Part Three: How to Take Care of Your Immune System and Reduce Your Risk of Disease

A healthy body is a hostile environment for pathogens

It is a weak and impaired Immune System more than germs that cause colds and flus. A healthy immune system is also needed to protect you from all disease. Your immune system health depends upon the consistent practice of the Basic Health Habits No. 1- 13.

Some of the symptoms of a weakened or impaired Immune System:
    * 2 or more colds / flus a year and slow recovery
    * Allergies
    * Poor wound healing
    * Infections
    * Digestive disorders
    * Insomnia
    * Tumours
    * Low energy and fatigue
    * Depression
    * Chronic fever, diarrhea, digestive disorders, pain, and swollen lymph glands
    * Asthma and other respiratory disorders
    * Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
    * Impaired organ function
    * Arthritis
    * Inflammation

Chronic Systemic Inflammation

Inflammation is normally a healthy response of the immune system to physical injury and pathogens that cause infection, damage and disease. When the inflammatory process fails to turn off, the immune system becomes compromised because it is simply overworked and overused. Once the immune system is compromised, all forms of chronic disease can occur, not just inflammatory diseases.

Chronic systemic inflammation is the main contributing factor to all chronic degenerative disease, including allergies, Alzheimer's, arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue, diabetes, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, heart disease, Lupus, MS, Parkinson's and stroke.

To detect chronic inflammation, which can be silent until a diseased state has been initiated, a health care professional can test for inflammatory biomarkers in the blood. Inflammatory markers are biochemical substances, or messengers the body sends out into the blood to signal to other cells how and where to act in response to a particular pathogen or injury. Inflammatory markers to watch out for include C-reactive protein, lipoprotein (a) or Lp (a), interleukin 6, homocysteine, and fibrinogen. In particular, high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an antibody-like blood protein, indicate chronic inflammation, and therefore the risk of degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease.

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Causes of Chronic Inflammation:
Neglect of Basic Health Habits
    * Acidosis
    * Chronic stress
    * Infection
    * High levels of insulin in blood
    * Oxygen free radicals
    * Toxins
    * Allergens
    * Medication
    * Infection


Basic Health Habit No. 1:

A person who is well-rested will have a stronger immune response to illness and disease than someone who is sleep deprived.

All of our body's healing takes place during sleep. Cell growth and repair, antibody function, brain activity, metabolism, the immune system, nervous system, organ detoxification and hormone functions have important jobs to do when we sleep that are essential to our health. 

Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is an anti-oxidant which protects you from cellular damage, disease and premature aging and is affected by your sleep and health habits. Sleep is a dynamic process, not a passive state and the optimal function of our immune system depends upon an adequate and quality rest. 

The first symptoms of a lack of sleep are tighter muscles and an increase in pain. Flu-like symptoms come next. Our ability to learn and remember and to creatively problem solve depends on a restful sleep. Emotional difficulties are largely affected by a lack of sleep. Weight gain, infection, inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, cancer and infertility are some of the conditions that are linked to sleep deprivation. Immune T cell production decreases and inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein levels increase with sleep deprivation.

When you have high levels of stress or there is an illness, your sleep requirements increase as does the need for an increase in the quality of your health habits. 

Please visit:
HEALTH COACH: Love Your Sleep - Part Three (with links to part 1-2) for more helpful information.

Basic Health Habit No. 2: 
Digestive Health and Nutrition

Digestive Health
As many as 80% of the immune system cells are located in the digestive system. Key components needed for an anti-inflammatory diet, and digestive, and immune system health are: 
  • pH balance 
  • Fibre
  • Probiotics
  • Antioxidants  

A natural, whole food diet is the best possible, lifelong diet for nutrition. Natural means food that is without hormones, antibiotics, colourings, or added flavours, sugar, salt or fats. It also means food that has not been processed or refined mechanically, chemically or by temperature or contaminated with pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. It is real food that has not been altered genetically or irradiated. Whole means food that does not have any of its nutritious parts removed. This type of diet will supply you with all the nutrients needed for health, growth, development and healing; good sleep and anti-aging. A natural, whole food diet will increase your resilience to disease and will contribute to your emotional stability and happiness. 

Your healthy diet won't matter, nor will the nutritional supplements you take if your digestive system isn't operating efficiently - you won’t be getting the full benefit of your good nutritional habits.

pH Balance 
A minimum of 7.35 - 7.45 pH is the recommended level of alkalinity of the blood without stressing the body's regulators of homeostasis. This creates an environment for the body to function normally and to sustain health, to resist disease and for healing and faster recovery. Acidosis occurs when there is too much acidity in the body tissues and creates an environment for inflammation, chronic pain, arthritis and disease. Your diet should have a 4 to 1 ratio of alkaline to acidic food or be 80% alkaline, 20% acidic.

Your body's pH levels affect every process within. Any process that deprives your cells of oxygen or minerals will turn your pH level towards acidic. This will also affect the absorption of nutrients, elimination of toxins, and the optimal functioning of your immune system.

If you have a health problem, (such as arthritis, morning sickness, allergies), most likely you are acidic. Research has proven that disease cannot survive in an alkaline cellular environment, and thrives in an acidic environment. The body fluids of healthy people are alkaline (high pH), whereas the body fluids of sick people are acidic (low pH).  Your Body pH balance affects not only your immune system, but also overall optimal health. Unless your body's pH level is slightly alkaline, your body cannot heal itself. No matter what method you use to heal, it won't be effective until your blood pH level is normalized.

Even though the average modern Canadian ingests over a half-cup of sugar every day -- 175 pounds per year -- it may surprise you to know that sugar is not a food. And your body doesn't like much of it since it has trouble digesting the stuff and making use of it.

Sugar promotes the growth of disease-causing yeasts and fungi. Symptoms of a yeast (Candida albicans) overgrowth include fatigue, lethargy, depression, irritability, headaches, problems concentrating, muscle weakness, recurrent infection, including vaginal and urinary tract infections, persistent heartburn, indigestion, constipation, swollen joints, nasal congestion and sore throat. Like processed foods, sugar encourages your bad gut bacteria to grow, flourish, and overwhelm your digestive tract.

The list of sugar consumption-related health problems, over and above those associated with weight gain and obesity, is long and impressive. Conditions and diseases that affect every square inch of you, inside and out, can be directly or indirectly the result of excessive sugar intake. From problems with your eyesight to the very structure of your DNA, from tooth decay to fluid retention to Alzheimer's to cancer, sugar can play a role. Sugar also creates an acidic environment in the body.

Dietary fibre is the indigestible portion of plant foods. There are two types of fibre: Soluble fibre and Insoluble fibre. The recommended consumption ratio is 75% insoluble to 25% soluble in our diet. Fibre changes the nature of the gastrointestinal tract and how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed. Both types of fibre reduce appetite to help control weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol to reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the absorption of nutrients from our food. A whole food, natural diet that is high in fibre also reduces the risk of gastrointestinal disorders and eases constipation, and inflammatory bowel disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, Crohn's disease, and diverticulitis.

According to Dr. Gregory Freund with the University of Illinois, it is soluble fibre, which helps to change pro-inflammatory cells to peacekeeping anti-inflammatory cells. Here's why: The body's infection fighting T-cells are stimulated by the boost soluble fiber gives to the production of protein interleukin-4.

This study has found that soluble fibre reduces the inflammation associated with obesity-related diseases and strengthens the immune system. Soluble fibre changes the personality of immune cells from pro-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory, healing cells that help us recover faster from infection.

The word probiotics mean for life. The proper ratio is 85% healthy bacteria - 15% unhealthy bacteria. The friendly bacteria that reside in your intestine have a number of very important functions, including:

    * Digesting and absorbing certain carbohydrates. Without good intestinal bacteria, your body cannot absorb certain undigested starches, fiber, and sugars. The friendly bacteria in your digestive tract convert these carbohydrates into the primary sources of important energy and nutrients.

    * Producing vitamins, absorbing minerals and eliminating toxins. Probiotics help in the production of both vitamin K and B vitamins, and promote mineral absorption. They also aid in metabolism and the breakdown of toxins.

    * Keeping bad bacteria under control. A large part of the influence of the bad bacteria is on your intestinal lining (mucosal barrier) that is over 300 square meters, or about the size of a tennis court. Simply stated, friendly bacteria compete with the bad guys for room and board, but since beneficial bacteria are more at home there, they win most of the battles for nutrition and attachment sites within your colon.

    * The good bacteria tell your body how much nutrition they need and your body responds by supplying just that much and no more - so that any excess bad bacteria are starved out. The helpful bacteria also produce a substance that kills harmful microbes.

    * Preventing allergies. Friendly bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.

    * Providing vital support to your immune system. Beneficial bacteria have a lifelong, powerful effect on your gut’s immune system and your systemic immune system as well. The bacteria play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens.

    * Probiotics have an anti-inflammatory potential. They caused a decrease in serum C-reactive proyen levels, and a reduction in the bacteria-induced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Fermented Food
Traditional fermented foods contain living micro-organisms that replenish the friendly bacteria in your digestive tract.
    * Fermented milk (Aran)
    * Natto
    * Miso
    * Kimchee
    * Tempeh
    * Kefir
    * Yogurt
    * Olives
    * Sauerkraut
    * Pickles

It is important to note that traditional fermented foods are not the equivalent of the same foods, commercially processed which are inferior in regard to health benefits.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that nuetralize and remove harmful oxidants from the bloodstream. Oxidants, also known as free radicals, are the toxic byproducts our bodies make when we turn food into energy. 

Antioxidants protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Many experts believe this damage plays a part in a number of chronic diseases, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, and arthritis. Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system. 

Preventing damage with antioxidants helps keep your immune system strong, making you better able to ward off colds, flu, and other infections. Relating to the immune system specifically, free radicals damage immune cells and interfere with cytokine (communication) pathways. Certain diseases of the central nervous system, such as dementia and some forms of kidney, gastrointestinal and skin disease also involve the damaging effects of free radicals and the deficiency of antioxidants.

Oxygen free radicals are also byproducts of infection and disease, unhealthy habits and the neglect of healthy habits, pollution and toxins, sunlight over-exposure, and other environmental factors. Free radicals are capable of damaging DNA and suppressing the body's immune system. 

You cannot prevent these diseases simply by taking antioxidants. You can, however, ensure that you are doing everything possible to lessen their effects. Most importantly, you should eliminate environmental factors that promote the production of free radicals.

Network Antioxidants
According to Dr. Lester Packer, up until recently, each antioxidant was thought to work independently of the others. They now know that they work together. He has labeled some network antioxidants. What makes network antioxidants special is that they can greatly enhance the power of and reconstitute one another. As a result, they’re particularly effective.

Although there are literally hundreds of antioxidants, only five appear to be network antioxidants: Vitamins C and E, glutathione, lipoic acid and CoQ10. Vitamins C and E are not produced in the body, but must be obtained through food. Glutathione, lipoic acid, and CoQ10 are produced by the body.

Non-network antioxidants and even some things that aren’t antioxidants support members of the network. These include members of the flavonoid family of which there are several thousand plants based chemicals (phytochemicals).

These include fruit, vegetables, and beverages like green tea and red wine. Ginko Biloba and Grape Seed Extract are in the flavonoid family. If you’re familiar with Pycnogenol, Grape Seed Extract has been shown, according to Dr. Ralph Moss, to be more potent. Grape Seed has a higher level of antioxidants; 92%-95% bioflavonoids compared to 85%.

Green and Black teas have a higher level of antioxidant activity than any vegetable. Although all forms (Black,White, Red, Green, Oolong) have health benefits, the polyphenols in green and white tea are more potent because they do not go through an oxidation process.

Selenium is an example of a mineral that supports the network. Carotenoids are the coloring factor in deep green vegetables and orange, yellow and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and helper T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that accelerate aging. Like the other big three antioxidants, vitamins C and E, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by interfering with how the fats and cholesterol in the bloodstream oxidize to form arterial plaques. Studies have shown that beta carotene can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Beta carotene also protects against cancer by stimulating the immune cells called macrophages to produce tumor necrosis factor,  which kills cancer cells, increase the production of T-cell lymphocytes and natural killer cells and can enhance the ability of the natural killer cells to attack cancer cells.

A group of phytonutrients called bioflavonoids aids the immune system by protecting the cells of the body against environmental pollutants. Bioflavonoids also reduce cholesterol's ability to form plaques in arteries and lessen the formation of microscopic clots inside arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. A diet that contains a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, at least six servings per day, will help you get the bioflavonoids needed to help your immune system work in top form. Please visit HEALTH COACH: Health Dictionary for more information

Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids  are super healthy fats that control blood clotting, build cell membranes and aid cellular function, are building blocks of DNA, reduce bad cholesterol, blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease, liver cancer, depression and dementia. 

There are two main types of essential fatty acids: Omega 3 is  Alphalinolenic acid, Omega 6 is Linolenic acid. Originally they were called vitamin F. Essential fatty acids reduce and prevent inflammation, arthritis, psoriasis, heart attacks and asthma. 

The best natural food sources include: fish (especially cold water fatty fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines, cod, mackerel, tuna and trout), shellfish, seafood, flax seed, hemp oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil, avocado, chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, leafy green vegetables, walnuts, algae, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and cold water fish oil supplements.

The recommended ratio is 2 to 1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. The current North American ratio is 10 - 20 Omega 6 to 1 Omega 3. Too much Omega 6 and too little Omega 3 causes blood clots, constricts arteries, increase the risk of heart attack, cancer, weight gain, increased blood sugar and insulin levels and aggravates inflammation, arthritis and psoriasis.

The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria.

Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection. When taking essential fatty acid supplements, such as flax or fish oils, take additional vitamin E, which acts together with essential fatty acids to boost the immune system.

Please visit: 
Basic Health Habit No. 2: Digestive Health and Nutrition Part 3 (with active links to part 1-3)

Basic Health Habit No. 3:

Every system in your body needs water. Water is the basis for all biological processes. The body needs a balanced, constant amount to function normally. Water helps to regulate body temperature, blood pressure, metabolism; transports oxygen and nutrients to cells and flushes toxins from vital organs.

You need water long before you are thirsty. Thirst is the body's last indication of dehydration.  Mild dehydration causes headaches, nausea, constipation, fatigue and chills. Moderate dehydration results in increased heart rate, muscle cramps, increased back and joint pain, heartburn, tingling hands and feet, and impairment of short term memory. These are just some of the signs of dehydration.

Chronic (long-term) dehydration can lead to depression and sleep disorders (water is needed for the production of Seratonin and Melatonin), kidney stones, hiatus hernia, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, angina, migraines, strokes, colitis, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, colon, pancreas and liver cancer, adult-onset diabetes, allergies and impaired vision.

Dr. Dave Carpenter, N.D., in his book: Change Your Water, Change Your Life, states; "When the cellular water is reduced during water rationing (dehydration), each cell is required to limp along with less than the optimal amount of water. This results in symptoms that are sometimes mistaken for illness".

Medical Maverick, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., after years of clinical treatment and research, concludes that chronic water dehydration is the cause of and water is the cure for many degenerative and autoimmune diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalance, heart disease and stroke, allergies, asthma, leukemia and lymphoma, MS, Lupus and Attention Deficit Disorder, in his books: Your Body's Many Cries for Water, and You're Not Sick, You're Thirsty!

schema representing water and electrolytes

Electrolytes and Ions
Water loss is always accompanied by electrolyte loss. Both are critical for proper hydration. Electrolytes are needed to hydrate the body. I want to be very clear about this - unless you have the proper balance of electrolytes, the water that you drink cannot be used by your body. Your body loses water by perspiration, respiration, urination and bowel movements. The body loses an average of 6.3 cups of water through urination and 1 litre of water a day through respiration. The estimated water loss at 100 degrees Fahrenheit is 1 litre every hour. Exertion, heat exposure, diuretics and other medications, caffeine, smoking, carbonated drinks, stress and poor diet, laxative misuse, alcohol, vomiting and diarrhea are all dehydrating.


All fluids in the body are electrolyte solutions; fluids with dissolved minerals and salts. Electrolytes are fluid substances containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. Electrolytes produce positive and negative ions when dissolved. 

The primary electrolytes required in body fluid include calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium (positive ions), and chloride, carbonates, aminoacetate, phosphate and iodide (negative ions). The human body needs an intracellular and an extracellular balance of electrolytes. The different electrolyte solutions of positive and negative ions inside and outside cells help to move fluid into the cell and deliver nutrients and oxygen and move fluid out of the cell and remove waste. 

When electrolytes are depleted, fluid movement is sluggish and causes cells and our body to be dehydrated. Water also becomes trapped outside cells and causes water retention. Electrolytes regulate hydration, homeostasis (regulation of the internal environment to ensure stability in response to the external environment), oxygen delivery, blood pH, and is critical for nerve and muscle function. 

The best food source of electrolytes are fruits and vegetables. Electrolytes can also be found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy. If you are eating a natural, whole food diet with a range of vegetables and fruit in generous quantities and healthy protein choices, a proper supply of electrolytes will never be an issue. This recommendation for a healthy diet and water intake becomes even more important as we age. 

Please visit:

Basic Health Habit No. 4: 
Physical Activity

Get off the treadmill and go outside to play

We are designed to move. Our sedentary lifestyle is directly affecting our health and leading to chronic illness. Obesity, Adult onset Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, depression and anxiety, high cholesterol and blood pressure and cancer are some of the direct results.

Physical Activity helps prevent heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Moderate, regular exercise helps the immune system by moderating the effects of stress. Lowered stress has a beneficial effect on your health. Exercise helps the cardiovascular system, improves blood flow, flushes away toxins from muscles and organs, and helps keep the kidneys and endocrine system working well. It helps remove germs and circulate antibodies; this promotes a healthy immune system by lessening the body's susceptibility to disease while increasing the strength of the immune system itself. Lymph fluid that circulates immune cells throughout the body, depends on the movement of muscles.

Exercising increases the body temperature slightly. This is the body's natural response to colds, flu and other diseases. The increased temperature helps kill the infectious organisms.

Regular, consistent physical activity helps to improve body image. An improved body image often leads to better health care, and to higher levels of confidence and relaxation in social situations. That in turn helps reduce stress and enhance the immune system.

Immune cell functions are impaired following extreme sessions of prolonged, high-intensity exercise, and some studies have found that athletes are at a higher risk for infections. Athletes may have slightly elevated natural killer cell count and cytolytic action, but these are unlikely to be clinically significant.

Biomarkers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, which are associated with chronic diseases, are reduced in active individuals relative to sedentary individuals, and the positive effects of exercise may be due to its anti-inflammatory effects. The depression in the immune system following extreme and prolonged sessions of exercise may be one of the reasons for this anti-inflammatory effect. 

Please visit:
HEALTH COACH: Basic Health Habit No. 4: Physical Activity - The Best Happy Pill

Chronic Stress

If you have recently experienced a change in your sleep patterns, feel fatigued, anxious or a lack of enjoyment for life, or have multiple aches and pains, you’re likely overstressed.

It was recently discovered that people under chronic stress had above-normal levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), an immune-system protein that promotes inflammation and has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, severe infections and cancer.

It appears that stress increases levels of IL-6, which in turn accelerates a variety of diseases. Further, stress can weaken the immune response, leaving it more susceptible to infection, and can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits. For instance, stress often leads people to overeat, lose sleep, and neglect exercise, all of which can create health problems on their own.

It appears that stress impairs the immune system, which allows underlying infections to cause damage.

There is ever increasing evidence that most diseases have an infectious component. Such is the case with most autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, which, like most all other diseases, is a result of circumstances within our control, such as the long-term neglect of basic health habits and chronic stress overload. When there is chronic stress, the body overproduces adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones. Eventually, this causes the adrenal glands, the front line in the stress reaction, to show wear and tear and to become depleted. This frequently leads to an impairment in the thyroid gland, which can cause a further decline in energy level and mood.

Next in the series:
Part Four: How to Take Care of Your Immune System and Reduce Your Risk of Disease -   
Basic Health Habits No. 5 - 8:
  • Breathing 
  • Positive Mental Attitude
  • Sweating
  • Sunlight and D-Mystifying Vitamin D

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