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Nourishing The Terrain: Exploring The Connection Between Nutrition And Immunity

By Jeanne Ohm, DC

19th-century physiologist Claude Bernard postulated that sickness was not caused by bacteria, but rather by human beings’ internal environment. “The terrain is everything;” he wrote, “the germ is nothing.” The presence of bacteria, he maintained, is a symptom of an unhealthy environment. So the question becomes, how can we build our immunity so that we are not prone to illness? How can we nourish our terrain?

When we refer to enhancing immunity, the first logical step is to look at the food we eat. Our current intake of processed foods, sugars and commercially raised meats has drastically upset the healthy balance in our terrain. Our immune systems are taxed, trying to compensate for the toxic overload. Can you remember when not too long ago, the powers-that-be disregarded the importance of foods and health? Today, there is common agreement that we should eat at least 6 to 8 servings of vegetables per day. Unfortunately, commercial entities imply that by eating fruit bars or drinking bottled juices we can meet these needs.

Let’s face it, corporate media will continue to promote an agenda that serves their profits until we, the people, reveal the self-evident truth. It’s tougher than it seems. In September 2012, a systematic review of nutrition literature, Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier than Conventional Alternatives?, concluded, “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” The media reported this as, “Organic foods no healthier than conventional foods” and “Organic foods may not be healthier for you.” Alas, the corporate agenda is always hard at work.

Whole, Living Foods

That being said, selecting whole, living, organically grown produce in its most natural, raw state is still the best course of action. In Pathways No. 26, we cited the most important fruits and veggies to buy organic—the so-called “dirty dozen.” In the case of juicing fruits and vegetables, organic is a no-brainer to avoid the effects of concentrated pesticides. Even better is biodynamically grown produce. (Two recent Pathways articles— “Fence Rows and Gut Health” in No. 31, and “Beyond Sustainability” in No. 34—explore these topics in depth.)

As parents we sometimes struggle with meeting nutritional requirements for our kids (and ourselves). Juicing vegetables is a great way to meet your daily needs. For fruits, add smoothies to your families’ daily diet.

Juicing is an efficient, easy and quick way to incorporate vegetables into your diet. The darker the green, the more nourishing and cleansing the juice. When you first start juicing, it’s best to start off with the more palatable veggies: Carrots and celery are a good place to begin. Then, as your systems adapt, you can add more potent detoxifiers, such as cabbage and dark greens. For kids, start with small amounts, and dilute them with pure water. Juices can be strong detoxifiers, and kids do not need such concentrated doses.

Smoothies are a better choice for fruit than juicing, because juicing concentrates sugar intake, and an overload of sugar, even fruit sugars, is not good for us. Lisa DeNardo has provided three kid-tested smoothies on page 45. A mother of five, Lisa adds greens to these and accomplishes both the green and fruit requirements. Be creative. Let your children participate. Listen to their feedback…and then serve them daily. Water, almond milk, coconut milk, or raw dairy milk can be added, and yogurt or kefir will bring in another whole level of benefit for the gut.

Fermented Foods and Probiotics

Incorporating fermented foods rich in probiotics is a huge immune-system enhancer. Recent years have revealed the importance of the digestive system to immunity. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that overcome the presence of yeast, parasites and invasive bacteria, and protect the gut lining from “leaking” undigested foods and toxins into our blood.