Strategies for Strengthening the Immune System

By Alana Battiston, RD, CYT

The role of the immune system is to determine what is a friend and what is a foe in order to keep you healthy. When we are exposed to a “foe”, it begins to fight the “invader” by producing warriors (cytokines, cytotoxins, and antibodies). Sometimes we may have an immune system that is out of balance, resulting in overactivation of the immune system
when it’s not supposed to, the inability to fight off certain invaders, or both. This imbalance manifests through inflammation in the form of swelling, heat, and pain.

70% of our immune system is located in the digestive system, specifically located in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT). If GALT & MALT are structurally strong, the body will be able to fight off invaders and endure various stressors. If they are weakened, bacteria, food particles, and other unwanted molecules get into our blood and cause problems.

The immune system is comprised of multiple parts, two of which we will discuss here. The innate immune system is the 1st line of defense which responds quickly (in minutes or hours) to invaders that can make you sick. The adaptive immune system is the 2nd line of defense which is slower and undergoes a more vigilant inspection of the invader. It is
involved in allergic responses and food and environmental sensitivities.

The immune system works dynamically to regulate our state of health. Our immune function is optimal when we feel healthy, full of energy, and don’t have many infections. If we fatigue easily, have recurrent colds and infections, this is a strong indication that our immune system needs some help. In addition to avoiding things that suppress the immune system (infections, surgery, stress, many drugs, sugar, alcohol, chemicals, pesticides, and lack of sleep, exercise, and rest), the following strategies can be implemented to strengthen the immune system:

1. Eat the rainbow: Focus on whole foods, herbs, and spices. Polyphenols are anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that give the rainbow of colours to plant foods. Foods with the highest polyphenols are berries, dark fruits, red wine, cocoa powder, onions, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, beans, parsley, tomatoes.

2. Rest & relaxation: Having a daily practice of restorative yoga, meditation, qi gong, or tai chi has been shown to lower stress levels and increase lymph circulation (helps clear foreign cells and things we don’t want in our system)

3. Exercise: Moderate exercise has been shown to strengthen innate immunity as well as increase circulation of nutrients, blood, and energy throughout the body.

4. Probiotics: Add fermented foods to your diet everyday to build a healthy gut flora. This includes raw, unpasteurized cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, gluten-free miso, pickles (in brine, not vinegar), apple cider vinegar.

5. Supplements: Nothing can replace the richness of a nutritious whole foods diet. However, the following supplements have been shown to support the immune system: Vitamins A, C, D, & E, zinc, & selenium.

Consult your dietitian/nutritionist for an individualized immune system strengthening protocol. You can find Alana at:

Survey: More see gluten-free foods as healthier choice

Courtesy logoIf it seems like “gluten free” is the new dieting catchphrase, you’re not imagining it. The vast majority of consumers responding to a new survey by, Inc., a online retailer of health and wellness products, said they choose to eat gluten-free foods. Close to half of the 1,484 individuals who responded said they follow an exclusively gluten-free diet, while 38% choose “some” gluten-free products. Those who don’t eat gluten-free foods say the products are too expensive.

The nationwide survey asked individuals about their efforts to follow a gluten-free diet and delved into reasons why consumers avoid gluten. Forty percent said they choose gluten-free foods because they tend to have an upset stomach after eating foods containing this protein, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Meanwhile, 31% choose gluten-free foods because they see them as the “healthier” option. Only 13% of those taking the survey said they had celiac disease, a condition diagnosed with a blood test.

“We have seen increased interest in our gluten-free products and conducted this survey to better understand consumer needs and concerns around this specialty diet,” stated David Zucker, Ph.D., Chief Marketing Officer.

Argh! Child cheats while on gluten-free diet

By Angela Petrie

Grade 1 brought about a lot of ‘firsts’ in Hannah’s life: going to school all day, sleepovers, new friends, dealing with other personalities on the playground without a parent or teacher at her side to settle the dispute immediately. It is also the first time that an adult is not with her at all times to supervise her choices and make sure she is adhering to her diet.

The first instance was when an excited new friend rushed up to my husband an excitedly told him that she had ‘shared her apple tart with Hannah today!’ Hannah knew she had done wrong and said ‘but Daddy, I only ate some apple, not the rest of it!’ We sat down and had the cross-contamination discussion again and we thought we were in the clear.

Imagine my surprise then when my older daughter told me that Hannah had eaten a cookie given to her by a friend on the playground (for that matter, she may have asked for it – who really knows). My first response was ‘Hannah! What are you doing? We were just getting ready to start putting dairy and eggs in your diet and you purposely gluten yourself!”

My next reaction was one of disbelief – had I not done my job, had I not drilled it into her brain enough about how she cannot cheat? I mean, we expected this at age 13 NOT 6!

I went through a who myriad of other emotions – anger (at celiac disease, this restricting diet, and how could she do this when I work my ass off to make sure she is never left out), defeat (why bother trying so hard if she isn’t going to do her part), worry (cancer, osteoporosis, nutrient deficiency) and finally acceptance (she’s 6 years old, a cookie is offered – what 6 year is not going to take it?)

I was surprised that she did not have her typical response. No complaints of a sore tummy, insomnia, moods, bowel issues. We then began to wonder if she had been playing us the whole time, and thinking ‘wow this girl could win an Oscar’ if it was true. Our naturopathic doctor quickly calmed those fears. Hannah has been working so hard to heal her gut, we started in March, that it didn’t affect her the same way and it may not affect her at all.

Good news and bad we thought. Good news that her stomach lining had actually healed and all this gluten-free, dairy free, egg free thing had been worth it, bad news in that she has had no reaction and probably will try it again.

The sad part about this was the snail’s pace dairy/egg reintroduction was set to start, literally, the next day. Well, the reaction took more than a few days – more like a week really. But the sore tummy has started – she had to sit on the couch for part of a birthday party, is asking for Tums and Tylenol again and is asking to lay on me at the bench at Boston Pizza because ‘it feels like fire is burning my belly’.

Two questions remain – did the reaction happen quickly enough for her to put the cause and effect together? I suspect that she thinks that the cookie was okay and that I am telling her it is a delayed reaction just so she won’t eat another one. Next, how much longer do we keep her on the dairy free, egg free diet?

I have a feeling that these added restrictions, which was only supposed to be for a few months, depending on how things progressed, contributed to the decision to eat that damn cookie!

I usually try to put a positive spin on my posts but unfortunately I can’t do it for this one. I can tell you that Hannah has taught us another life’s lesson… that temptation, no matter how much you know how wrong it is, is virtually impossible to resist.

Angela Petrie is a gluten-free consultant. She can be reached at 250-863-8123 or check out her website at

New book: Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food

Press release

Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food by Alain Braux aims to help readers afflicted with gluten intolerance, Celiac disease and Autism through healthy, mouth-watering food choices.

The secret to living well, believes chef and nutrition therapist Braux, is to eat to live, rather than to live to eat. For optimum health, he believes that it is crucial to avoid over-processed and bioengineered foods and go back to the basics. In Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food, he promotes gluten and dairy-free living with healthy, delicious food.

Filled with personal anecdotes, practical tips and more than 80 recipes, Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food shows why eating nutritionally can promote health. Chef Braux, who creates custom diets for people with challenging health conditions, shows readers how to prepare simple gluten and dairy-free dishes like Provencal Boule, Daube a la Niçoise, Ratatouille, and Light as Cloud Raspberry Soufflé.

Kecia Johndrow, Vice President of National Autism Association of Central Texas, says: “Chef Braux demonstrates a vast knowledge of the gluten-free, casein-free diet, bringing together in one book not only how and why this diet works for both individuals on the Autism spectrum and for those diagnosed with Celiac disease, but also recipes, resources, and a concise shopping list. I highly recommend this book to anyone that would like to improve their health with the GFCF diet.”

Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food is available for sale online at and other sales channels.

About the Author

Certified executive pastry chef Alain Braux has worked in the food industry for more than 40 years. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in holistic nutrition, is a certified executive pastry chef with the American Culinary Federation and a certified master baker with the Retail Bakers of America. Chef Braux currently lives in Austin, where he is the executive chef at Peoples Pharmacy and in private practice as a nutritherapist with A Votre Santé.

Chef Braux pledged to donate $1.00 per book sold to the National Autistic Association’s local chapter and $1.00 to the Gluten Intolerance Group of America’s local chapter.