Vitamin C and Your Immune System
Symptoms Are Warning Flags
This life is a journey and a fun one, but understanding the workings of the body is really important. What if your body cries for a certain nutrient all day long and you didn’t know it? The nutrient vitamin C is one that staves off all kinds of diseases and does many things: vitamin C is super powerful and something your body needs every day. Look at all it can do!
- Improves the immune system
- Prevents inflammation
- Helps eliminate seasonal allergies
- Prevents colds and flu and also helps you recover faster
- Fights infections and viruses
- Protects the heart and brain from cardiovascular problems
- Keeps your gums healthy
- Helps protect against autoimmune diseases and so much more.
So, this is what we’re going to learn about today and hopefully help you live a better life in this body you call home.
Physical Bodies and Symptoms
As people and as physical bodies we get these symptoms that seem to come upon us and we feel helpless, not understanding what’s happening and how to fix these problems. But what if you could instead see it as a warning sign and maybe as a blessing, something that could teach you a tremendous deal about yourself, and something that ultimately could set you free from disease and suffering. I had seasonal allergies since the age of thirteen, and every spring I would hide in my home. I locked myself inside the house and my mom and dad took me to doctors who gave me drugs and steroids that harmed my immune system and made me a zombie. This seemed to be what everybody did and I did the same because I had nowhere else to look. So, fast forward 40 years later and this single ailment has taught me more about my body than just about anything. You see, having a reaction to something like pollen or other allergies is your body overreacting to something it shouldn’t overreact to. It's treating pollen as a foreign invader, attacking it, and creating a histamine response that, in my case, made me incredibly sick. Once I started adding these cultured probiotic foods into my diet I started getting better but not completely. I had much to learn. It took me a while to figure out that the huge amounts of probiotics I was ingesting in these foods were reducing inflammation throughout my body. But there was another nutrient I wasn’t aware of that was helping me and that was vitamin C.
I have learned a lot about my immune system’s response to pollen. My research in this area is ongoing and has me constantly amazed at how our bodies talk and communicate with us. When my adrenal glands are overworked and exhausted by the stress of life, I’ve discovered ways to support them and then I begin to heal. I believe that our bodies are reflections of how we think, how we're feeling, what we’re eating, and the stressors in our life. I have a tendency to overreact to things when I feel overwhelmed. When I’m afraid and needing support, I can’t hide anything. I wear my heart on my sleeve and when I’m upset I can’t hide it. Everybody knows!! So my immune system freaking out and creating dramatic responses to things like pollen is just a reflection of the personality of Donna. Not only do I have to strengthen my immune system with food choices and lifestyle choices, but I’ve had to confront myself and how I react to things. I’m trying with all my heart to help people and then I get to see my humanness and I see things clearer. I’m a work in progress! Eating the proper combination of foods has really set me free in so many ways; but I’m not just a body - my mind, thoughts, and soul all continually give me feedback as to how I’m doing. Changing from the inside out is truly the only way to change. Changing how I’m thinking and my response to things has been huge. Also, finding foods that nourish my immune system when it is screaming, "Help!" at the top of its lungs is so important!! That’s truly how you change and this is the work that sets me free.
I recently read an article about Britain’s oldest physician. Dr. Bill Frankland is 105 years old and has been dubbed the “Grandfather of Allergies.” He is best known for inventing the pollen count and getting the news media to report it locally. Frankland discovered that an allergic reaction is due to a malfunctioning immune system, which has helped many in the treatment of allergies. His life reads like a novel. He was in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1941 and was sent to Singapore just seven days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. A year later, he was sent to the notorious Changi POW camp where he suffered as a prisoner for three and a half years before he was set free. In 1979, he cared for the brutal leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. “I got a call to see the new president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. They told me he had an allergy and he was being treated with various desensitizing injections,” Dr. Frankland told the Daily Mail. “But he wasn’t allergic at all — his problem was that he was smoking 40 cigarettes a day.” Dr. Frankland told Hussein if he wouldn’t quit smoking he wouldn’t work with him anymore. He added, “I heard sometime later that he had had a disagreement with his secretary of state for health, so he took him outside and shot him. Maybe I was lucky.”
I have done a lot of experimenting on myself and when my immune system flares up with allergies, it's always because I've been eating inflammatory foods, having a lack of sleep, or stressing over something. It's a signal and a cry from the body to pay attention. If I eat really well, get lots of rest, have my cultured foods and foods rich in Vitamin C, and I keep those inflammatory foods out of my diet, I sail through allergy season. I've become so conscious of this that it's become a lifestyle that really works for me. Listening to the signals your body sends you is such a fun way to live. It becomes this journey and you fall in love with your body as it becomes one of your greatest teachers.
Your Cells Think Sugar is Vitamin C
One thing I have learned is how vitamin C trains our immune system to function properly. Vitamins C and B are both water-soluble which means they dissolve in water, and these vitamins and nutrients dissolve quickly in the body. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are carried to the body’s tissues, but the body cannot store them. When you’re under stress and your body is reacting to everything, your adrenal glands will use up these vitamins quickly and cry for more! You need vitamin C, and lots of it throughout the day, when you’re struggling with pollen. Not just any kind of vitamin C, but whole foods that have lots of vitamin C. If you supplement with vitamin C tablets and don’t take it in a natural form, it can be hard on the kidneys, so I caution against this. One of the ways to accomplish this is to eat cultured foods – especially cultured vegetables. High in vitamin C, I have cultured veggies as a snack, with meals, or by themselves throughout the day to keep my hungry adrenals healthy and fed. Kefir has vitamin C as well as B vitamins which are also nutrients needed by your adrenals. I have lots of other options and fun ways to get extra vitamin C
Orange Juice in Stores Is Not Real!
Another thing I do to get more vitamin C is to eat oranges or lemons, or make some fresh-squeezed juices. Don’t use canned or store-bought juice because it’s not the same thing. The manufacturers squeeze the juice from the oranges and store it in big vats, and then they start to remove the oxygen because this allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. This also takes out the flavor of the oranges so, in order for it to taste like orange juice again, they hire flavor and fragrance companies to make flavor packs to make it taste like orange juice again. The flavor packs aren't listed in the ingredients because they're technically derived from "orange essence and oil." My husband could never drink orange juice because it always gave him terrible indigestion. That was until we got our own orange tree and, lo and behold, freshly squeezed OJ doesn't bother him at all. That's because it's the real deal and the stuff in stores is not.
Your Cells Think Sugar Is Vitamin C
One of the things I want to teach you if you have allergies, stress, or inflammation is to ditch sugar. It will make everything a thousand times worse and diminish your immune system as well. Vitamin C is used by white blood cells to engulf and absorb viruses and harmful bacteria and keep your immune system strong when it thinks it’s under an attack from things such as pollen. White blood cells need to contain 50 times the concentration of vitamin C as would normally be found in the blood around it. Sugar or glucose has a very similar chemical structure to vitamin C; so when you eat sugar, your cells hungrily take in the sugar thinking it is vitamin C. The 50% concentration of vitamin C in your cells starts to drop and your immune system’s normal capabilities are reduced by 75%. It can take four to six hours for the vitamin C concentration in the white blood cells to go back to the normal concentration and to be able to function at the highest level again. So, it’s not a great idea, and especially if you’re having any kind of stress, to eat any kind of sugar, because the white blood cells can’t get past the sugar to do their job.
So, I love vitamin C. It taught me how to heal. It taught me how to take care of my immune system and how to understand the personality of Donna who, instead of overreacting to things, needs to regroup and reach out for help and wisdom and realize that everything is really going to be okay no matter what drama comes my way.
Vitamin C and B Strengthen Your Immune System
Another key component in keeping your immune system running strong is to supply your adrenals with not only vitamin C but B vitamins too. Healthy gut flora will synthesize B vitamins, enzymes, and proteins so that we are never depleted. When the gut flora is out of balance, this production is impaired and you won’t be able to properly absorb B vitamins. It is crucial to be aware of the importance of probiotics in your diet to help repopulate healthy gut flora allowing you to get all the key vitamins your body needs. B and C vitamins are abundant in cultured foods – kefir, cultured veggies, and kombucha. In contrast, processed foods and sugars deplete B and C vitamins and spike insulin in a dramatic way, adversely affecting your adrenal glands. Regular cabbage has about 30 mg of vitamin C per cup, but guess what happens to cabbage when you ferment it? Cornell University found that fermented sauerkraut can have as much as 600 to 700 mg per cup! You also get the boost of probiotics that gives cultured kraut superpowers!
I noticed when I first started eating cultured foods that my allergy symptoms were greatly reduced, but they did not go away completely. Each year that I ate these foods, I noticed that the time I had my allergies was shortened – by about one week each year. What started out like two to three months of symptoms eventually was only three to five days of symptoms until now I have none. This was a huge improvement, but I still needed to add extra vitamins and cultured foods during allergy season to keep everything running smoothly.
Eating processed foods or sugar and neglecting to nourish my adrenals will bring back symptoms and this reminds me to stay the course. Taking walks outside and smelling the flowers is something I am very grateful for. Nothing is impossible and I found answers to this forty-year seasonal ailment that now allow me to go outside and not be a prisoner in my own home.
Below are a few of my allergy prescription recipes. These are the foods I consume that keep me strong, especially when my immune system needs a boost. Don’t you just love food and the body and how they work together? We need each other, we need food that nourishes the body, and we need to listen to this body that gives us constant feedback on how we’re doing. It’s the sweetest way to live your life.
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