Building a Strong Immune System

The Corona virus has changed the world forever. Physical distancing, proper hand washing technique and facial touching with clean hands only are vital habits we need to practice. More than ever is the time we must know how to strengthen our immune system. On my last trip to the grocery store, the shelf that contained vitamin C supplements were all picked over, however there are more factors than vitamin C that support our immunity. Other nutrients and most importantly time are necessary for our immune system to develop. From the moment we are born, our immune system innately is learning how to fight.

I had to undergo a C-section when my breeched daughter was born. Caesarean babies avoid the microbe filled vaginal canal that stimulate their immune systems. Antibiotics are given to the mother prophylactically to reduce the risk of infection including after surgery while the scar heals. Antibiotics non-selectively kill all microorganisms inside the body whether good or bad. This compromises the gut flora which is known to be connected to our immune system. It also affects the quality of breast milk where the mother passes on her microflora. Then comes the vaccination schedule for baby to receive in order to stimulate their immune system against a number of different diseases. This was the beginning of my daughter’s life where her immune system was not exposed to a natural rite of passage.

The cycle of passing on immunity involves getting an infection to develop antibodies, immunoglobulins and other immune protecting substances for mothers to give to their babies through their breast milk. When the transmission of an infection and/or breastfeeding does not occur, there is no life-long immunity developed to pass on to the next generation, breaking the cycle. This gives the need for artificial immunity through vaccinations. By this method, the immune system is affected differently because vaccines do not give life-long immunity, instead a vaccination schedule is followed.

As a mother it was my responsibility to care for my child even though I had many disadvantages in her early life presented to me. I could not give my daughter a natural vaginal birth nor exclusively breastfeed due to not being able to produce enough milk for her. So how did I build her immunity?

Gut friendly foods

Recovering from giving birth, I began to rebuild my gut microbiome by supplementing with good quality probiotics while eating fermented foods along with a whole foods diet. By doing this, the beneficial bacteria would eventually pass through my limited breastmilk to give to my daughter. At six months when my daughter was ready for solids, I supplemented her gut with infant probiotics and fed her plain yogurt with prebiotic high fiber fruit and veggies. Having a healthy gut also means having a healthy immune system.

Sunshine and Vitamin D supplementation

Due to our Canadian climate and modern lifestyle, we have limited opportunities to being exposed to sunlight making it necessary for vitamin D supplementation. When I was breastfeeding and to this present day, I supplement both our diets with a liquid vitamin D3, liquid form is the most absorbable for our bodies to take in. When my daughter was a baby, I tried to sit by the window whenever the sun shone through and I try to take advantage of spending time outdoors with her weather permitting. Vitamin D plays many roles in our overall health, especially with immunity.

Real foods

The nutrient and microbe content in live, natural whole foods is always greater than foods that were processed especially with the addition of chemicals and preservatives. Eating a whole foods diet not only nourished me to recover after my C-section, it also provided nutrients for my daughter’s immunity during breastfeeding. When introducing solid foods to her diet, I cooked her meals in homemade bone broth to heighten the nutrient content. Our bodies respond best to real nutrient dense foods compared to artificial nutrients such as supplements which are still needed at times due to their higher doses and convenience. Vitamin C works synergistically with other nutrients like bioflavonoids, vitamin E and vitamin A found in fruits and veggies. It is best to consume a variety of wholesome foods in our diet to obtain their vast array of nutrients for our body to function optimally.

Sleep training

Teaching my child how to sleep was the most challenging experience I endured as a new mother. Sleep is so important for everyone’s growth, development and recovery. Even if she missed a nap or did not sleep well at night her stress level showed by being irritable or overtired. My hard work paid off, because my almost four year old daughter averages 11 hours of sleep every night! Sleep is commonly overlooked when it comes to immunity, rest while managing stress levels is just as important as our nutrition when it comes to our health.

Exposure to nature

We are living in a chemical world. Many of our food, household cleansers, body products and other unnatural chemical uses negatively affect the way our body functions. Minimizing chemical exposures in our lifetime is challenging, however it does not mean you should shelter yourself from the rest of the world. We are meant to explore nature because our bodies are very much a part of its environment. Nature is never static, we are meant to be active doing regular physical activity to function optimally. Walking barefoot on safe grass, eating a bit of soil on carrots from your garden or even forgetting to dust inside the house one week puts our immune system to work. Having too sterile of an environment leaves our immune system dormant from exercising its normal capabilities.

I remember my daughter’s first birthday when she cried after touching the icing on her smash cake. To this day, she hates getting her hands grimy. Now because of Covid-19, she knows how to wash her hands skillfully like a surgeon. There is a balance between clean hygiene and exposing ourselves to nature’s hidden dangers. It’s scary when my daughter comes down with a fever, however I always tell myself it’s a sign of her immunity strengthening. After this pandemic will it be safe to drop our guard? For now let’s just stay home, keep our hands clean and physically distance ourselves from others as much as possible.

Diana Angeles // Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant