How to Boost your Immune System Naturally

Citrus fruits for vitamin C

Our bodies are wonderful machines and are fully equipped to deal with and dispose of most intruding bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other fungi. Sometimes, however, they are not quite capable of dispatching those and we end up getting sick.

So to beat those winter or mid-season sniffles, helping your body fight back seems like a good idea. But, now, just how to boost your immune system? Is there a single magic pill that will just do the trick? Do you need to change your diet? Your lifestyle?

Hello, I’m Isabel, and, through Simply Go Clean, I want to help you clean up your diet, one step at a time, and achieve better health through Clean Eating.

Have you ever heard that statement: 70% of your immune function comes from your gut?

Well, it does, which means that, when it comes to fighting colds and viruses, the state of your digestive system really matters. Notice, though, that it’s called a ‘system’. It’s not a single organ or molecule, it’s a whole balancing act inside your body that is taking place.

So how can you boost your immune system? Well, let’s try to understand a bit how it works, so we can figure out how to strengthen it better.

How does your Immune System work?

Let’s imagine that your body gets in contact with pathogens, which can cause disease. It will launch a number of steps to identify, isolate, and destroy those pathogens. This will involve various organs, cells in your skin, blood, bone marrow, and tissues.

For the whole system to work in synergy, every component needs to be in top shape. Which is not always the case. If your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to keep the system in optimum condition, or if it using too much of those nutrients for other functions in your body, the immune system will be depleted.

Let me give you an example

The winter slump. What happens in winter?

Not-so-nutrient-rich food…
  • We get fewer nutrients in – Our body is often getting less exercise and not getting fed optimally (Hellooo, Christmas chocolates…), as there are less nutrient-rich foods in season and we tend to cook those, rather than eat them raw. We also get far less sunshine and don’t make quite enough vitamin D.
  • We use up more nutrients – At the same time, our body has to use more energy adjusting to colder temperatures, fight more pathogens that tend to thrive in colder temperatures, and somehow still provide the nutrients needed by every cell in the body.

So when that end-of-winter cold virus comes along (you know, the one that hits you just when you thought you were safe…), your immune system is unprepared and you get sick.

I’m grossly simplifying the whole process, of course, and to this day, we don’t even understand fully how the immune system works. But you get the gist of it.

So let’s see how you can boost your Immune System in 4 steps. These were suggested by a French naturopath, whose magazine I receive regularly. The whole process made a lot of sense to me and didn’t involve any fancy, exotic ingredients or expensive supplements, so it felt natural for me to share.
However, let me just clarify:

This post reflects my opinions and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. These reflexions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. You should always obtain medical advice from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them.

With this blurb out of the way, let’s dive in.

How to boost your immune system in 4 steps:

  1. How to increase your ATP
  2. Know which nutrients you need
  3. Increase your intake of the right nutrients
  4. Remove unnecessary aggressions

– Molière

“One must eat to live and not live to eat.”

In other words, make every mouthful you eat count.

Step 1. How to increase your ATP

You must start by strengthening and increasing the basic chemical reactions in your body.

How?

There’s a molecule that sets your cells in motion, supports energy production and the body’s defenses… Science has identified it. It’s called ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate. This molecule is found inside your cells, in the mitochondria. Its role is essential, vital. It provides the energy necessary for all the basic functions of your body:

  • The chemical reactions of your metabolism
  • Cell division
  • The transport of vital chemicals and elements
  • And so on

In short, it is essential for your body to work properly. If you produce more ATP, your body will work better and faster, especially when it comes to antibodies production and immune-boosting.

So let’s go through a few recommendations to give your ATP production a quick boost:

1. Consume more unsaturated fatty acids

They are an easy fuel for your cells, which accelerates the production of ATP.

2. Boost your intake of magnesium

Nuts are a good all-year-round source of magnesium.

Take magnesium. It is THE energy mineral. It is an essential substance for all the metabolic reactions that allow the production of ATP … And 75% of Americans just don’t meet the recommended intake!

3. Increase your intake of B vitamins (B1, B2, PP)

They are all essential for ATP synthesis.

4. Do cardiac coherence and respiratory exercises.

If your breathing is too fast and too shallow, most of your tissues are poorly oxygenated. Your body needs a lot of oxygen to produce ATP. If you do not breathe properly, you don’t release carbon dioxide properly, and your body becomes acidic – which lowers your ATP reserves, among other things.

With extra ATP, your body is better able to quickly react to attacks. All your systems benefit …

Now is the time to…

Step 2. Know which nutrients you need

Your cells need these nutrients – and fast.

Here we are even more in the concrete: here is a list of nutrients that play a capital role in the functioning of your immune system.

Zinc

Zinc is involved in all stages of the production of antibodies and white blood cells. It is zinc which helps you make proteins (mediators and antibodies) capable of fighting against viruses and bacteria. It is zinc who operates the cell divisions that are used to “manufacture” the immune army.

And yet, the vast majority of people over the age of 60 are deficient in zinc.

Be careful though: zinc is poorly absorbed, and it will take several months to eliminate deficiencies. Also, avoid taking it DURING an infection, because zinc is not just a growth factor for us humans … but also for all living cells, including bacteria.

Vitamin C

Oranges are a preferred source of Vitamin C.

As you probably know, vitamin C is a major contributor to your immune defenses by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system.

Vitamin D

As the first line against viral attacks, vitamin D is involved in the differentiation of white blood cells. You should aim to spend at least 20 minutes in full sun every day to get optimal vitamin D levels.

Glutamine

Glutamine is the favorite amino acid in white blood cells – it’s their fuel, which makes them able to devour foreign bodies that attack your body.

Probiotics

The microbiota in your intestines is the seat of your immunity. This is why you must feed it with the right strains of probiotics, preferably a good variety. A strong bioflora also means that nutrients will be better absorbed.

As they say, ‘You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb’

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are needed to feed the probiotics, strengthen your gut flora and therefore your immune system.

Step 3. Increase your intake of the right nutrients

…by adding more of the following to your diet.

Through Clean Eating

Clean Eating is a great way to get nutrients in
  • Unsaturated fat (olive, avocado or canola oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds)
  • Leafy greens, figs, avos, bananas, nuts, legumes, and green veggies, for magnesium.
  • Beef/chicken, seafood, legumes, seeds and nuts for zinc
  • Nutritional yeast on your food, for extra B vitamins
  • Raw peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, and broccoli, all good natural sources of vitamin C. [Note – Vitamin C is easily destroyed though, so aim for high freshness and as little to no processing, chopping, cooking, etc.]
  • Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, amasi, kimchi, all preferably home-made, to boost your gut flora and better absorb the other nutrients
  • Ground flaxseed or chia seeds, to increase your prebiotics.

With the right supplements

Sometimes, we just don’t have the right nutrients-rich foods at hand. It’s not the right, or we can’t find them, or we just don’t like them.

And sometimes too, the food we eat does not contain enough nutrients to make a difference. You would have to eat 4 fresh oranges to get 200mg of vitamin C. Every day.

So supplementation might come in handy. And the supplements below are easy to find.

Vitamin C

Ideally, choose vitamin C from plants, like acerola – because it comes with the right phytonutrients.
Avoid effervescent or chewable forms, which might be more processed and less effective…
the body can only absorb 200mg at a time, so it’s better to take 200mg several times a day rather than a single 1000mg dose.

Zinc

Zinc citrate is a cheap and easily available supplement. Better taken over the long term, rather than in high doses for a few days only.
Stop taking it when you’re coming down with something, as it will equally boost the virus you’re trying to fight.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is best taken with other food containing oil or fat. Taking it at the same as your Omega 3 is a good idea, the omega 3 oil increasing the vitamin D absorption.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a preferred source of energy for white blood cells. Although we can get a fair amount through our food, the body’s needs in times of stress can be higher, making supplementation a good idea.
As a supplement, aim for 1 to 2g / day.

Probiotics and prebiotics

Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, are a great source of probiotics

Aim for quality, certified products to guarantee their effectiveness. We use those at home as gut health is a bit of a priority for the whole family. And because they work.

Echinacea

Both for prevention and when getting sick, echinacea has been proven to help.

Step 4: Remove unnecessary aggression

Limit your stress levels, this weakens your immune system.

Stress is always accompanied by a decrease in our immune defenses – science has proven it time and time again.

Let’s go through 5 steps you can take to reduce your stress levels.

1. Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and alcohol, in small doses, also acts as a stimulant.

Bonus tip – While you’re there, cut down on sugar and refined starches, to avoid the glucose spike… soon followed by the crash.

2. Get more active

Being physically active has a powerful effect on those happy hormones, so get moving. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but just 30-minutes of walking outdoors is enough to relieve anxiety and stress.

Bonus tip – And if you *smile* and focus on happy, positive thoughts while exercising, you get a double-whammy of happy hormones!

3. Get more sleep

We are all different. Inside and out. Everybody’s sleep pattern is different. And can change, depending on your current circumstances. So make sure you sleep enough.

Bonus tip – Taking naps is a very effective way to top-up on rest. Between 10 and 25 minutes seem to work best for most people, so experiment to find out your sweet spot.

4. Experiment with relaxation techniques

Relaxation can help boost your immune system

Whether it’s breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, cardiac coherence, EFT, or any other technique, there’s got to be one that works for you. One which is both effective and easy for you to fit in regularly.

Bonus tip – Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference. So try and find a relaxation technique that you can easily do any time of the day, so you’ve got no excuse to not do it.

5. Push the ‘Off’ button

Turn off the television, your smartphone, laptop or whatever screen you use at home, at least 1 hour before bedtime. 2 hours is best. This is to avoid blue light from the screens disrupting your sleeping pattern.

Bonus tip – If you ‘must’ spend the evening in front your screen, you can try activating the Blue light filter on your device, or investing in a pair of tinted glasses designed at that effect.

Now you know how to boost your immune system

…easily and naturally. So don’t forget to go back to this post whenever a change of season is near, you’re experiencing more stress in your life, or you just feel like your immunity is not up to speed.

You might want to find out How to Detox with Clean Eating too, so you can keep your body in top form all year round.

And if you have other tips on how to boost your immune system that you’d like to share, please do so! Feel free to comment below and share the goodness.

Keep well, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more Clean Eatings hacks & tips!

Eat right, go well,
-Isabel 🙂

The Dirty Dozen 2020, or when to buy organic

The Dirty Dozen list 2017

We all know that eating organic is essential to reduce the amount of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in our bodies. They don’t know how to deal with them, and it can lead to inflammation and a whole host of other issues over time.

So if you live right next to earn organic farmers market or grow all your own produce in your back garden, you’ll do great.
But let’s be realistic here: very few of us out there are actually able to buy everything organic.

And this is when 2 nifty lists come in: the Dirty Dozen 2020 and the Clean 15.
Or When to buy Organic fruits & vegetables,
and When conventionally-grown fruits & vegetables will do just fine.

The Dirty Dozen 2020 is the list of the 12 most toxic fruits and vegetables. This list is compiled every year by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Luckily for us, they also publish a list of the Clean 15, i.e. the fruits and vegetables containing the least pesticides. Very useful when you want to eat as clean as possible, but can’t really buy everything organic.

How are the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists established?

According to Wikipedia,

“the Environmental Working Group is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.”

They publish every year since 2004 the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The guide ranks 47 popular fruits and vegetables from the most contaminated to the least. The results are based on more than 35,200 samples tested by the USDA and Food and Drug Administration.

Their aim is to inform the public of the dangers of toxic chemicals around us and to help consumers make better choices.

The samples are tested ready-to-eat

The samples tested were first prepared for consumption. That means washing thoroughly the fruits & vegetables and peeling them if needed, just as you would at home.

So the residues found would be present in the fruit or vegetable as you and I would eat it, with no further way of removing the pesticides.

The impacts of residues have long been documented

Over the last century, agrochemicals have allowed crop yields to more than double, in line with the population increase in the world. Although the increase in food production happened at the right time to feed the ever-increasing world population, this came at a price.

The use of fertilizers and pesticides increased sharply over the last few decades and doubled every 10 years. They have now become a necessity for farmers everywhere in the world. This has an impact on the environment, ecosystems and human health through consumption.

Are fruits clean or not?
Agrochemicals can have a direct impact on babies and young children.

Babies and young children are particularly sensitive to these toxic residues. Parents have long been advised to feed their children healthy clean produce as much as possible. Some pesticides are banned in Europe after linking them to behavioral disorders in young children.

When to buy organic in 2020

In an ideal world, we should all be eating organic produce. To reduce our intake of residual agrochemicals and to protect other living species affected by them.

But not everybody can afford the higher prices of organic produce. I certainly can’t.

Or lives near a well-stocked organic farmer’s market, for that matter.

Fortunately, some fruits and vegetables tend to need less and retain fewer petrochemicals. So the end product is pretty much of the same quality, whether grown organically or not. Hence the Clean 15.

So by using those 2 lists (keep them at hand on your phone when you go shopping or next to your fridge), you can identify when to buy organic, and which fruits & vegetables you can buy just about anywhere without fear.

The Dirty Dozen 2020

These are the fruits and vegetables that you should always try and buy organic, particularly if babies or children will be eating them.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Top 3 Dirty DozenNectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

This year, the EWG found that more than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.

Several samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides. Together with kale, spinach samples had 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.

The 2020 Clean Fifteen

These next fruits and vegetables contain the least amount of pesticides. If you can’t afford to buy all your produce organic, these are the ones that you can safely buy even if they were grown through conventional methods.

Top 3 Fifteen Clean
The top 3 cleanest fruits & vegetables
  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Sweet peas (frozen)
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Cantaloupes
  11. Broccoli
  12. Mushrooms
  13. Cabbage
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Kiwi

According tot he EWG, this year, avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest, with fewer than 2 percent of samples showing any detectable pesticides.

With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides.

Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.

Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

The full 47 fresh produce list

Altogether, EWG tested 47 different produce. Here is the full list, in case you wonder how toxic or safe a specific produce is:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes
  13. Sweet Bell Peppers
  14. Cherry Tomatoes
  15. Lettuce
  16. Cucumbers
  17. Blueberries
  18. Hot Peppers
  19. Plums
  20. Green Beans
  21. Tangerines
  22. Raspberries
  23. Grapefruit
  24. Snap Peas
  25. Winter Squashes
  26. Carrots
  27. Oranges
  28. Summer Squashes*
  29. Bananas
  30. Sweet Potatoes
  31. Watermelon
  32. Mangoes
  33. Kiwi
  34. Honeydew Melon
  35. Cabbage
  36. Mushrooms
  37. Broccoli
  38. Cantaloupe
  39. Cauliflower
  40. Asparagus
  41. Eggplant
  42. Sweet Peas Frozen
  43. Papaya*
  44. Onions
  45. Pineapple
  46. Sweet Corn*
  47. Avocados

* A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce. Source – EWG.

At the end of the day…

Organic produce
Eating more fruits and vegetables is key!

Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as raw as possible, is still better than none. So don’t let the lack of availability or the higher price of organic produce stop you.

Just try to replace the most toxic ones with others further down the list.

And always aim for seasonal, locally-produced fruits and vegetables. If you can, find local farmers and talk to them to know how they grow their produce. Those will not have spent too long in storage and transport. Which means they are likely to be more nutrient-rich than out-of-season imported produce.

Eat well, go well,

– Isabel

Other articles you might be interested in:

How to best store your fresh fruits and vegetables?
What is Clean Eating? 
Juicing vs blending – the best way to get your juice in

Your Stay-at-Home Guide

Family at home

I’m an affiliate for these products because I think those resources are brilliant value for money and will help you. This means that, should you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you.
For more information, please check my Affiliate Disclosure page.

So the whole wide world is officially Stuck at Home. Or most of it is.

Somehow, it feels like some higher force put us all in Time-out and told us to “Think about what’s we’ve done”.

So here we are all, trying to make sense of the whole situation. With more or less success.

I have a complete and total newfound admiration for home-schooling moms out there. And teachers. Quite clearly, I’m starting to realize it’s not always “the teacher’s fault”…

I’m Isabel, I’m passionate about Clean Eating, all things nutrition, and feeding my family all the goodness they need. And sharing all this with you, to help you on your way to get healthier.

Anyway, I wanted to help you with a Stay at Home Guide and starting checking out how other families were using. I’ll be updating your Stay at Home Guide, so feel free to send me your tips below!

Click here to submit your own Top Stay-at-Home Tip!

Then I came across this Stay-at-Home Survival Bundle. I can’t just keep it to myself. And I know this might not help you much in your Clean Eating journey, but I’m guessing that eating wholesome food might have slipped lower in your list of priorities right now. I get you.

Stay at Home guide

So this bundle has been put together by Ultimate Bundles. I have been a big fan of their products for years and love the fact that they always put together the best bundles of digital products out there.

So this time, they are helping us dealing with the challenges of lockdown and other social distancing rules:

  • How to keep the family busy?
  • How to look after ourselves?
  • How to stay organised?
  • How to work from home?

If you need a little help with any of those, do yourself a favor and check out the Stay-at-Home Survival Kit content below.

What’s in the Stay-at-Home Survival Kit

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Kids activities
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Your Stay at Home guide - The Intentional Stay-at-Home Mom
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Your Stay at Home guide - The Tired Mom's Guide to Getting it Done
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Profitable work at home
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If you have other tips and resources out there that you’re using to deal with the current situation, please do share them with us in the Comments, I will update your Stay at Home Guide so everybody benefits!

Click here to submit your own Top Stay-at-Home Tip!

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for other Clean Eating Hacks and shortcut to wholesomeness.

Stay home, go well,
– Isabel