Weathering the Winter: Foods to Support the Immune System
Wintertime is upon us—as is a very active flu season. Fortunately, there are specific foods that will provide immune support to your horse, your dog, and you as well!
The base of an immune diet for me is bovine colostrum. This food provides 80 different immune factors including the immunoglobulins IgA and IgG, and specific peptides that regulate the thymus: master gland of the immune system.
Coconut oil is an important part of an immune diet because the lauric acid in coconut supports the immune system and has antiviral properties.
The seat of the immune system is the GI tract, so probiotics are very important. Yogurt is a convenient food for one strain of beneficial bacteria (L. acidophilus) yet because the microbiome has so many different strains, it can be more beneficial to use a multi-strain probiotic. Certain probiotics can decrease toxin gene expression and thus toxin production by specific pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and C. perfringens. Other probiotic strains such as S. boulardii release a protease that can digest C. difficile toxins, while still others such as L. rhamnosus can bind to toxins and decrease their bioavailability to the host.
Shilajit, with its fulvic and humic acids supports the mitochondria of the cells in producing ATP and CoQ10. The mitochondria are responsible for cellular respiration, generating energy for cell division and growth. The ATP they produce is often referred to as the “energy currency” of the body. When the immune system is under attack, the body feels like it is running out of energy. Shilajit can help restore higher amounts of the much-needed energy currency.
Among antioxidants, Vitamin C is critical for proper immune support. Whole oranges (ground up in a food processor for the horses and dogs) provide not only vitamin C, but the important bioflavonoids including quercetin. Bioflavonoids can work as natural antihistamines. Other good sources of vitamin C include papaya, strawberries, kiwi fruit and broccoli. Go for foods high in vitamin E as well, such as camelina oil, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
Other potent antioxidants include: astaxanthin, a red algae-derived super antioxidant more powerful than vitamin C, vitamin E, or resveratrol; and turmeric, an antioxidant-laden food that helps regulate inflammation. Remember that inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune system response. Chronic inflammation, however, leads to a weakened immune system. By reducing inflammation, turmeric can help restore balance.
Horses, dogs and humans can all benefit from immune-supportive foods, and the components are similar:
Immune support for horses
- Bovine colostrum
- Coconut: either Cool Stance, or Renew Gold, or straight coconut oil
- Probiotics: either BioStar’s BioFlora EQ or Bio Yeast EQ
- Antioxidants: whole oranges or papaya, strawberries, kiwi fruit. Astaxanthin can be found in BioStar’s Locomotion EQ and Quantum EQ supplements. Additional vitamin E can come from camelina oil, almonds, or sunflower seeds.
- Shilajit: can be found in BioStar’s Impulsion EQ and Quantum EQ formulas
- Turmeric: either BioStar’s Comfort Zone EQ or Stance Equine’s Turmericle
[Note: for easy keepers and metabolic horses, rather than using oranges and papayas, I will give ¼ cup of chopped parsley or chopped kale twice per day, which provides vitamin C from a non-fruit source.]
Immune support for dogs
- Bovine colostrum
- Coconut oil
- Probiotics: BioStar’s Terra Biota K9
- Antioxidants: apple slices, kiwi mixed in food, camelina oil. Astaxanthin can be found in BioStar’s Asta Zan 14 K9.
- Shilajit: can be found in BioStar’s Juvenate K9
- Turmeric: either BioStar’s Comfort Zone K9 or Asta Zan 14 K9, or Stance Equine’s Turmericle
Immune support for humans
- Bovine colostrum
- Coconut oil
- Probiotics: Garden of Life (multi-strain formulas available at most health food stores)
- Antioxidants: fruits and veggies, camelina oil, almonds, sunflower seeds. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is preferable over grocery store orange juice. Astaxanthin in capsules: BioAstin by Nutrex Hawaii
- Shilajit: Life Extension Super Ubiquinol with Enhanced Mitochondrial Support
- Tumeric: New Chapter’s Fermented Turmeric Booster Powder or Turmeric Force, or Organic India’s Tulsi Turmeric Ginger tea.
Tigger’s immune support soup for dogs and humans
I make this for myself and the dogs. It’s vegetarian, but if you’re not a vegetarian, you can add some organic bison or organic chicken to the soup.
I feed five Aussies so I have to make quite a large batch. If you are feeding one or two dogs, you can always freeze this soup and take it out when needed.
I use a slow cooker: Fill it halfway with water, then add chopped celery, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, green beans, winter squash, and a chopped apple. Add ½ teaspoon of dry organic rosemary, and a teaspoon of dry organic basil. Cook on low 2-4 hours. As the soup is cooling, you can add some coconut milk for a thicker soup, and/or squeeze in half a lemon to freshen up the flavors. I’ll add some chia seeds too, and I like to sprinkle in some cinnamon as the soup is cooling because this is another excellent source of antioxidants.
I add the soup to the dogs’ food, and then add some sprouts (alfalfa or broccoli) and mix it all together. The sprouts are a great source of enzymes and chlorophyll.
After I’ve divided the soup into a For-the-Dogs-Portion and a For-Me-Portion, I add some chopped garlic to mine, sometimes a little lemon grass or mint leaves, and sprinkle some of Aleia’s Gluten-Free Classic Croutons.
This wintertime, feed the immune system and enjoy good health for your horses, your dogs, and your family.