The Immune Health Checklist: How Do You Measure Up?
When was the last time you felt really healthy?
Keeping your immune system strong involves more than just eating the right foods, getting exercise, and sleeping well. Factors like chronic viral burdens from past infections, digestive disorders or low metabolic reserve can prevent your immune system from functioning optimally. This immune health checklist will walk you through each of the five areas that impact your health.
The inflammatory process is a vital and necessary component of your immune system. When a immune responses is temporary and local, the inflammatory process is beneficial to your health. However, if the regulation of the inflammatory response breaks down, the end result can lead to tissue and organ damage—a hallmark of most chronic diseases.
Identifying what triggers inflammation in your body is the first essential step in building strong immune health. Here are the most common drivers of inflammation:
Elevated blood sugar
Lack of physical activity
Acute or chronic/latent infections (viral, fungal, or bacterial)
The good news is that for every root cause of inflammation, there is a solution that restores health. Depending upon what is driving your inflammation, you may need a customized food plan, targeted nutritional supplements, antimicrobial herbs, a gut restoration program, a metabolic detoxification program, or, in some cases, functional diagnostic testing to drill down further to the root cause. Whatever the cause, the functional medicine approach puts you at the center and
Lack of Reserve
Each cell in your body contains an energy factory called a mitochondrion. This is where the food you eat - protein, carbohydrates, & fats - are converted into energy to fuel your cells. All of your body's core processes depend upon the proper functioning of your mitochondria. A sufficient number of these properly functioning mitochondria are needed to provide your body with the metabolic reserve required for you to perform well in times of stress.
The degree to which your cellular energy production is both efficient and effective, is based on the way your lifestyle and your environment affect your genes. The food you eat, your level of physical activity, and the quantity & quality of your sleep affect your mitochondria and your metabolism (the production of energy). The more unhealthy your lifestyle, the more stress your cells and, especially, your mitochondria experience. This type of stress - called oxidative stress - can result in damage to your mitochondria, your DNA, and ultimately your organs & tissues.
Here are the top three factors which boost your mitochondrial function:
A consistent supply of antioxidants: Antioxidants protect your mitochondria, your DNA and your tissues from damage. Among the most important antioxidants are glutathione (the master antioxidant) as well as vitamins E & C, selenium, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, and N-acetylcysteine. Blueberries, dark chocolate, garlic, green tea, ginger, turmeric, and spinach are some of the foods richest in antioxidants. An easy way to get plenty of antioxidants is to add them to your daily meals.
Varying your physical activity: Exercise stimulates the creation of more mitochondria. A combination of moderate intensity exercise (jogging, biking, swimming, dancing) and strength training is most effective in stimulating the production of mitochondria.
Sufficient amount of restful sleep: Limited sleep causes oxidative stress which can target your mitochondria. Your brain - along with your heart and liver - contains one of the highest percentages of mitochondria of all your organs. That's because the many executive functions that your brain carries out require high levels of energy. Getting adequate amount of sleep (more than 8 hours) and going to bed by 10 pm allow your brain to detox which protects your mitochondria.
Leaky Gut Barrier
The GI tract is designed to break down and absorb large amounts of nutrients in a relatively short time. To accomplish this, your gut lining contains folds and fingers, called villi, which greatly expand the surface area of your GI tract. When breaches in this barrier occur, it can lead to inflammation in other areas of your body causing joint pain, thyroid imbalances, skin rashes, or depression. Overtime, a leaky gut lining can lead to autoimmune disease, brain inflammation, and a host of chronic diseases.
Improving the health of your gut lining involves five steps:
Identifying food allergies or sensitivities and removing those foods to allow your gut to heal.
Eating foods that nourish your gut and the good bacteria that live there.
Reducing your intake of foods that feed bad bacteria such as processed foods & foods high in sugar.
Treating any overgrowth of harmful microorganisms in your gut.
Developing a strategy to better manage stress so that it impacts your gut health less.