by Karissa Winkel
Tis the Season! Yes, the holidays have passed, but many of us may be fighting the common cold or flu this time of year. Sniffles, sore throat and congestion may be the start of a long list of symptoms that you suffer from Every. Single. Year. So, you might be wondering, how can I use paleo diet recipes to keep from getting sick this winter?
Can my diet affect my chances of illness?
Can I take certain supplements to boost immunity?
Well, you have come to the right place. Here at The Crowded Table, we love all things Paleo, and today we will look at how paleo diet recipes can help prevent illness. To top it off, we will let you in on some of the best paleo recipes that will help to build the immune system all year round. So, squeeze on in, we saved a seat just for you!
Why is eating paleo good for you in the first place?
First things first. You may be new to the world of paleo, so let’s talk about why it is such a game-changer. The paleo diet reduces the intake of grains, dairy products, and processed foods while increasing the consumption of leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, and lean meats. Here are a few proven ways the paleo diet has changed the health status of millions:
The “Dietary Inflammatory Index” created in one study, found that common foods high in phytochemicals, omega-3 fatty acids, and niacin are anti-inflammatory . Yet another study suggests that refined cereal grains that contain gluten and wheat lectin are highly pro-inflammatory .
In simple terms, this shows that fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats found in the paleo diet are exceptionally anti-inflammatory while common processed foods that are excluded from the paleo diet can cause inflammation.
Provides a healthy gut environment
Once again, the effects of fruit and vegetables are bountiful, and paleo consumers reap these benefits due to the plant-based nature of this diet. Studies show that increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables leads to higher production of good bacteria in the gut, and this increase in fiber consumption can reduce harmful bacteria. 
Supplies a rich variety of micronutrients
While micronutrients may not be on your radar, they play a huge role in physiological functions such as preventing cell damage, maintaining blood pressure, and supporting the nervous system. These are vital when it comes to general health. In fact, data suggests that the most nutritious foods are naturally occurring, and according to this list  of the most nutrient-dense foods, every single one is paleo approved!
How can paleo diet recipes help prevent illness?
Yes, all of the points listed above may seem like great effects of the paleo diet, but what do they have to do with boosting the immune system?
1. Inflammation in the body is often a result of the immune response, and in many individuals, it is triggered by refined grains, dairy products, and sugar to name a few. [5,6, 7] Reducing the intake of these culprits with the paleo diet can diminish inflammation. This results in an efficient immune response when true invaders enter the body.
2. Gut health is another key factor in a person’s overall well-being. This emerging topic has gained the interest of researchers far and wide due to the complex environment of bacteria in the gut. Eating foods such as leafy greens and fresh fruits that support an environment for good bacteria is key to fighting off intruders. This is because microbiota in the gut serve as a primary response in fighting bad bacteria, viruses, and germs that enter the body. 
3. “Micronutrients A, D, C, E, B6, and B12, folate, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium, play vital, often synergistic roles at every stage of the immune response.”  BUT did you know that the majority of adult Americans do not meet the average requirements of iron, vitamins A, D, and C?  Luckily, many common foods in the paleo diet are packed with these micronutrients.
What other ways can I boost my immune system?
So maybe you’re already a paleo pro, get ALL of the vitamins known to man, and have infallible gut health. Or maybe you’re just chewing on the idea of a paleo diet (ba dum tss!). No matter who you are, there are plenty more proven habits that can boost your immune system! Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Stress Management
Taking care of the kids, meeting big deadlines, and adding to your endless to-do list may cause more harm than you realize. Chronic stress is proven to significantly reduce cellular immunity , so it is important to take a deep breath and to enjoy life. Journaling, getting outdoors, and listening to music are just a few ideas to get your zen back and to boost your immune system!
2. Adequate Sleep
As you already know, sleep is a vital time in which the body is hard at work repairing tissue, balancing hormones, and storing away memories. During the sleep cycle, the immune system also releases cytokines. These tiny proteins fight inflammation and infection, so getting enough sleep to support the production of cytokines is critical in preventing illness .
People either love it or hate it. Either way, exercise has proven to be a huge component of general health. It has the potential to boost mood, lower blood pressure, and maybe even help you drop a pound or two. So, it might not be a huge surprise that regular exercise has the ability to improve blood flow and promote production of white blood cells- whose main job is to fight off invaders .
4. Consider a Probiotic
If it’s not obvious by now… We can’t stress gut health enough! Not convinced yet? Well, you should know: the number of bacteria in the microbiome compared to cells in the body is a 10:1 ratio . This means that you have around 40-300 trillion bacteria inside of you! EW, right? Well… not quite. The good bacteria in the gut is extremely influential to many areas of health- including immunity. According to Harvard, taking a probiotic can decrease the number of colds you get in a year.
So how do you pick the right probiotic?
- Pay attention to the number of species and CFUs (colony forming units) of bacteria. In this case, the more the merrier (look for 5 billion CFUs or greater.)
- Make sure there is a good variety of bacteria included in your probiotic. Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces are three types of bacteria that can support the immune response. 
- Consider an option that also contains prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that help to maintain the stability of the probiotic before making it to the gut.
- Finally, make sure the expiration date is far into the future! The “fresher” the probiotic, the more living strains of bacteria that you can benefit from.
Here are a few options to check out:
Probiotics are considered a safe supplement, but ask your doctor if a probiotic is appropriate for your individual circumstances!
Here are some answers to common questions:
Why is paleo good for autoimmune diseases?
The paleo diet for autoimmune diseases (known as the AIP protocol) is a promising healing method for those who suffer from lupus, psoriasis, and more. The AIP protocol may play a significant role in reducing inflammation, which can result in minimized symptoms of autoimmune disorders.
Does a low carb diet weaken your immune system?
Well, it depends on your view of what “carbs” are. Many people imagine refined foods like doughnuts and pasta when carbs are brought to mind. These simple carbs can be detrimental to gut health and increase inflammation. BUT in scientific terms, carbohydrates are one of the 3 macronutrient groups (carbs, fat, protein). In this case, carbs can be made up of complex carbs found in fruits and vegetables that nourish the immune system. Ultimately, a diet high in complex carbs can be extremely beneficial for the immune system! Long story short, opt for the natural, unrefined source of carbs when you have immune health in mind.
And finally, the moment you are been waiting for (or scrolling for) … drum roll please! Below are our favorite paleo recipes packed with nutrients to boost immunity. Enjoy!
Paleo Diet Recipes That Support The Immune System:
There are lots of factors that influence our immune system, and not all of them are under our control. But, there is SO much we CAN do to build a healthy immune system. Now that you have some paleo diet recipes to get you started, it’s time to get out there and get started on improving your immune health, one step at a time!
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