough, sore throat, ulcers;
- Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD;
- Autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Celiac Disease, or Crohn's.
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, you'd better sit up and pay attention because you are likely to have a leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions of the intestinal walls become loose, resulting in increased intestinal permeability. Such permeability allows bacteria and toxins to pass through the intestinal epithelium into the bloodstream. When this happens, it can cause widespread inflammation and trigger a reaction from the immune system.
However, mainstream medical professionals do not recognize leaky gut as a real condition. Hence it's never diagnosed and even denied by some as a digestive problem.
Proponents of the leaky gut claim that it's the root cause of many health issues, including multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, thyroid abnormalities, and autism. If left untreated, the damaged cells in the intestines are unable to produce the enzymes needed for proper digestion and absorption of essential nutrients resulting in a weakened immune system.
The key to healing a leaky gut is by changing your diet and eliminating the foods that your body considers to be toxic, instead of heading straight for medications or prescribed drugs. You may even think of using some "smart" supplementation (which I have done), but in the long-run, this would only mask your real problem by decreasing your symptoms but without improving your overall immunity.
So, what foods do I avoid to heal my gut?
- Foods containing lectin.
Lectins are proteins residing within seeds, grains, skins, rinds, and leaves of individual plants, which act as a defense mechanism against predators trying to eat them. According to Dr. Steven Gundry's book, The Plant Paradox, when lectins attach to carbohydrate molecules within our digestive system, they open up the tight junctions between cells that line our intestines, leading to leaky gut and inflammation. Unfortunately, many of our everyday foods contain lectins, such as:
- Peanuts and cashews,
- Corn (and meat from animals that were fed corn),
- Grains, such as wheat and rice, but even gluten-free grains like quinoa,
- Beans and legumes,
- Nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, white potatoes, goji berries, okra),
- Squashes (pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, zucchini, summer squash),
So depending on how resilient your intestinal tract is against the onslaught of lectins, you may need to access how much of these foods you will need to reduce and for how long you will need to stay away from them.
However, do take note our modern life can alter our resiliency in dealing with lectins in our diet, with the use of antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, GMOs, and constant exposure to blue light. Due to our exposure to these disruptors, we become more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of eating lectins.
If you were to ask me, I think sugar needs to be banned.
It's dangerous because it's not a nutrient, and when consumed in excess, it becomes a toxin that creates inflammation within our body. To add salt to the wound, sugar is also food for pathogens. Viruses thrive and grow when there is excess sugar in our body.
Over time, excess sugar creates a heavy toll on the immune system leading to autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation.
How do we get excess sugar in our body?
Research shows that the human body only need 1 teaspoon of sugar every day. Let us look at the amount of sugar that we consume daily. Take for example, a glass of orange juice for breakfast. A glass of orange juice is equivalent to at least eight teaspoons of added sugar even though it's all-natural. Upon consuming the orange juice, we have exceeded our daily sugar requirement by 7 teaspoons. We do not stop there.
As sugar makes things sweet, enhances the flavor of savory foods, helps retain moisture, improve texture, and act as a preservative, it is added into all types of commercial foods. We consume all types of commercial foods daily, due to convenience, further adding to our sugar load and burdening our immune system with the propagation of virus and pathogen.
Here is another compelling reason to stop consuming sugar. According to many research, sugar is like a deadly metabolic 'poison' that can screw up all of your biochemistry. Just two teaspoons of sugar can throw your normal biochemistry into chaos for at least 6 hours. So, every time you want to consume sugar, just remember that our immune system functions optimally to protect us only when our body's biochemistry remains balanced and in equilibrium.
- Processed food.
There was a time when the food we ate did not come in a package. Labels were non-existent, as were the multiple ingredient lists we're accustomed to, some of which we have no idea what they are.
So, what's wrong with processed food? Sadly, everything.
For one, whenever food is put through some form of processing to prepare for longer shelf-life and to eliminate micro-organisms, it will reduce available nutrients. In particular, processes that expose foods to high levels of heat, light, or oxygen cause considerable amount of nutrient loss.
So to make up for the loss of nutrients stripped away during processing, food manufacturers have come up with the idea of adding back synthetic vitamins and minerals, as well as introducing emulsifiers, conditioners, and preservatives into their food after processing.
Looking at our processed food landscape, which consists of significant variations of breads, pastas, snacks, desserts, and condiments, you may believe you are consuming a diversity of foods. However, these products may appear different on the outside; still, they are just variations of the same raw materials, namely, corn, soy, wheat, sugar, and vegetable oils (which are derived mainly from soybeans, corn, and canola).
All of the above raw materials are GMOs and are highly toxic and inflammatory to our bodies.
With our modern-day diet and lifestyle where speed and convenience is valued, we end up relying on processed foods to prepare our daily meals. Don't you see how these dietary choices have been taxing our immune system, further weakening it to handle new viral outbreaks such as the Covid-19?
Now you might wonder, 'What can I eat? Is there anything that's left?'
The good news is no one diet fits all. You should eat based on your genetic needs, which means not everyone can be vegetarians or vegans, some may need to consume animal meat protein. However, the general rule for a healthy diet is 50% good oils/fats, 30% protein, and 20% carbs from a mix of starchy and non-starchy vegetables depending on your metabolic condition.
You need to observe how your body reacts in terms of energy level after a meal to discover your own body's needs for each category of food. In general, always consume food-based natural vitamins and minerals, and avoid the synthetic ones unless you're doing a short-term detox.
The human body is amazing because it has self-healing capabilities. Sadly, many don't believe or are unaware of this fact and so never gave a chance for their immune system to demonstrate its incredible abilities. Do yourself a favor. Help your immune system by relieving it from its internal warfare so that it can turn its attention to protect you from external pathogens and viruses.
(In the next article, we’ll discuss how stress can mess up your body's biochemistry and immunity, which explains why seemingly healthy people can still get into trouble even though they work out and eat healthily. So, stay tuned.)