Dear Parent, have you ever questioned your sanity as you nurse your child through another round of a miserable sore throat, hacking cough, or ear infection? As you swish out the throw-up bowl for another round? As you schedule another doctor’s appointment while silently wishing you knew how to simply boost immunity instead?
Some of life’s parenting questions are easy.
“Mommy, is lake spelled with a ‘c’ or a ‘k’?”
“Mama, what season comes after winter?”
Some questions are not as simple or straightforward … like how to keep your sanity and maintain a better-than-miserable experience for your child during cold/flu season.
Enter the practical and timeless wisdom of the GAPS Diet …
These are on my list of favorite words (and what I aim for with my family and practice).
Today I’ll be examining the first of the top 10 ways to boost the immune system. These are taken from the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. And they are simple ways to have robust health.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Natasha is a neurologist with a master’s in nutrition from the UK, who created a dietary protocol for healing autism, as well as other neurological, chronic and autoimmune issues. She has helped patients around the world and has trained other practitioners to do so as well. The GAPS Diet helps by healing and sealing the gut lining, reducing toxic burden on the immune system, and replenishing beneficial microbes. For more on GAPS you can visit gaps.me
This list of immune system boosters influences immunity for the better. They are not just for the winter season either…they influence the intricacies of the body in ways that only whole foods and natural practices can…working with our bodies and not against.
So … numero uno … drumroll, please.
(Keep it light, health talk can get too serious!)
Boost the Immune System #1: Fresh animal fats (from meats and dairy), and cholesterol-rich foods (especially raw egg yolk)
When I first began my journey into real foods and dietary healing, the most surprising aspect was the concept of animal fats and cholesterol as healthy and healing. Intuitively though, my cells were doing a happy dance (yay!).
Why animal fats and cholesterol?
Cholesterol is one of the most essential substances to the function of the human body!
– The brain and nervous system are the most hungry for it. Our brain cells and memory depend on it.
– The second system most hungry for cholesterol is our endocrine system.
– The hormones, built with cholesterol by our endocrine glands, are responsible for important activities, such as:
- Reproduction and sexual health
- Bone, brain, and muscle formation
- Energy production
Cholesterol is essential for our immune system to function!
The human organism is composed of 100+ trillion cells
Immune cells are “star” cells…
- Helper T cells
- Natural killer cells
- The “phils”, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils
- Mast cells
Immune cells depend on cholesterol to fight infections and repair themselves after defending and fighting for us. Animal and human studies have shown that folks with high levels of cholesterol have higher protection against infection. They are four times less likely to get AIDS, they are less likely to pick up every cold, and they recover much quicker when they do get sick.
Those with low cholesterol are more likely to get sick, stay sick longer, and have more of a chance of an infection morphing into a dangerous and even deadly one.
Cholesterol is important in cell to cell communication. Since immune cells communicate with each other throughout the body it is important to have well-made cell membranes that have good cell receptor sites and messaging capabilities.
Diets high in poor quality fat, i.e. vegetable oils like canola oil, corn oil, cooking sprays, margarine, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats, cause inflammation and lead to immune abnormalities.
Without cholesterol and saturated fats in its membrane, the immune cell cannot fulfill its tiny little destiny.
The ability of white blood cells to recognize and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses, fungi, and bacteria, is restricted without sufficient saturated fatty acids in them.
Saturated fats and cholesterol are what give every cell membrane its structure and stability.
Cholesterol is such an important part of physiology that the body has very tightly regulated mechanisms to keep blood cholesterol at a certain level. We give our bodies a hand if we consume foods rich in cholesterol.
Which foods are richest in cholesterol?
- Caviar (a whopping 588mg of cholesterol per 100g…baby making food)
- Cod liver oil (570mg of cholesterol per 100g)
- Fresh egg yolk (424mg per 100g)
- Butter (218mg per 100g)
- Coldwater fish and shellfish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, and shrimp, ranging from 173mg to 81mg per 100g)
- Lard (94mg per 100g, with other animal fats following, such as beef tallow, chicken, duck, goose fat)
Summation – with cholesterol and saturated fats, you too can fulfill your destiny 🙂
A few facts on fats and cholesterol with regard to immunity:
- Caprylic acid (a fatty acid found in butter and other animal fats) is a powerful antiviral nutrient
- Monolaurin, an extract of lauric acid (a fatty acid found in coconut and breastmilk) is also a potent antiviral
- Old medical literature shows that infections like tuberculosis used to be treated with raw cream and raw egg yolk (high in cholesterol)
- Native Americans and other peoples used bear fat as medicine (and for a lil’ baby-making, if necessary)
- Vitamin D (a dietary source high in D is fermented cod liver oil) is a steroid hormone and powerful immune and gene regulator. Apart from dietary sources, Vitamin D actually starts with cholesterol in your skin and, with the sun’s obliging kiss, undergoes several changes…first in the skin, then the liver, and finally the kidneys, before it is in the active form that regulates calcium metabolism and absorption, and strengthens immunity
Where can I get these healthy fats to boost the immune system?
The best way to get animal fats and good quality eggs (that are pastured) is to get to know your local grass-based farmer. You can also find help from a local chapter of the Weston Price Foundation. Animal fats such as tallow, lard, and poultry fats are not always readily available, but if you befriend your local farmers they can usually help you find them. There are also online sources for healthy fats.
- Cod liver oil – I recommend high vitamin cod liver oil rendered the traditional way with no heat to denature nutrients and delicate omega-3 fats.
- Fish eggs and Caviar (source)
- Egg yolks – Ask around to find your nearest grass-based farmer or backyard enthusiast.
- Coldwater fish and shellfish – wild-caught.
- Rendered lard and other animal fats.
How we incorporate fats and cholesterol into our family’s diet
As a mother of four children, I am keen on having healthy kiddos! Some ways in which we incorporate healthy fats and cholesterol to boost the immune system are:
- Liberal butter usage on grain-free muffins (I make my own raw butter or use Organic Valley’s pastured butter)
- Raw pastured eggs in smoothies, Russian custard, my homemade mayonnaise, and sometimes in soups
- Shrimp weekly, sauteed in butter of course!
- High vitamin cod liver oil daily – 1 tsp for the kids and 2 tsp for mom and dad
- We saute’ plenty of vegetables in lard, butter, coconut oil, etc. and we add these fats liberally into any soup we make
Incorporate healthy fats and cholesterol into your family’s diet and those “mama nurse” moments will become fewer and farther apart (your cells will also do a happy dance).