Health Advice Paula Owens

With flu season upon us, many people question whether or not they should get a flu shot. Instead of putting your health at great risk by getting a flu shot, a healthier option is to boost your immune system naturally and limit immune suppressors.

Immune suppressors include: sugar, soda, wheat, dehydration, thyroid dysfunction, antibiotics, NSAIDs, drugs, food sensitivities, vegetable oils and trans fats, and more.

Three immune suppressors you have direct control over are dehydration, stress and sugar consumption. One sugar related study showed that immune cells in a no sugar group destroyed 14 times more bacteria than the high sugar group. Avoiding wheat, soda and sugar is essential to optimize immune function. Your immune system is suppressed for 8-12 hours after consuming sugar.

Avoid foods your body’s sensitive to. The main culprits include processed soy, pasteurized dairy products, gluten, wheat, corn and sugar. Consuming foods you’re body is sensitive to increase inflammation, cause feelings of fatigue or make you hyper, create hives or sinus problems, bloating and digestive issues, plus more causing a weakened immune system.

Approximately 80 percent of the immune system resides in your digestive tract. Address digestive dysfunction and heal your gut.

Sleep is one of the greatest immune enhancers that boosts your body’s ability to fight disease. Sleep is nature’s greatest repair mechanism. Immune power builds the most during restful sleep, so lights out by 10 p.m. Growth hormone is released at this time which boosts the immune system and aids in the growth and repair of your body. I heard one researcher say “the greatest antioxidant we possess is a good night’s sleep.”

Make sure the superhighway of the lymphatic system is open to carry immune fighting WBC’s and remove toxins from the body. This can be achieved by practicing deep breathing, lymphatic massage, bouncing on a mini-trampoline and regular, moderate exercise.

Interval and strength training increase levels of endorphins in your body, thereby stimulating your immune system, reducing stress and putting you in a better mood. Avoid excessive exercise, particularly overdoing aerobic-type exercise. The body perceives excessive exercise as an additional stressor, further compromising and suppressing the immune system.

Stress is an inevitable part of life and comes in many forms. Awareness is the first key. Go for a walk, get a massage, surround yourself with people who love and support you, meditate or find some other stress-relieving technique that works for you.

Organic foods can be more powerful than pharmaceuticals and without the side effects. Increase the amount of colorful fruits, veggies and leafy greens and eliminate the nutritionally-void, immune-deflating white flour, sugar, wheat and processed and packaged foods.

Increase fruits and vegetables to 10 servings a day. Eat more leafy greens, which have been shown to influence intestinal health by delivering a protective factor to certain cells of the immune system.

Green drinks and juicing are nutritious and delicious ways to increase your vegetables and antioxidant intake for cellular repair.

Include plenty of organic protein. Remember, the first 40g of protein you eat every day goes to rebuild your immune system.

Drink green and white teas, which contain polyphenols and catechins. Polyphenols and antioxidants clean up free radicals, the damaging compounds that can reprogram your DNA, degrade collagen, accelerate aging, breakdown your immune system and cause inflammatory reactions. Green tea has been shown to inhibit bacteria and viruses, and stimulate the immune system (Imanishi N et al 2002).

Boost your immune system with garlic, turmeric, ginger, oregano, coconut oil, kefir, shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms, vitamin D, goldenseal, lemons and echinacea.

Healthy saturated fats and cholesterol actually help fight infections, particularly viral infections like the flu. Media and medical advice about avoiding saturated fats, lowering cholesterol and eating margarine instead of butter actually weaken your immune system making your cells more vulnerable to attack by viruses.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil boosts your immune system by improving white blood cell count.

Every study shows that people who are connected to other people through healthy, loving marriages, friendships and communities, live longer, are healthier, and have better performing immune systems.

Increase water consumption and add a pinch of unprocessed sea salt and the juice from a fresh lemon or lime.

Nutritional support can build up your immune system, but it is important to know that it takes most people six to 12 weeks of use before the immune system becomes stronger. It’s very challenging to obtain sufficient nutrition from food alone. Much of today’s food is over processed, void of many essential nutrients and grown in soils that are saturated with synthetic fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies trigger more diseases, accelerate aging, and weaken the immune system.


• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” She is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience, and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and fat-loss program. Visit Paula at

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