Immunity boosting diet plan: Why is a Macrobiotic approachso unique?
The Macrobiotic approach to immunity
At the ‘core’ of the macrobiotic approach is strengthening immunity. That’s why the approach itself makes the claim of working with over 200 chronic ailments (what we Indians also call Non communicable Lifestyle diseases NCDs) and helping them go into remission (including cancer, it has been termed as a cancer-curing diet). The 21st century has seen the worst outbreak of the most deadliest viruses, new diseases and epidemics. The macrobiotic way of eating is very broad and comprehensive. It has been observed by millions of human beings for thousands of years, contributing to health, happiness and peace for endless generations and our species overall biological and spiritual evolution. At the center, is the principle of strengthening a person’s immunity; to withstand disease and detoxification of the cell. Re-establish gut health, restoring pH balance, focusing on eating in balance with the season and climate are the guiding principles; treating the mind and body as a holistic unit. Restoring gradual recovery as balance is restored. So when approaching immunity; strengthening blood condition becomes the goal, and the ‘gut’ becomes the route to aiding someone along. This is what makes a Macrobiotic diet an immunity diet.
The ‘gut’ – Your immune barrier
Think of your immune system as the gatekeeper to your health. It protects you against external pathogens, parasites, viruses and most of all disease. Your immune system is further classified into the innate immune system and adaptive immune system. If you have a cut, bruise or injury, your innate immune system kicks in. The adaptive immune system has its own memory and remembers past injuries. When your system is attacked repeatedly by a host of bad microorganisms, your innate and adaptive immune systems have to keep changing gears, which overtaxes them. Now while fighting these invaders, antibodies (basically proteins created in response to driving harmful pathogens out) are created by the immune system. To protect you, the antibodies attack healthy cell tissue as well—creating a state of chaos within the body. A prolonged imbalance of microbes in the gut eventually leads to an autoimmune state.
Your gut is like a tube actually starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. While we are born pure, unfettered and uncontaminated. But did you know that the moment you exit the birth canal, you start picking up the microbes from your environment? If we look at ourselves, we are 10 per cent human and 90 per cent microbes. The collection of microorganisms that make our bodies their home are called human microbiota, and microbiome (the genetic code of each microorganism) is a miniature world of non-human organisms (microbiota) that flourish within your gastrointestinal tract. Our DNA makes us unique, and what we have discovered is we have a unique microbiome. Microbes encompass: good bacterial, yeasts and enzymes. Our ‘gut flora’ defines our health. These sustain us and keep us going, and are largely concentrated in the ‘gut. ’ The microbes in our gut control the responsiveness of the entire immune system. Our gut microbes communicate with the part of the immune system located in the intestine.
‘Our gut microbes communicate constantly with the part of the immune system located in the intestine.’ These ‘conversations’, as Justin and Erica Sonnenberg call them in their book The Good Gut,help our body discriminate between harmless entities like food or havoc-creating microorganisms like salmonella.
Immune cells living in the intestine and ‘conversing’ with the gut microbes can move to new sites anywhere in the body. A T-cell (one of the major classes of immune cells found in the body), which lives in your intestine today, may be in your lung or spinal fluid tomorrow. And that cell can remember its experiences with the microbes in the gut. ‘Gut dysbiosis’ that is a breakdown of your gut is the underlying cause of many ailments (especially autoimmune conditions, allergies, recurrent infection, food intolerances, degenerative disease and those ailments that have broken down cellular functioning).
The microbes in our gut control the responsiveness of the entire immune system. They dictate the small processes of immune response like a fever, to a larger response like determining how long you will stay with a cold. Your gut health is positively correlated with a strong immune system. An imbalance causes the T- and B-cells (also termed the killer immune cells) to attack harmless cells, triggering an autoimmune response.
What comprises of a Macrobiotic immune-boosting diet?
The Macrobiotic traditions cornerstone is including foods that strengthen the human microbiome, and this is what makes it unique. The Macrobiotic approach is one of the strongest ‘gut health’ diets in the World. Disease or lack of immunity stems from many reasons, but if you’re immune barrier (namely your ‘gut’) is weak, then a good practitioner will work towards reasons that weaken it by removing triggers: medication, NSAIDs (painkillers), sugar, refined carbohydrates, refined oils, processed foods, stimulants: coffee, tea, alcohol, and many other foods that do not create a good ecosystem and create a strong immune system. A good immune boosting diet will also take into account inculcating a balance in food – the macrobiotic tradition brings this in with its approach to ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ energies of foods. E.g., you have too much of sugar in the past and to make balance are also having too many eggs. This maybe hurting your immune system; in the Macrobiotic approach and its uniqueness lies in bringing you back to foods closer to balance, so you do not go through the yo-yo of ‘extreme’ foods.
Including wholesome, natural foods in an immune boosting diet are essential and a tailor-made diet to suit your health condition/ailment. For e.g., if you have candida; the way you manifest candida is very different from the way I would manifest it. Similarly, if you had ulcerative colitis; not everyone who suffers with this condition has the same symptoms.
These foods would include foods closer to nature: Whole grains, vegetables, whole beans/lentils, fruits, good health fats from foods, good quality salt, nuts, seeds, fermented foods. And a host of remedies made with these very foods to balance each condition and control symptoms.
There is a good approach outlined in my book The Detox Diet of adding high-fibre foods that feed the gut bacteria to nourish them and see them thrive and a long list of suggestion of foods that will fortify you as well.