In the last 100 years, humanity has made more progress than anyone could ever have imagined. That is, in all aspects but one: the way we eat.
In the midst of making amazing technological advancements, pushing the boundaries of what’s physically possible, and bringing productivity to a whole new level, we’ve also managed to completely disregard what’s good for us in terms of nutrition.
Sure, people are becoming more aware of the negative impacts of a Western diet on the immune system. And yes, there are many of us who are constantly searching for natural, wholesome alternatives that will fuel us through our busy schedules. But for most people, food is still just a passing thought.
Well, it may be time to completely rethink and overhaul this approach. Increasing numbers of research are showing a connection between the type of diet we eat regularly and all the contemporary ailments we seem to be suffering from. And, let me tell you, our prospects aren’t looking particularly good.
How we typically eat
If we ventured to ask a simple question such as “What is food?” we’d receive a different answer from every single person we talked to. But, if we look at the problem from a scientific point of view, we get a definition that’s much more universal. Simply put, food is just a collection of macro and micronutrients that are used by our body in order to produce the energy necessary for our system to function.
However, if we look at the different types of meals available to us, it quickly becomes obvious that not all foods were created equal.
Think about a standard junk food lunch: a white-bread sandwich slathered in condiments, filled with highly processed deli meats, perhaps with a side of fries. Typically, it will be washed down with a can of regular or diet soda, just to satisfy that sweet tooth.
Now consider the healthier option. A bowl full of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables with a little bit of lean protein (animal or plant-based) and healthy fats on the side. Beverage of choice: water, or perhaps green tea.
Now think about the macro and micronutrients either of these meals offers. The first is rich in simple carbs, trans fats, sugar, and sodium. The other, however, has a high dose of fiber, plenty of vitamins, a bit of protein, and good fats. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that the latter is the healthier choice.
How food is making us sick
As contemporary medicine tends to focus on curing symptoms instead of addressing their causes, we often tend to forget about the exponential impact nutrition has on our health. A diverse diet coupled with moderate exercise and a stress-free lifestyle seems to be the key to living a long and healthy life. But on the other side of the spectrum, we have a growing number of ailments we’re only now realizing have been caused by the way we eat.
Research done at the University of Bonn showed that junk food is correlated with a strong inflammatory response in the body, which resulted in an overly active immune system, as well as changes in our genetic coding. When exposed to such chronic inflammation, we are more likely to develop a number of health issues, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, and even autoimmune conditions, including arthritis or IBS.
Eliminating junk food and fixing your immune system
As found in the above-mentioned study, simply taking a break with junk food for a few weeks can do a great deal to calm inflammation and balance the immune system. But there’s also bad news. Every time we regress to our old eating habits, our immune system identifies junk food as a threat to our survival. What this means is that, in order to avoid flare-ups, the change in our diets needs to be permanent.
This is why it’s important to develop healthy, wholesome eating habits that are going to be beneficial for your gut, provide you with plentiful energy, and that will still satisfy your taste for good food.
The first step in the process is to start cooking at home. After all, it’s the only way you can ensure you’re getting the right amount of micro and macronutrients, as well as that you’re ingesting high-quality foods. It also provides you with a great deal of freedom to try and create recipes that are to your liking.
The second step is to identify any possible health issues you have and adjust your nutrition accordingly. Those with already developed autoimmune disease should consider following the AIP diet, while others may want to include a few superfoods in their meals so as to strengthen their natural defenses against common bugs.
Does this mean you can never have a burger and fries, or a scoop of ice cream ever again? Well, the answer to this question is both yes and no. While you can indulge in your favorite junk foods from time to time, as a treat (think once or twice a month), it’s important that you’re aware of the fact that they will impact your immune system.
So, as long as you’re eating really well, getting enough sleep, and following junk meals with inflammation-fighting foods, you’ll be good to go. But, if your plan is to binge on greasy red meats and sugary treats, well, then you’re setting up your natural defenses to fail.