Viruses, yuck . . . my family used to get them a lot. Colds, flus, you name it, we got it. But so did everybody else I knew. It’s normal, right? Well, it’s actually not. Every year at Christmas we would go to my mom’s in Virginia and somebody would inevitably get sick, and then it would spread down through the family. Happened every year and I never knew why until now. Now we rarely, if ever, get sick. And if we do, it feels like the world is coming to an end because we are all so accustomed to being well. It’s supposed to be this way, and once you feel the freedom that comes with not worrying about getting sick, it feels like the chains have fallen off and you are free. Flu shots? Forget about it! I don’t need them. My immune system’s got it covered, and I’m good to go.
One of my favorite things that cultured foods do is to boost your immune system. Your gut is responsible for 80 percent of your immune system. The more good bacteria you have, the better your immune system is. A virus is running around looking for a human host to inhabit. When it finds one, your body has special helpers designed to seek and destroy this invader.
Here’s where your microbes come in
White blood cells destroy germs as soon as they detect them. However, if a viral infection begins to take hold, they fight back using a more powerful defense with T and B cells. Antibodies are special proteins made by B cells. They bind to a virus to stop it from replicating, and also label viruses so that other blood cells know to destroy them. T cells have different roles to play. Some act as warning bells that raise the alarm when they detect invading viruses. Here’s where your microbes come in . . . certain good bacteria in the gut influence the strength of the immune system by increasing the number of T cells. There are two kinds of T cells: killers and helpers. Killer T cells find and destroy infected cells that have been turned into viruses making communities. Helper T cells don’t fight invaders; instead, they are like a military intelligence system. When a helper T cell sends out a chemical message, its matched killer T cell is alerted that a virus is present and seeks to destroy it. Having lots and lots of good bacteria in the gut increases T cell production and keeps communication among all the cells functioning at optimum levels. Signals from these beneficial microbes are essential for keeping the immune system strong so it can seek and destroy a virus or infection.
Vitamins increase when you ferment foods
On a daily basis, our body uses antioxidant vitamins to boost the immune system. One of the most important antioxidants for this is vitamin C (sometimes known as ascorbic acid). Studies have shown that vitamin C helps reduce cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke; and improves prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. We don’t have the ability to make this special vitamin in our bodies, so we must obtain vitamin C from the diet. One of the best ways to do this is through cultured foods and especially cultured vegetables. Lactic acid fermentation increases the micronutrient profile of foods. Not only does vitamin C increase when you ferment foods, but many other vitamins too such as A and B vitamins are also increased. 1 All of the essential nutrients boost our body’s ability to fight infections and invaders and keep our adrenals running at optimal levels.
Sugar lowers your immune system by 75%
One of the things that can affect your immune system is eating sugar. This is the reason my family always got sick at Christmas. We had way too much sugar during the holidays and it lowered our immune system’s ability to keep us well. Let’s talk about this in regards to vitamin C. In the 1970’s, Dr. Linus Pauling (one of the greatest researchers in the field of microbiology) discovered that vitamin C helps the body combat the common cold. But what he also found was how sugar can do the opposite.
Let’s say you decide to have a sugary treat. Maybe you decide to have something like a big piece of cake, or some cookies, or a large glass of soda. Any of these would be enough to get your blood sugar to rise. As your blood sugar starts to rise from the sugar and gets to 120 units or above, the white blood cells start to lose their ability to absorb and fight infections.
Your cells think sugar is vitamin C
Vitamin C is used by white blood cells to engulf and absorb viruses and harmful bacteria. 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 ability to fight a virus is 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 sick, to eat any kind of sugar, because the white blood cells can’t get past the sugar to do their job.
Cultured foods boost your immune system
Having lots of vitamin C in your diet is a great way to keep your immune system healthy. Did you know that one cup, or the juice, of cultured cabbage can have as much as 700 milligrams of vitamin C, while un-fermented cabbage only has 70 milligrams of vitamin C. Impressive, right?! There are many reasons your body needs cultured foods, besides the fact that the vessel you live in is 100 trillion bacteria. That’s kind of a lot, don’t you think? You’re more bacteria than you have cells in your body, so eating probiotic cultured foods is a no brainer. These are some of the most powerful reasons you need to eat cultured foods to help boost your immune system. I’m not just giving you facts and figures, I have actually lived these results and seen so many others do the same. They work, they do the job, and you will receive the benefits. It will make you a believer.
Eat your cultured foods: kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables. They talk to your immune system and keep you strong.
- [Evaluation of lysine and methionine production in some Lactobacilli and yeasts. International Journal of Food Microbiology. Odunfa et al.]