Fall has arrived. And while this means joyous celebrations and feasts with family and friends… it is also the season for sniffles, coughing and the dreaded flu virus.
And while the common cold may be considered an inconvenient annoyance, the flu is altogether different. Influenza can keep you in bed for a week, with symptoms including high fever, sore throat, coughing and muscle aches. And the residual fatigue and coughing can last for weeks.
It is estimated that the flu results in over 31 million outpatient visits and more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year! And it’s no wonder that most of us take measures to avoid becoming sick during the winter season.
Getting enough vitamin D, washing your hands frequently, exercise, intermittent fasting, getting enough quality sleep, and consuming a nutrient-dense diet are all important strategies to keep your immune system strong and prepared.
However, research shows there is another way you can boost your immunity and help prevent the flu…
A Dangerous Combination: Sugar and Immune System
Consuming excess sugar is one of the primary threats to your immune system.
This was clearly proven in a study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition nearly 50 years ago.
Subjects in the study donated blood before and after consuming a large dose of sugar. The blood samples were then placed in a petri dish and inoculated with a strain of bacteria.
The researchers discovered that white blood cells, called neutrophils, were significantly less aggressive in attacking and engulfing the bacteria in the blood samples taken AFTER consuming sugar. The study noted that this demonstrates a down-throttling of the immune system, caused by sugar.
And what’s more, the hindered immune response lasted at least five hours – creating a window of opportunity for pathogens to take hold. It should also be noted that the researchers found that 36-60 hours of fasting significantly increased the activity and effectiveness of the neutrophils.
In a similar finding, researchers at Case Western University recently discovered that high blood sugar unleashes destructive molecules, called dicarbonyls, that interfere with the body’s natural antimicrobial and infection-control defenses.
These harmful molecules impair your ability to control inflammation and fight infection. And they are among the primary byproducts of glucose and fructose metabolism.
Given the direct correlation between sugar consumption and impaired immunity, it should come as no surprise that the ketogenic diet – a way of eating that’s exceptionally low in sugar – would provide a distinct advantage to your immune system.
And that’s exactly what a new study has shown…
The Keto Diet: Boost Your Immunity & Fight the Flu
The keto diet is wildly popular for good reason – because it works!
When your body adapts to the metabolic state of ketosis, between-meal hunger and cravings vanish. Fat loss accelerates. Your energy surges. Mental clarity and focus improve. And your risk for nearly every chronic illness diminishes.
It’s no wonder why millions of people worldwide now follow some version of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates and rich in healthy fats and protein.
And now there is a study showing that this popular and healthy way of eating could also help fight and prevent the flu.
In a recent Yale study, researchers found that mice fed a ketogenic diet were better able to combat the flu virus than mice fed a diet rich in carbohydrates. The researchers discovered that the keto diet specifically activates a powerful subset of T cells in the lungs, which enhance mucus production and effectively trap the virus.
This effect led to better outcomes and higher survival rates. On a standard carbohydrate-rich diet, these important immune cells were not activated.
The lead researcher, Dr Vishwa Dixit, DVM, Ph.D., had this to say about the results:
“This study shows that the way the body burns fat to produce ketone bodies from the food we eat can fuel the immune system to fight flu infection”
Guard Your Family Against the Flu Naturally
You can do a lot to protect the integrity of your immune system and help ward off cold and flu by following an ancestral, low-sugar or ketogenic diet. Here are some of my favorite cold-weather, keto-friendly, immune-boosting meal ideas:
- Grass-Fed Beef Bone Broth “Pho” with Ginger, Wild Shrimp, Green Onions and Cilantro
- Pastured Chicken Bone Broth with Sliced Garlic, Carrots, Celery and Pastured Chicken Thighs
- Pastured Lamb Burgers with Garlic Gremolata
- Grass-Fed Bison Roast with Cauliflower Mashers and Arugula Salad
In addition, here are some of my favorite immune-boosting strategies and supplements to have on hand to help you stay healthy through the holidays!
- Intermittent Fasting – 18 hours of fasting with 6 hour eating window is my preferred method. Work with your body to find what works best for you.
- Infrared Sauna – Raises core body temperature, helps to boost the immune system and kill invading organisms
- Vitamin D3 + K2 – An essential combination. Consider higher-dose pulses rather than everyday use
- Astragalus – A powerful “adaptogen” that helps to modulate the immune system
- Liposomal Vitamin C – Effective at killing viruses, bacteria and fungi
- Zinc Picolinate – Powerful immune support, anti-viral
- Elderberry – Purchase berries and make tea; avoid high-sugar elderberry syrups
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) – Powerful cellular detoxifier that thins secretions and helps relieve chest and sinus congestion
- Increase Hydration – Drink filtered water and consider adding a natural electrolyte powder or mineral-rich sea salt to keep vital salts in balance
Finally, it is important to be very proactive during the first signs of illness (the “prodromal period”). This can help to shorten the duration or reduce the virulence of cold and flu. The moment you feel the first “tickle” in your throat or twitch in your nose, begin boosting your immune system with the strategies listed above.