Keto and The Immune System
Can the Keto diet help boost one’s immune system?
While following a ketogenic diet won’t stop you from ever getting a cold again, it is possible to boost the immune system while following a ketogenic diet to help fight the bacteria that causes us to catch a cold.
When eating a real food diet and establishing ketosis, the immune system will have an excellent boost naturally.
Eating foods higher in nutrients are essential to being able to support the immune system.
Unfortunately, fast foods and processed foods make it difficult for our body to digest nutrients. This is because these foods contain inflammation causing manufactured omega 6 and trans fats, making it harder for the body to digest foods optimally and get the benefits from the nutrients we put in. Let’s have a look at how keto and the immune system works together.
Probiotics and Fermented Foods
Probiotics help with balancing the good bacteria and the bad bacteria in our digestive system. The bacteria, or micro organisms, are essential for our health. Our gut needs these bacteria to help our bodies digest what’s put into it. Scientists have found the optimal balance of friendly and bad bacteria to be 80:20. 80% good bacteria vs 20% bad bacteria.
When the balance is out of whack, it’s harder for our body to properly digest the food in the digestive system. When we get sick, the friendly bacteria can be killed off. Some medications like antibiotics and poor diet also kill off the good bacteria.
Some of the benefits of probiotics include improved health, weight loss, reduced the risk and severity of diarrhea improved immune system and improved mental health. Here we’ll focus on boosting immunity.
One research showed that probiotics can reduce the severity of respiratory infections in children. Other research showed a 50% reduced risk of urinary tract infections when participants were given the probiotic Lactobacillus crispatus.
Probiotics are frequently found in fermented food such as kombucha and yoghurt or in supplements.
Other foods that contain probiotics are kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso, kimchi, natto and soy products.
Some cheeses also contain friendly bacteria. These include Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese.
We all know the benefits of garlic for colds, but have you heard of Aged Garlic? It’s garlic that has been fermented over a 20 month period which can help with fighting a cold while also providing an immunity boost. This is due to it’s fermentation qualities.
Antioxidants occur naturally in plant based foods such as vegetables, fruit, coffee, tea, wine, chocolate. Specifically, antioxidants consist of flavanols (found in chocolate), resveratrol (found in wine) and lycopene (in tomatoes). They are also vitamins such as A (beta-carotene), C, and E and catechins. Astaxanthin, another antioxidant, defends the immune system most effectively by protecting the cell membranes from singlet oxygen free radicals.
Antioxidants are the immune system’s defense which fight oxygenated Free Radicals – and how they affect the immune system. Free radicals, aka oxidants, damage and lower the immune system’s ability to protect the body from the multitude of bacteria that we are exposed to on a daily basis.
Antioxidants and free radicals are produced by our own systems on a daily basis naturally. Free radicals more often out number antioxidants which is why it’s important to consume antioxidants as a way to maintain the balance for our health. Antioxidants neutralize and remove free radicals from the blood.
So the best way to boost the immune system is to increase your free radical fighting warriors – antioxidants – to help the immune system cope and be fighting fit!
One of my favorite antioxidant drinks is berry radical by miessence.
Containing 9 antioxidants, it’s the perfect balance of berries, cacao, and coffee beans (with minimum caffeine). To try this for yourself click here.
Low Carb Foods and Drinks That Contain Antioxidants:
Most vegetables contain antioxidants. Low carb fruits such as Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries also contain antioxidants.
Herbs and spices – if you add these to your cooking on a regular basis, their antioxidant contribution adds up!
And drinks such as Coffee, Tea, Green Tea and wine (in moderation) are all able to fight free radicals through their antioxidant compounds.
Don’t forget to include your protein. As part of the ketogenic diet poultry is particularly helpful in supporting the immune system as it contains vitamin B-6. Vitamin B-6 helps perform various chemical processes which help the body function properly. In particular, chicken and turkey bone broth have valuable nutrients that supports healing of the gut and immune system.
Nutrients To Boost The Immune System
Did you know that vitamin C is found in many other foods aside from citrus foods. Yes, citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges have vitamin C and help boost the immune system but there are other sources of food that have more which also help with fighting infections. Red Bell Peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits, and also contain beta carotene, an antioxidant which is boosts your immune system. Strawberries also contain vitamin C which are great in a ketogenic diet. Vitamin C also help strengthen your cell membranes and prevents viruses from entering.
Broccoli is another super awesome keto friendly immune boosting food that needs minimal cooking to retain it’s nutritional value. It contains vitamins C, A and E and many antioxidants and contributes to a healthy immune system.
Garlic helps fight infections, while also reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Ginger can also help when fighting a cold.
Although vitamin C is well known for its ability to fight infection and colds, it’s also important to incorporate foods that contain vitamin E. This vitamin is essential for a healthy immune system. One food in particular that contains this essential nutrient and helps with boosting the immune system is almonds. Healthy fats help vitamin E absorption found in almonds. For more information around how this is connected, read about it in my other post.
Sunflower seeds also contain vitamin E which supports the immune system.
This less common mineral also boosts the immune system and help it function as it’s supposed to. Natural sources that contain zinc include shellfish such as lobster, clams, crab and mussels.
Coping With Stress
Research shows a link between stress and the body’s ability to fight physical illness. So it makes sense to ensure we minimize stress and practice strategies that help manage stress.
Activities such as yoga, mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), meditation, and exercise all contribute to lowering stress levels. By managing stress, our body is better able to do its job more efficiently keeping you healthy and fighting bacteria and viruses.
Having a good night’s sleep is more than just getting enough sleep. Did you know that when we don’t get enough zzz’s, we are potentially compromising the release of hormones that control appetite and feeling full. So too is our ability to manage stress emotionally and physically. Not enough sleep can lead to weight gain and a lowered immune system. It also puts more pressure on our adrenal glands and increases our stress response (see above). Without sufficient sleep, it can really wreak havoc on our immune system. Practice good sleep hygiene practices will help boost your body’s bug fighting ability.
Sleep allows our body to release cytokines when we sleep for minimum of 8 hours. This protein regulates the immune system, thus helping the body fight infection.
Keto and the Immune System
So once you decide to follow a ketogenic diet and incorporate the above foods, you will be giving your body the best chance at fighting the immune attacking bugs.
Getting through the winter season will be made easier with a bug fighting system when you incorporate natural, real foods. It doesn’t mean you will never get sick, but it does improve your body’s ability to fight those winter bugs!
Happy keto’ing my friends