Food isn’t like medicine; food IS medicine.
— Mark Hyman, MD, Founder of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic
Your immune system is your most powerful curative system—when it’s working properly. A well-functioning immune system is balanced and resilient, fending off infections as needed, not overreacting to foods and other harmless environmental factors like pollen, or attacking your own body in an autoimmune response. An under-active, weak, or poorly functioning immune system increases your susceptibility to disease, like colds, fungal infections, and cancer; whereas an overactive immune system produces too much inflammation in the body and is prone to hyperactive reactions like allergies and autoimmune conditions.
The Pathway to Problems: A Malfunctioning Immune System
The immune system acts as our armed forces, protecting us from harmful invaders. When it functions properly, we are resilient against infections like the common cold, Lyme disease, and the multiple variants of COVID-19. But modern lifestyle factors — like a diet of sugar and refined grains, poor sleep, minimal movement, excess stress, and environmental toxins — burden our immune system and make us more prone to immune dysfunction and autoimmunity.
It won’t come as a surprise to you that a malfunctioning immune system is party-time for infections. You may have noticed that following a stressful event, you’re more likely to catch a cold, have a herpes outbreak, or experience a reactivated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). And once your immune system mounts a reaction to the infection, it produces a huge amount of inflammation, creating a prime environment for autoimmune conditions to emerge or worsen.
What Contributes to Poor Immune Function?
Years of chronic, low level inflammation from a poor diet, ongoing stress, lack of (or too much) exercise, aging, and a heavy load of environmental toxins causes your immune system to become weak and imbalanced—tipping to under or overactive. In short, unaddressed, toxic F.I.G.H.T.S.™ factors (Food, Infections, Gut health, Hormone balance, Toxins, and Stress) hasten the decline of immune function:
- Processed SAD, inflammatory Foods, and nutrient deficiencies
- Infectious burdens
- Poor Gut health
- A heavy load of Toxicants
- Hormone imbalances
- Chronic Stress
Addressing these F.I.G.H.T.S. categories head on will help you lower inflammation, fix and grow new mitochondria, and optimize your thyroid function, which in turn will boost your metabolism and optimize your immune function, allowing you to clear infections, beat autoimmune and improve your odds of beating infections like COVID faster too:
Strategies to Get Your Immune System in Fighting Shape:
We can look to ancient or primal cultures to learn from people who lived without infections, antibiotics, immunizations, and modern medicine. How did these immune-resilient cultures live and what did they eat? Taking a page from long-lived people who live(d) in the Blue Zones (book by Dan Buettner), like Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; and Nicoya, Costa Rica, we would do well to embrace these simple yet proven lifestyle strategies:
Optimize Immune Function to Improve Health Outcomes
One of the best ways to improve your immunity, reverse autoimmunity, and both strengthen your resistance to and ability to clear infections is to optimize your immune system. As you embrace these simple lifestyle habits, you’ll be shifting your terrain for the better and, as a result, your immune system will be renewed, revitalized, and more resilient.
There has never been a better time to get your immune system in good fighting shape. As you work your way to better lifestyle habits and see positive results, you’ll find the motivation to address other F.I.G.H.T.S. factors like gut health, toxins and stress, until you’re living a life you love, one of resilience and vibrant health.
Which immune system rejuvenation strategies will you try? If you have an autoimmune condition, I urge you to look for and clear infections naturally. Keep me posted on your experiments to renew, revitalize, and rejuvenate your immune system.
Take good care!
P.S. Want my personal help? If you live the U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom. I collaborate with skilled naturopathic doctors (NDs) who are expert in resolving root causes like hormonal imbalances, gut disorders, chronic infections and toxic burdens which are almost always part of the autoimmune puzzle. Together we provide comprehensive, customized treatment plans, and collaborative, caring support. If you are ready to beat autoimmune and reclaim your best life please book a 30–minute consultation with me to gain clarity, confidence, and explore the possibility of working together. You can do it. We can help.
Photo by Timothy Eberly