We are entering the season of weakened immune systems… which can be terrifying if you also happen to have diabetes. When you have diabetes, the key to staying healthy is not to suppress your immune system, but to support it.
Supporting your immune system means eating the right foods, staying active, getting rest, and avoiding stressors and toxins.
I know there is some confusion around “boosting” the immune system in those with an autoimmune disease, so let’s clear the air first.
Clearing up a Misconception
The fear surrounding boosting an immune system (in someone with an autoimmune disease) is that you’re going to overactive the immune disease even further; worsening the condition and possibly triggering the onset of a new one. That’s because, yes, an overactive immune system is not a healthy immune system.
Sure, you can suppress it with pharmaceutical drugs, but that’s just treating a symptom and worsening the underlying problem; your immune system needs healing. To heal the immune system is to support it in a balanced way.
Unlike the Western medical belief, our bodies are a whole functioning unit, not just independently functioning parts. To suppress the immune system, or to not support it, is not the way to get to a balanced and optimally functioning immune system. A healthy immune system comes from a number of factors like getting enough sleep, breathing clean air, drinking clean water, dealing with stress in a healthy way, staying active, avoiding toxins, and eating REAL FOOD rich in vitamins and minerals.
Taking care of your immune system is important all year long, but I like to pay extra special attention to it during the fall and winter months because that’s when it can really take a beating! Here is a list of vitamins, minerals, real food, and lifestyle choices I make sure to prioritize this time of year.
Supporting Your Immune System with Diabetes
Supporting your immune system can be broken down into two main categories. The first being what you put in your body and second being your lifestyle choices.
1. What You Put In Your Body
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the King of immune system health. The most potent sources of vitamin c are in tropical berries like camu camu and acerola. It can also be found in red peppers and strawberries. Oranges are not the best sources. I use this vitamin C powder made of camu camu and other berries.
Zinc: If vitamin C is the King, then Zinc is the Queen of immune system health. Zinc is mostly found in oysters, but its also found in beef liver which is why I supplement with either these desiccated liver capsules or zinc supplements.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential nutrient and plays a big role in immune system health. It is responsible for over 300 biochemical process in the human body and is particularly important for type 1 diabetics because we are more susceptible to depletion (read more about it here). Since magnesium is best absorbed topically, I like to either make my own magnesium spray (get my DIY recipe here) or I buy magnesium lotion (this is the brand I use)
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a big player in hormone production and immune system health. The benefits of Vitamin D go far beyond the scope of this post, and really deserves a post of its own. A great book that dives deep into this subject is The Vitamin D Solution. The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun, however, depending on where you live the rays that provide Vitamin D aren’t strong enough to reach us year round. I take this brand of Vitamin D during the fall and winter months.
B Vitamins: Nutritional yeast is my favorite source of B Vitamins. In regards to the immune system, B6 in particular helps the liver (which is involved in detoxing) and it works to create antibodies which help us fight disease. And B9 (folate) supports immune system function and cellular regeneration. It’s not just for pregnant mamas!
Selenium: Selenium is a super powerful antioxidant that helps the body respond appropriately to stress. It’s also well known for its effects on promoting fertility and thyroid health. Just a few brazil nuts a day and you’ve got your daily dose! When I’m not eating Brazil nuts, I’m supplementing with this brand.
Iron: Iron is mostly known for its effects on red blood cells, but it also helps promote restful sleep and brain development which are integral parts of a healthy immune system. It’s found in red meat and legumes. Cooking with cast iron pans will also help raise your iron levels. These are the cast iron pans I love and use in my house.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is another powerful antioxidant that helps support all the cells in your body. The best source is in cod liver oil and desiccated liver capsules.
Raw Garlic: Raw garlic is a powerhouse when it comes to strengthening the immune system. It is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti fungal! Get the most bang for your buck by mincing garlic and letting it sit for 10 minutes before you eat it. This releases allicin, the component of garlic that is healing.
Fermented Foods: Fermented foods are loaded with probiotics. They have a healthy variety of bacteria and yeast that helps to keep the gut balanced…and 80% of our immune system comes from our gut.
Raw ACV: Not only is raw AVC fermented, giving you all the amazing pre & probiotics for your gut, but it’s also antibacterial. This is the brand we use.
Chaga Mushrooms: Grown on birch trees, Chaga mushrooms are one of the highest sources of antioxidants in nature. If you aren’t a fan of cooking with mushrooms, then Four Sigmatic’s Chaga Mushroom Elixir is a great way to get a serving in. It’s caffeine free!
Reishi Mushroom: Known for its calming effects, reishi mushrooms help ensure peaceful sleep and hormone regulation which are big players when it comes to immune system health. It also helps to detox the liver and reduce inflammation. This is HUGE for diabetics or anyone with an autoimmune disease. My favorite way to get in reishi mushrooms is by drinking Four Sigmatic’s Reishi Mushroom Elixir. This is caffeine free too.
Clean Water: Our bodies are 60% water. Making sure the water you’re drinking is pure & clean goes a VERY LONG WAY in your overall health. Water helps you detox and keeps the lymphatic system flowing. Ditch the bottled water which typically supplemented with fluoride and stored in plastic. And if your house uses town/city water (as opposed to having your own well) you’ll want to think about getting a filter.
Getting Optimal Sleep: Sleep is critical for our health. We detox and heal during during sleep. Aim for 8-10 hours and adjust seasonally. You will find that you need more sleep during the winter months than the summer because of our circadian rhythms.
Move: Our bodies were made to move. Movement does so much for the body and mind!
Detox: Healthy bodies are constantly detoxing. I like to give my body a little extra help by taking epsom salt baths at least once a week. This is the Epsom Salt I use.
Healthy Stress Management: Stress does a NUMBER to our health and immune system. It messes with just about every function of your body, but especially the adrenal glands and our endocrine system. Practicing mindfulness and having healthy outlets for stress are paramount to reducing stress.
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