How to Prevent Disease & Illness in Your Family
February 17, 2020 // by Laura Malone
“Why is my child fighting his fifth cold this school year? Why do my colds always turn into infections? Is it possible to grow old without growing sick? Are monthly doctor appointments inevitable as I age? Am I doomed to have heart disease since it’s prevalent in my family?”
These are all good questions we’ve all fought with from time to time. A family suffering from a multitude of illnesses throughout the year, whether common viruses or major diseases, is not the life any of us aspire to, but it’s the reality for many. Staying well enables us to enjoy the mom life while our kids are young. And as we age, good health helps us become lively and productive grandmothers that can continue loving and guiding our future generations.
So, today I want to look at one powerful way scientists have discovered we can be proactive at preventing and reversing some of the diseases and illnesses that commonly plague our families.
Get the Facts
Nearly half of all adults in the United States have heart disease according to the American Heart Association. It is the number one cause of death in the United States and cancer is number two. Autoimmune diseases such as Celiac, Diabetes, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis and Rheumatoid Arthritis affect 23.5 million Americans and are rising each year according to the National Institutes of Health. Flu and pneumonia rank 8th for top causes of death in the U.S. and it is common for children to suffer from eight to ten colds per year.
Effects of Disease & Illness on Our Families
Sometimes we glaze over statistics but when a disease or illness hits at home, it gets our attention. They not only steal our comfort, productivity and quality of life, they steal our time with the people we love most – our families.
With seven people in our family, when one person catches a virus, it takes about a month for us to clear it from the house. A month of sick kids equals a month of stress for me as I’m cooped up in the house weaning everyone back to health, trying to prevent it from spreading and agonizing over all the catching up we’ll have to do later.
And we’ve all seen how diseases like diabetes and cancer turn people’s lives upside down. We know the mom with young children that has an autoimmune flare up and is forced to lie in bed for days or the grandmother battling cancer who is too weak to attend her granddaughter’s birthday party. These are not the days we dream about when we get married and have families, but it’s the life that slowly sneaks up on some of us and becomes our reality.
These stories and statistics sound depressing and hopeless, but guess what! This doesn’t have to be the story for our families. In his book, Super Immunity, Dr. Furhman says a huge part of staying well and living life to the fullest is working hard to build strong immune systems by adding “super foods” to our daily diet. Super foods are high-micronutrient foods, loaded with vitamins and minerals, that have been proven to increase our defenses against infections and cancer.
We’ll talk about which foods are super foods and I’ll give you a couple of ideas on how to incorporate them into your daily meals. First, let’s understand how the immune system works because we can’t take care of it properly if we can’t make sense of it.
Understanding How the Immune System Works
Did you know that the damage that occurs in our cells daily can be stopped and repaired before cancer or other diseases begin if we maintain a strong immune system? In the same way, viruses that enter our bodies can be killed quickly by our immune system without us even knowing they were there and if we do get sick, it helps us recover sooner. It’s a hard working, super powerful system inside our bodies that we never think about!
Here’s how I explain it to my kids. Pretend your body is a country and your immune system is its army. In order for your army to victoriously defend your country, you have to provide it with what it needs, such as regular training, adequate food for energy, plenty of weapons that are appropriate for the job and intelligence. In the same way, your immune system needs proper nutrients so that it has the energy, weapons and intelligence to do its job. Feeding your immune system overly-processed, chemical-induced convenience food is like equipping a modern-day army with swords or bows and arrows. No one would do that because it would be ridiculously unfair and disastrous. That army would be doomed and the same is true for our body’s army. We have to supply it with the proper equipment if we expect it to do its job. Micronutrients equip our body’s army so that it can be the superhero God designed it to be.
A strong immune system is a strong army, a superhero. A weak one allows the villains to take over. By understanding its power and capabilities, we can take charge of our family’s health. We must stop equating our health to playing the lottery and believe that in most cases, our health is about our choices.
But What About Genetics?
Aren’t some of us doomed to get certain diseases because it runs in our families? No. Scientists have discovered that genes have an on and off switch which they call gene expression. The switch either leads to the development of a disease or protects you against it. Behavioral changes, such as eating micronutrient foods, exercising and lowering stress, can turn off the genes that makes you prone to a specific disease.
Causes of a Weak Immune System
There are many things that weaken our bodies’ troops such as stress, overuse of antibiotics, toxins and a sedentary lifestyle, but the lack of micronutrients is a crucial one. Cancer and heart disease don’t just pop up overnight. They are the result of a weak immune system that has been exhausted and lacking key nutrients for years.
The extreme change in the standard American diet over the last 80 years has had a direct effect on the increase we are seeing in these illnesses. Since the early 1900’s, we have transitioned from eating whole, seasonal, real fruits and vegetables to overly processed foods sprayed with fertilizer and insecticide. And although it hasn’t been proven, scientists suspect that the inflammation caused by the high-fat, high-sugar and processed foods of the “Western Diet” leads to the hyper-responsive behavior of the immune system causing the various autoimmune diseases.
According the Center for Disease Control, only one in ten adults meet the daily federal fruit or vegetable recommendations. And with a restaurant or convenience store on every corner, it’s obvious that convenience is a booming business. Why? Because our busy lives force us to prioritize time over health, but what we’re forgetting is that without good health we have no time.
Signs of a Weak Immune System
Listen to your body and your child’s body. These are a few of your immune system’s “May Day” signals:
- Frequent colds and infections (pneumonia, bronchitis);
- Viruses that last longer than ten days;
- Ongoing tummy troubles;
- Rashes or other ongoing skin problems;
- Wounds that are slow to heal;
- Chronic fatigue.
Any time you have “May Day” symptoms, it’s a sign your immune system is hard at work. The more your army works in one area, the less resources it has available in another. This means a new virus has time to adapt itself, become dangerous and multiply. So, it’s important to address your body’s cry for help quickly.
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Super Foods – Feeding the Army
Dr. Furhman explains that the perfect recipe to unleash your immune system’s potential is eating a sufficient amount and variety of super foods. He calls this Comprehensive Nutritional Adequacy (CNA). These plant-based micronutrients strengthen and support normal immune function and protect against not only infections and cancer, but also heart disease, strokes, dementia and autoimmune diseases.
Over 200 studies show that the high amounts of micronutrients in raw green vegetables have the most consistent and powerful association with the reduction of all types of cancer and can prevent DNA damage, as well as repair and rebuild any damage that has already occurred. Of course, historians and archaeologists say ancient civilizations knew quite well how certain foods could promote health and fight diseases. And now, after many years of creating our own genetically modified foods and suffering the consequences, we’ve come full circle and realized the original God-designed way of eating real, organic fruits and vegetables is the best way for our bodies to stay healthy.
A superhero immune system can’t be accomplished overnight. This is a lifestyle change. It requires being more thoughtful about your food choices and planning ahead so that you don’t find yourself at the fast food joint several times a week on the way home from chauffeuring your kids around to practices. It’s scheduling out a block of time daily to cook, juice or pack lunches that include these super foods. A strong immune system needs consistency and dedication. And after just a few weeks of adding these super foods to your diet, you’ll feel a difference in your body and decide it’s worth the extra work.
Check out this list of immune-enhancing super foods that Dr. Furhman recommends and get creative. Experiment with at least one new food a week. He recommends we eat six servings of fresh fruit and eight servings of these specific vegetables each day, but even moderate amounts will stimulate improvement in our immune function.
Here are the micronutrient must-haves that have been proven to help your immune system fight diseases and illnesses:
(Arugula, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, kale, swiss chard, radishes, spinach, turnips, watercress):
- These are the most powerful anti-cancer foods;
- Eat them raw for the max benefit.
(White, cremini, portobello, maitake, reishi and oyster):
- Always eat cooked for food safety;
- Fights autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus;
- Prevents DNA damage, slows cancer cells or tumor growth, causes cancer cells to die and prevents tumor from acquiring a blood supply;
- Decreases risk of breast cancer by 60-70%;
- Combine them with greens for a powerful effect.
(Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives and scallions):
- Anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant;
- Has been proven to cause remarkable reductions in colon, ovarian, esophageal, prostate and stomach cancers.
(Pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai berries, goji berries, elderberries and strawberries):
- Antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory;
- Treat and prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance;
- Lower blood pressure, prevent heart attacks and strokes;
- Improve symptoms of depression.
(Flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame):
- Control cell damage;
- Prevent and reverse many diseases including heart disease and cancer;
- Contain higher protein than nuts.
And before you get overwhelmed, let me give you a tip to make this more doable for your busy schedule. Combine a variety of these foods into a vegetable soup. Cook it at the beginning of the week and eat it for dinner one night and the leftovers can be snacks or lunches throughout the week. Here’s my husband’s Healthy Hodge-Podge Soup he made last week which includes a variety of super foods.
The wonderful thing about this soup is you can change it weekly by using the Create Your Own Hodge-Podge Soup formula chart I’ve included below. Variety will keep you from getting burned out. Remember this is not a diet. Make the soup with the super foods of your choice, then dress it up. Add cheese, make it spicy or creamy. Do whatever you need to do to enjoy it each week because if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it. Your army will love it and your health is worth it!
Another way to combine several of these super foods is to create a juice like my favorite Green Juice so you can consume as many micronutrient foods as possible into one meal. This recipe can easily be changed as well by choosing different cruciferous vegetables or switching out the pineapple and grapes for berries or any other fruit.
Our immunity is an asset from God with the ability to give us a long and active life. Let’s not take that for granted. I hope this post encourages and inspires you! Let me know what changes you’re making this week and if you try the recipes I’ve shared.
Let’s do our best to form new habits by adding these super foods to our daily meals. Our lives should be spent enjoying our families instead of unnecessarily sitting in medical waiting rooms and taking handfuls of medicines we can’t even pronounce. Make time for your health. It’s a gift to yourself that keeps on giving, for a lifetime.
Remember, healthy families make happy homes!