We all want a strong immune system. It’s no fun to be picking up every bug that comes along, or to be chronically under the weather. We envy those who can mingle socially yet rarely come down with anything. We look for any supplements that might help us rev up our immune response, any tricks we can use to stay well. But how many of us succeed?

It isn’t so simple as taking your vitamins and supplements. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lists a number of lifestyle factors that strengthen your immune system: eating well, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking and alcohol. These are very basic points that most everyone agrees with. Notice that no recommendation involves pharmaceuticals. There are plenty of drugs that weaken the immune system, but none strengthen it — the CDC has no shortcuts.

Make your immune system great again
It’s a matter of lifestyle. Like the rest of your body, your immune system is living and responding to its environment. What’s good for your body overall is likely going to also build your immune system. You can tear it down with worry, poor sleep, low exercise, and drugs/toxins — but diet is particularly critical.

Like your circulatory system, your immune system is all over your body. Your whole body depends upon nutrition. What may surprise you is how quickly your immune cells will respond to changes in nutrition. It may take months or years for poor nutrition to lead you into diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity, but diet changes can affect your immune system within days to weeks

Good dietary choices can strengthen your immune system in various ways within two weeks, as shown in a study published in Nature Medicine. Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT ran a human study where participants were divided into two groups: one group ate only a keto diet for 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of only a vegan diet, while the other group ate 2 weeks vegan followed by two weeks keto. You may know that a keto diet is mostly fat, and for this study the researchers provided those fats largely through animal sources. Various high-tech methods were used to analyze the composition and activity of their microbiome (gut flora) and immune systems. Their research was ground-breaking: while much research has been done on the long-term benefits of the keto diet and the vegan diet on immune system health, this study showed the short-term effects of both diets, comparing and contrasting the two.

Both diets increased the levels of T and NK (natural killer) cells in the participants. While the ketogenic diet was being consumed, they observed a significant increase in the adaptive immune system cells, meaning that their immune systems had enhanced capabilities to learn its enemies and be prepared to fight them if they appear again. The vegan diet caused a significant increase in the cells of the innate immune system, which is the generic system that quickly responds to any foreign invader. So the vegan diet makes your immune system better at stopping a cold, when you are first exposed, preventing it from ever even giving you symptoms, and the keto diet improves immune system ability to learn and stop more advanced attacks that the innate system did not catch. The innate system is thus the first line of defense, which is very fast but non specific, while the adaptive system learns exactly what it is fighting and delivers precise attacks against just that enemy. Together they give a complete immune response. The study did not, however, demonstrate how to strengthen both immune responses simultaneously. Does that mean it can’t happen, that you have to choose one or the other?

The study provided another clue. Along with significant and rapid changes in certain portions of the immune system caused by diet, the study also noted that the microbiome, or the totality of the gut flora, the massive colonies of microbes that live in all healthy peoples’ intestines, was also significantly and rapidly changed. The gut flora is a living colony of cells that are not part of your body, but which contains more cells than your body itself contains, and which help (or hinder) digestion of food. They feed off of your food, breaking it down into simpler, more digestible products and getting their energy in the process. Good gut bacteria do not give off harmful toxins that can damage your health. Such toxins will inflame the lining of your intestines, breach its semi-permeable membrane, and get into the blood stream, where they now are foreign invaders that force the immune system to react. Since the microbiome colonies feed off of your food, and different bacteria require different food, changing the food that they are given favors certain bacteria while starving others. The researchers noted rapid shifts in the microbiome in participants after they switched to the alternative diet as the bacteria responded to the food changes.

It was unclear from the study whether the food itself, the byproducts of the shifting gut flora, or a combination of the two caused the changes in the immune systems of the participants. But the study used primarily animal products for their keto diet. Animals are higher up the food chain than plants, because animals eat plants and other animals. This results in the animal’s body processing and concentrating the toxins of what it ingested. Also, animal products generally result in acidification of the body after digestion. This is also inflammatory, causing immune system response. The study left open the possibility (actually high probability) that these inflammatory results could have been eliminated through an all-plant diet, getting the best of both worlds.

Meet the meatless diet
There is nothing in the keto diet that requires animal products. Plant fats, such as those found in abundance in avocados, seeds, and nuts, meet the high fat requirements of keto. Plants offer an array of vitamins and minerals that are largely lacking in animal products. These alone feed the immune system better. But the reduction of toxins from plants and the higher alkalinity take a major load off the immune system, preserving it for the real invaders.

Numerous studies show the superiority of plant fats to animal fats. One study, published in Food & Function, found that simply adding avocado to a partial meat diet reduced the inflammatory reaction to the meat, with lowered levels of IL-1? and CRP, and decreased activation of the NF-kappa B inflammatory pathway. That’s a start, but there’s no need to include the meat at all. Another study, published in Current Developments in Nutrition(3), found that the combination of avocados with a low calorie diet not only promoted weight loss and reduced the inflammatory markers IL-1? and CRP, but the plant polysaccharides provided food for the gut flora and improved the quality of the microbiome, strengthening the immune system and protecting against coronary heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.

You need both poles of your immune system at high performance. Only a raw vegan diet with good plant fats included will give you both. There aren’t any shortcuts to build your immune system, and you won’t reach a ripe old age without it being strong. Go out and fearlessly socialize. Enjoy life. Eating a low calorie plant diet is a small price to pay, and in fact, can be more enjoyable than the standard American diet (SAD) once you’ve adjusted to it. Although your immune system does tend to decline as you get older, you can improve yours at any age with diet. But don’t forget sleep, hydration, exercise, and lowered stress — it all adds up to keeping your immune system strong.

 

Dr. Nemec’s Review

This research from Yale University School of Medicine was very informative, showing specific aspects of immunity affected by diet. The vegan diet. which consists of no animal products whatsoever, including no dairy, no eggs, no meat, chicken, fish, etc. — that strengthened and activated the innate immune system natural killer cell response, which is the front line defense to bacteria, viruses and pathogens, including cancer cell formation.

Whereas the keto diet, which is a high fat diet, activates the adaptive immune system — the T cell and natural killer cell response — where it makes a memory so the next time around the T cells and natural killer cells programming would already be present and easily activated.

The best of both worlds
Unfortunately, in this study, they used animal fats for the keto diet. These animal fats not only are higher in stored toxins as you eat up the food chain, but also more saturated fatty acids which tends to lead to higher levels of cholesterol and greater increases of cardiovascular disease. All that is needed to get a huge increase in not only the immune system response but overall level of health as well is to just choose raw plant fats to turn on the ketogenic arm of the immune response. Of these raw plant fats, the best choices are avocados and seeds, especially flax seeds, hemp seeds, and Chia seeds. These seeds are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be highly anti-inflammatory and promote healthy cell membrane function, which is vital for cell health and longevity.

What’s the first line defense when you feel like you’re coming down with something — you’re fighting a bacteria or virus?
The first line of defense would be hydration. The body needs water more than it needs food and most people are slightly to severely dehydrated. So your first thing to do would be drink more water — a lot more water: 32 ounces per 50 pounds of body weight. That’s number one.

Number two according to the Yale University School of Medicine research: immediately adopt a permanent vegan high plant fat low-carb diet. This tremendously activates both arms of the your immunity: the T cell and natural killer cell response to pathogens, both the short-term quick fix response and the long-term memory response. This is the best of both worlds, and all yours by consuming living, raw plant-based food high in raw plant fats, low in carbs except for complex carbohydrates from low glycemic vegetables and leafy greens.

In life, things come into our path that have the ability to transform our life and our health. This is one of those things! What do you think the most important factor is to prevent disease and increase longevity? It is a strong and balanced immune system response.

Let’s look at the top diseases: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological disease, Alzheimer’s, gastrointestinal, disease, liver disease, just the name a few. All these diseases are promoted by inflammation in the body. And do you know what the number one cause of inflammation is? You might say diet, or stress, or lack of exercise, or lack of sleep, or even dehydration, and you would be correct in all of your responses. These are what cause the initial reaction of inflammation, but how is that inflammation produced in the body?

This is going to be eye-opening for many of you if not all of you.

It is your immune system response that dictates the amount of inflammation in the body. When the immune system works properly, it greatly inflames temporarily to kill a bacteria, virus or pathogen, but a healthy immune system that has balance, as was shown at the University of Yale medical school, it is this balance that turns on and turns off the immune system correctly, making sure it doesn’t become overactive or underactive. Overactive produces continual inflammation, and we know this as autoimmune disease — this triggers most inflammatory diseases. An underactive immune response opens the door for chronic bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections along with cancer cell formation, production, growth, and metastasis.

Now do you see how important your immune system balances is? Now, do you see the importance of the study? Do you see why you should adopt a living raw plant-based diet, high in plant fats, low in carbs and high in low glycemic index vegetables and leafy greens?

This will balance your immune system at its highest level, keep inflammation in your body at its lowest level, which gives you the greatest quality of life and quantity of life in your body, your brain, your mind and your emotions.

The paradigm shift has begun — isn’t it time for you to join?

(1) Link VM, Subramanian P, Cheung F, Han KL, Stacy A, Chi L, Sellers BA, Koroleva G, Courville AB, Mistry S, Burns A, Apps R, Hall KD, Belkaid Y. Differential peripheral immune signatures elicited by vegan versus ketogenic diets in humans. Nat Med. 2024 Feb;30(2):560-572. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02761-2. Epub 2024 Jan 30. Erratum in: Nat Med. 2024 Feb 27;: PMID: 38291301; PMCID: PMC10878979.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10878979/

(2) Li Z, Wong A, Henning SM, Zhang Y, Jones A, Zerlin A, Thames G, Bowerman S, Tseng CH, Heber D. Hass avocado modulates postprandial vascular reactivity and postprandial inflammatory responses to a hamburger meal in healthy volunteers. Food Funct. 2013 Feb 26;4(3):384-91. doi: 10.1039/c2fo30226h. PMID: 23196671. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23196671/

(3) Henning, Susanne M et al. “Hass Avocado Inclusion in a Weight-Loss Diet Supported Weight Loss and Altered Gut Microbiota: A 12-Week Randomized, Parallel-Controlled Trial.” Current developments in nutrition vol. 3,8 nzz068. 12 Jun. 2019, doi:10.1093/cdn/nzz068, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6658913/