How to Boost Your Immune System

| 1 min read

Chuck Gaidica with Grace Derocha



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss small lifestyle changes that will help build immunity and prevent illness.
“Vitamin A really helps support the lining of the digestive tract and your lungs. Oftentimes, when people do have a cold, it’s kind of something in their lungs… And because our immune system is basically all in our gut, about 80 percent… we can line that digestive tract to help [it] work more efficiently.” – Grace Derocha
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • The health benefits of Vitamins A and C
  • Natural food sources vs supplements
  • Antioxidants and the dangers of free radicals
  • Bacteria-fighting minerals
  • The difference between prebiotics and probiotics
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices
  • The importance of quality sleep and regular exercise

Listen on

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, Episode 39. Coming up, we discuss ways to strengthen our immune systems.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can implement right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we’ll sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and dive into topics that cover nutrition, fitness, a whole lot more. And on this episode, we’re talking about healthy ways we can really boost our immune systems.
Chuck Gaidica: With me again, Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified health coach, certified supermom. Good morning. You got a lot going on. You’re all over the state. I mean really, you drive all over. It’s just so nice to get you in one place right here today.
Grace Derocha: I’m always happy to see you.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, thanks.
Grace Derocha: You make my life better.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, well that’s sweet of you to say. Well, okay, so we’ve got flu season, cold season, sniffling time it seems like, around the corner. Maybe it’s here for your family already, right? Our immune system.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: I didn’t even know mine was out of whack. Right? I feel great.
Grace Derocha: It might not be.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: You might be doing great.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay.
Grace Derocha: But it’s a constant effort to make sure that we’re doing things to continue to boost it, especially now that we’re in that flu-ish, cold season. It’s getting cold out. We want to make sure that we can do everything we can to help fight any colds or flus that might come our way.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. But I always have learned that you don’t get sick when it gets cold.
Grace Derocha: It’s true.
Chuck Gaidica: Doesn’t cold kill off some germs too?
Grace Derocha: It can.
Chuck Gaidica: So why do they seem to go hand in hand then, this idea of, the air is getting colder and I get sicker sometimes?
Grace Derocha: Do you know what I think, honestly, is when kids go back to school, and there’s more germs around. Because that was last month, but we’re still kind of beginning of the school year. And then, I think that’s why it happens, honestly.
Chuck Gaidica: So we’re spending more time indoors, including the kids?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Where germs hibernate and fester, and yeah?
Grace Derocha: More germs. And maybe another thing is, usually people think of fresh produce, like we kind of talked about-
Chuck Gaidica: Mm-hm, the last episode.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, about farmer’s markets. But the time for that is spring and summer, and then they get into comfort food season. So they’re not feeding that body all that good nutrition that it needs to boost that immune system.
Chuck Gaidica: So that binge-watching I’ve been doing that keeps me in front of the TV, probably not good that I’m just sitting in the house.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, all those scary movies.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, exactly.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay, so how do we boost our immune system and what are the things that we can do to boost it?
Grace Derocha: So we have to own this process and be a little bit conscious about what we’re putting into our body. There are some very specific vitamins and minerals that really can help. A few of them are … So there’s two fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin E, and both of those … And they’re fat soluble, meaning that you need to have some fat in your system to help absorb those efficiently. So when I say vitamin A, do you have any idea what foods those might be?
Chuck Gaidica: I would just think that’s locked up in a vegetable somewhere, but I don’t know where.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, usually your orange and yellow type of fruits and vegetables.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, okay.
Grace Derocha: So it’s funny because there’s actually two types of vitamin A. There’s some that you can get from meats that are within the meat itself, and those are pre-formed vitamin A. And then there is pro-vitamin, which is more in the fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene, that’s just kind of another way to say vitamin A. So carrots, squash, bananas, cantaloupe. What else is orange? And oranges.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Right. And we think of oranges and orange juice and, “Oh, I’m getting sick,” or, “I’ve got a cold,” right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And usually people think of that more with the vitamin C. But you know what actually has way more vitamin C than an orange?
Chuck Gaidica: What?
Grace Derocha: A red bell pepper.
Chuck Gaidica: Really?
Grace Derocha: Mm-hm.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, is that wild.
Grace Derocha: Like double.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, so then this notion that, and you talk about this all the time in terms of cooking with balance or making sure that we’re just eating all kinds of different things. You just mentioned a whole list of things. Half of those could have been in my crock-pot at one time, right?
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. Absolutely. And vitamin A really helps support the lining of the digestive tract and your lungs. So oftentimes when people do have a cold, it’s kind of something in their lungs. And because our immune system is basically all in our gut, about 80% of it is found in our gut, so if we can line that digestive tract to help work most efficiently, we’re going to keep our immune system up.
Chuck Gaidica: This is great, because what’s old is new again. In my mind, I’m thinking back to, literally grandma’s chicken soup.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean, when you think about stuff like that and you think about all the ingredients that could … from carrots to the chicken bones, to whatever is in there, right? Bone broth, we hear a lot about that.
Grace Derocha: Yes. Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: It was helping back in the day, and maybe they didn’t and we still don’t know why.
Grace Derocha: I know. I think there was a MythBusters on it. And the MythBusters came up with, “Yes, chicken soup is good for you.”
Chuck Gaidica: Is that right?
Grace Derocha: Mm-hm.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, I didn’t see that one.
Grace Derocha: To help boost your immunity and keep you healthy.
Chuck Gaidica: All right, so my digestive tract can be repaired, can be boosted, if you will.
Grace Derocha: Always. Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Vitamin A, vitamin C. What’s vitamin C good for?
Grace Derocha: You always hear this, like we talked about the citrus and the orange, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so meaning that we need some water to help our body absorb it efficiently. There’s a lot of antioxidants with vitamin C, and what they really do is increase production of white blood cells. And our white blood cells help keep us healthy.
Chuck Gaidica: So when you’re talking about these vitamins, and I know there’s a list that we’re going through, and you’ve mentioned a few already, are these only vitamins that we can get naturally, or do supplements still help us?
Grace Derocha: You love to ask me this.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, but because I take a couple supplements a day. But then again, I don’t know that it’s doing me any good.
Grace Derocha: So there’s a few things I tell people. In a perfect world, we’re getting it from our food, because it’s called a “supplement” because it’s supplementing the diet. However, I don’t think people eat perfectly every day, me included. It’s hard, right?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Things happen. You’re in a rush, you skip a meal, whatever it might be. So what I would tell people is they can take a supplement, a multivitamin or something that is perfect for them and their body. But I would say, anytime you’re taking a supplement, make sure that it’s third-party verified. And what that means is that a third party has checked to see that what it says that is in that bottle, is in it. You’ll see an NSP or USP, those are two kind of stamps or labels that you’ll find on a vitamin that’s been third-party verified, because it’s not regulated by anyone.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, with vitamin C in particular, there are entire products in little packages that everybody gets hooked on at this time of the year where they think if they just dump that little package into a little bit of orange juice or something, “I’m going to feel better.” Part of it could be mind over matter.
Grace Derocha: I was just going to say sometimes-
Chuck Gaidica: Right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And sometimes it could help if you are low and you needed that boost. But other times, it might just be that placebo effect. And mental health and focusing on being healthy, and thinking that we’re going to be healthy, I mean, that does play a role, definitely, in how we’re feeling and how we can help boost our immunity.
Chuck Gaidica: So did you give us all the tips on where to find C? Did we get through all of those yet?
Grace Derocha: So I kind of I told you red bell peppers have 190 milligrams of vitamin C, compared to oranges at 97.
Chuck Gaidica: Come on. Wow.
Grace Derocha: I know. Isn’t it interesting? Yeah. So there’s other things: tomatoes, oranges, green bell peppers also have more, 120 milligrams. So your bell peppers are your friend in the vitamin C category. Strawberries, broccoli, papaya, they also have vitamin … Potatoes even have some, Brussels sprouts.
Chuck Gaidica: My favorite veggie to dip in hummus now is the multicolor peppers. I don’t know why I’ve gravitated to it, but I’m doing good, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Ah, this is awesome.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So you’re going to get your vitamin C definitely, from all of that.
Chuck Gaidica: And you touched on vitamin E.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s fat soluble, right?
Grace Derocha: It’s also fat soluble. It’s a very powerful antioxidant that definitely helps fight infections and another important vitamin that we need to have anyways. It comes in nuts and seeds, some of our fats. So since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, it kind of makes sense that those are kind of paired together, but you can definitely get that.
Grace Derocha: And it also helps, again, with obviously keeping you healthy and boosting your immunity. Antioxidants, like fighting free radicals, so what that means is antioxidants fight free radicals. And free radicals come from a variety of things. They come from diseases like cancers, or illnesses and colds, or aging, for that matter. So anytime that we can have antioxidant-filled foods and that vitamin E that helps boost those antioxidants, it’s always going to be a good thing for our body.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s funny, when you point out some of these things, it’s so basic, and sometimes we lose track of this. Anecdotally, when I look at people that I would consider super healthy, when I see somebody that says, “Oh, I’m having a little palm full of raw almonds,” I would say, nine times out of 10, that person not only looks healthy, they are healthy. And I’m inspired because I’m thinking, “Well, if I just do some of that,” I mean, really, that person works out, and they are having that little palm full of almonds, there’s probably a good reason that they’re healthier, trimmer, fitter. And we can just be inspired.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And there’s definitely research that shows that being around people that are working on being healthier, inspires you to be healthier. So I mean, even thinking about your family unit, I feel like you and Susan do so great to keep that constant, and inspiring one another. I mean…
Chuck Gaidica: By tracking food on an app on my phone, which she didn’t tell me, she thought I was kind of crazy about it. And then she finally said to me one night, “I finally realize why you were tracking all your food, even at restaurants.” And then she started tracking her food. So this adult peer pressure, in her case, for somebody who drives me nuts, she can eat a Cinnabon and she’ll lose two pounds, so she didn’t even need to worry, right? But it was interesting that my new healthy habit, and I’m not saying I’m some angel about eating-
Grace Derocha: But it was your accountability partner, having that.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: And then you became her accountability partner. And now you guys are all this … fused technologically. I mean-
Chuck Gaidica: No, I believe in it.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: And I always tell people, whatever’s going to work for them is what you should do. Always. You know already, but there’s something about doing that…
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. I know Oreo cookies probably don’t do it, but-
Grace Derocha: But they’re vegan.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, there you go. You gave me a new good excuse. All right, so we’re not done boosting, right?
Grace Derocha: No. So selenium and zinc, those are two minerals that are found in a variety of things. You see, you can kind of see, zinc is almost becoming as popular as vitamin C.
Chuck Gaidica: You’ll see it added to a lot of these products that should help you with a cold, right?
Grace Derocha: There’s the zinc lozenges for-
Chuck Gaidica: The tabs, yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, mm-hm. But zinc is the one. It’s definitely a good one. It’s really important because it helps basically fight different bacteria and viruses from entering the immune system. And it also keeps inflammation down. So when our body, and that’s kind of a buzzword, but it’s true, when our body is more inflamed for a variety of reasons, any stressor that’s put on the body, even good stressors, even exercise is a stressor on the body, but as long as we then nourish the body, get sleep and all that good stuff, drink water and eat healthy, these stressors and that inflammation will come down. So we have some naturally, but if that inflammation grows and there’s too much, it decreases our immunity.
Chuck Gaidica: So it’s a vicious circle.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, it really is.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: So we want to make sure that we’re getting zinc-rich foods.
Chuck Gaidica: And what would those be, selenium and zinc? Not a vitamin that we would take, a supplement.
Grace Derocha: Right. So if we’re talking about food with zinc, oysters. Do you like oysters?
Chuck Gaidica: If they’re cooked. I don’t like them raw.
Grace Derocha: I love oysters.
Chuck Gaidica: Do you?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Most of your meats. So red meat, some poultry, crab. But then your legumes, beans and legumes definitely have some zinc in them as well. Dairy has a little bit, eggs. Those are the most rich in zinc when we’re talking about actual food products.
Grace Derocha: When we’re talking about selenium, so selenium is another one of those fight-free-radicals situations, lowers inflammation as well, helps immunity. But selenium is found in different nuts. So Brazil nuts. Do you like those?
Chuck Gaidica: Okay. Sometimes.
Grace Derocha: Those are good. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: If they’re mixed in with other nuts.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Okay. You like the mixed nuts…
Chuck Gaidica: I do.
Grace Derocha: … pop a Brazil nut once in a while. So those have probably the most, food-wise. But then some of our fish, so halibut, sardines, we talked about sardines before.
Chuck Gaidica: Mm-hm.
Grace Derocha: Ham, eggs as well, have selenium. So eggs are kind of … We love eggs.
Chuck Gaidica: And really, a good well-balanced … And in some cases, you do see threads of what you’re saying that wander through a Mediterranean diet-
Grace Derocha: Yeah, for sure.
Chuck Gaidica: … that wander through an ancient diet, right?
Grace Derocha: For sure.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean, in terms of seeds and nuts and fish, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Right. And getting some of that heart-healthy fat to absorb the things, but then we have our bell peppers and our citr… Yeah, it’s funny because if you think about everything we’ve just named, I basically gave you a very holistic, nutritious, delicious diet-
Chuck Gaidica: Sure.
Grace Derocha: … with all food groups. So well-balanced is a key.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, then talk about probiotics. So you hear about a lot, whether it’s a kefir or whether it’s even yogurt, how you can change your gut health.
Grace Derocha: Yes. This is a big one. So probiotics are technically the good bacteria in your gut naturally. So we have it. We want to sustain it. We want to allow it to grow. So including some probiotic foods, so if you think of fermented foods, pickled foods, so sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, the yogurt, the kefir that you mentioned, those are all probiotic foods. Kombucha, that’s a big one right now. All probiotic foods, all naturally are going to put good bacteria back into your digestive tract and gut.
Grace Derocha: The key though, is to piggyback that off of prebiotic foods. So prebiotic foods are basically the foods that fuel the probiotics, that feed them, since probiotics are living and growing. So I always tell people, this is my analogy, if probiotics are the plants, then your prebiotics are the sun, water, and fertilizer-
Chuck Gaidica: And fertilizer, yeah.
Grace Derocha: … for those probiotics to grow.
Chuck Gaidica: And what is a prebiotic?
Grace Derocha: Basically, fruits and vegetables, of course. Oatmeal is a good one, apples. Things with some fiber are going to help fuel and feed that probiotic to keep living and growing. And again, since we talked about 80% our immunity is in that gut, having that healthy probiotic living and growing is key.
Chuck Gaidica: So what you’re telling us, is if we back up to the prebiotic stage and we’re actually feeding our bodies that stuff, so throwing that into the compost inside the gut, we are actually helping ourselves, maybe we don’t have to worry about adding probiotics. It all just kind of works out? Because a lot of us, I don’t ever think of adding … I do eat some yogurt, some Triple Zero yogurt, but I don’t really think of it as being a probiotic. I’m eating it because it’s got protein and it’s good for you.
Grace Derocha: So I would tell people that I would like them to try to have some probiotics pretty regularly.
Chuck Gaidica: Purposefully?
Grace Derocha: Purposefully, yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay.
Grace Derocha: Only because we do so many other things to our body, and to our digest… like foods that we have and enjoy, or lack thereof, that don’t allow that probiotic to thrive in the gut. So try to make a conscious effort to somewhat have some probiotics.
Chuck Gaidica: And I know people, and you may as well, so forgive me for getting on my little soapbox here, you can’t tell maybe if you’re not watching the video, but I know people who are on so many antibiotics once we get to the end of fall and winter, all the way into spring, because they’re always in some kind of a cycle of sickness. That is killing off the good bacteria in your gut, right?
Grace Derocha: Correct.
Chuck Gaidica: The antibiotics, it’s killing off the germs, but also killing off that stuff. So if you’re not counteracting that, no wonder they’re on this cycle-
Grace Derocha: Correct.
Chuck Gaidica: … that seems like they’re always sick.
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. Yeah. So that is … I mean, anyone who’s on any regular medication, if you drink a lot of coffee, if you have a lot of alcohol, those things will kill some of that probiotic in the gut.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, interesting. Yeah. So those are busters, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: And there must be a list of those too, that we should avoid maybe?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Processed foods. I mean, if you think of a processed food, there isn’t really any probiotic or prebiotic, or many vitamins or minerals usually in there. There might be some, but not the overly processed ones.
Chuck Gaidica: And when we’re … Before we go through the whole list, and you’ve already hit on a few of these, of immune system busters, can we actually counteract that? So if I have a drink, if I have a glass of wine, maybe I’m killing off some good bacteria. But as long as I’m bringing balance to this first list of immune boosters, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. You can definitely balance that out. And again, in moderation, totally fine. Because there are some benefits to some wine for your heart, and different nutrients that we find in wine as well. But when we overdo anything, whether that be alcohol, or coffee, or processed foods, or sugar, too much added sugar, we just have to be careful to make sure that we’re maintaining a focus on these nutrient-dense foods.
Grace Derocha: If you think about this, not calling anybody out right now, but if you think about people in your life that eat healthy, they’re usually barely ever sick. You’ll notice that, right?
Chuck Gaidica: Mm-hm. Mm-hm. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Where people, when you notice that they are not eating their healthiest … And another thing with the gut that I think is important to kind of think about is that 90% of serotonin is produced in our gut as well. And a lot of people don’t know that. And serotonin is a natural chemical that we have in our body that … It’s our happy hormone. It helps us feel happier. So piggybacking off of, not only our immunity and body health, but our mental health-
Chuck Gaidica: Doesn’t serotonin also at night help you sleep better? Isn’t that-
Grace Derocha: That’s melatonin.
Chuck Gaidica: Melatonin. Okay.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: I knew there was a -tonin involved, yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. But still, when we have better balance of that happy hormone in our body, we have more energy, our mental health is in a better place, we’re probably more active.
Chuck Gaidica: Right? It’s fascinating. It really is. And the stuff you’re talking about is so simple. And I know I kind of blew past down this list. Herbs and spices are included in the booster list, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Things that you would normally add to a dish, you can actually be helping your gut health.
Grace Derocha: Right. So I would say less salt and less fat that you don’t need for flavor. And we’ve talked about this already before, but those herbs and spices can offer so many different health benefits, along with adding flavor to your food. So ginger is a great one. You hear that, “If you have a tummy ache, have some ginger,” or ginger ale, or ginger tea. Ginger is great for even fighting viruses and bacteria, helping suppress coughs or sore throats, or helping a tummy ache.
Grace Derocha: Tumeric, anti-inflammatory, make sure you have it with black pepper. Garlic, a great one, antibacterial, antifungal, can prevent colds. Honey is also, even though it kind of falls into a sweetener, but it’s a natural one, in moderation. Naturally, any of my friends that are singers, always are like, “I have to have honey,” because it can help coat your throat, but it also helps coat your insides. And it’s antibacterial, antifungal.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, we’ve heard that forever, grandma’s chicken soup, and then of course honey, lemon, and tea, right?
Grace Derocha: And tea. Right.
Chuck Gaidica: Helps you when you’re sniffling your way through life. The idea that, how bad sugar and salt, we know about that idea, right? Too many milligrams of salt. It’s all kind of locked up in a lot of processed foods.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Even if you’re on the go and you’re doing the drive-through thing, or you think you’re doing yourself a good healthy lunch by bringing a can of turkey chili, holy cow, look at the contents of that can. Sugar, what does that do to your immune system? How is that hurting you?
Grace Derocha: So, okay, this is how, when we’re talking about our gut health, too much added sugar will help damage kind of that lining of our gut. So when you’re thinking about sugar, you want to make sure that you’re trying to get it from natural places, like your fruit-
Chuck Gaidica: Or honey, as you mentioned, right? Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, or honey. But still being careful not to have too much. Obviously we know the prevalence of type two diabetes and diabetes here.
Chuck Gaidica: Sure.
Grace Derocha: And added sugar can add weight, be bad for your gut health, and-
Chuck Gaidica: And didn’t I just read something about inflammation with sugar too, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes. Yep. Sugar, salt, both can increase inflammation in the body. Because if you think about it, I’m trying to think of the best way to explain this. So if you’re picturing your body and your blood vessels, and it’s flowing, but when you have added sugar in your blood vessels, they’ll start to stick to excess fat. Same with salt.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Grace Derocha: So these things that are in excess, then those can cause heart disease and also cause inflammation in the body. Does that kind of make sense?
Chuck Gaidica: It does make perfect sense. And if you’re not hydrating-
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: … which creates that flow, helps it keep moving along like a nice river or a stream, that’s an added downside, right?
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. I mean, our blood is water.
Chuck Gaidica: Grace Derocha, this is so simple. Why am I not in better shape?
Grace Derocha: Because life.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I mean, we’re all tempted to do the drive-through thing, or every once in a while … It’s dessert season, right? Here we come, we’re knocking on the door of-
Grace Derocha: Pumpkin everything.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh my gosh, and Halloween candy, which then here comes Thanksgiving, which then here comes holidays.
Grace Derocha: Don’t get me started on Halloween candy.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh my gosh. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: So the average American has 3.5 pounds of candy during this Halloween season.
Chuck Gaidica: Stop it. What?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Holy cow. Who’s eating all the rest of my Kit-Kats? I do not get three and a half pounds of candy.
Grace Derocha: I tell people … You probably do.
Chuck Gaidica: You think?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Grace Derocha: So I remind people, “Make sure that you’re watching your kids and so that they’re not bingeing on all the candy at one time.”
Chuck Gaidica: So if there isn’t enough reason to steer away from tobacco-
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: … how do tobacco products hurt the immune system?
Grace Derocha: I mean, tobacco is a foreign chemical that you’re putting into your body. And foreign chemicals read by the body, in the long run, get attacked by the body. So there you have it, any kind of tobacco, recreational drugs, anything that you might be adding to your system that doesn’t belong there.
Grace Derocha: Our bodies are very smart. As we’ve been talking about, it’s smart. It doesn’t know what you’re thinking. It only knows what you’re doing to it. So that’s even more important of a reason why we need to be proactive and thoughtful about the choices that we make.
Chuck Gaidica: We haven’t even gotten into this idea of autoimmune disease.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: And one of the fastest growing autoimmune disease things is celiac disease, where you need to be gluten-free, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: So can this help boost people’s immune system if they’ve got that kind of a problem?
Grace Derocha: Potentially. It potentially could. I’m sure there’s research on it that I need to read and look up, but I feel like you bring up a really great point. I mean, we’ve talked about this in the processed food episode-
Chuck Gaidica: Sure.
Grace Derocha: … and different episodes, about just being a little bit more conscious about what we’re putting in, and hoping that we can make better choices so that, one, we stay healthy, two, we can boost your immunity, and three, that we live happier.
Chuck Gaidica: So we can eat better. What about lifestyle tips?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So I kind of touched on them, but didn’t really go into it. Obviously exercise, regular exercise and moving our body is a great way to stay healthy. I always tell people, one of the best medicines, helps you lose or maintain weight, helps you sleep better, helps give you more energy, helps you feel happier, along with fighting chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes. If that’s not enough of a reason … But again, like I said, exercise can be a stressor. So because of … And naturally, not anything bad, but you want to make sure then you’re fueling your body accordingly. Pre-fuel, post-fuel, good nutritious food, but then also getting enough sleep. So most people don’t get enough sleep. One in three adults aren’t getting enough sleep. We’re supposed to get seven to nine hours a night.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So I’m probably one of those seven-hour-a-night guys.
Grace Derocha: That’s good.
Chuck Gaidica: If I’m lucky. And I probably don’t need it, I’m not a napper, but I can understand how that and exercise … Of course, now my watch tells me it’s time, not this watch today, but my watch will tell me it’s time to stand.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Right? And I’m doing it. And my watch is the boss of me.
Grace Derocha: I mean, adequate sleep will help us with T-cell production. And if we don’t get enough, that T-cell production decreases, which impacts our whole entire body. So T cells are important for us to be healthy, boost our immunity. And you feel better, you know?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: You feel better when you get your sleep in.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. And then stress, you mentioned there’s good stress and bad stress.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean, some stress is okay. You do want to try to tear down a little muscle fiber so it builds back up.
Grace Derocha: Right, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s still stress.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. A stressor on the body, exercise but constant long-term stress and poor mental health increases cortisol levels in the body, which is a hormone that we naturally have, but with those increased levels of cortisol, one, it’s a stressor on the body. It increases inflammation, and then suppresses our immune system response. Boo. We don’t want that.
Chuck Gaidica: So everything you’re saying makes so much sense. And when we talk about this hypothetical person in our lives or people we know, have you ever found a way where you can deal with, I mean, you’re an expert, but you can also … You must have to walk a fine line in your life, because you could be over-explaining to people all the time. I mean, how do you-
Grace Derocha: I don’t tell people on a plane I’m a dietitian and health coach anymore.
Chuck Gaidica: Because that’s the rest of the flight, you’re-
Grace Derocha: Yeah, because then I’m counseling the whole plane.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Yeah.
Grace Derocha: But, and I’m a real person-
Chuck Gaidica: Sure.
Grace Derocha: … trying to live my best, healthiest life. And it’s hit or miss at times, but being conscious about it and doing our best. And I think different people tackle these things in different ways. So you have to be real. What kind of exercise do you find fun that you want to do? Because if you told me to go run, I would say, “Nope.” You know?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I know.
Grace Derocha: In what ways do you deal with stress? Is it having time alone? Is it maybe being more social and having time with your friends? Figuring out who you are, what helps de-stress you, what helps motivate you and drive you to eat better. Is it making sure the whole family’s on board? You kind of talked about that with you and Susan, making sure that you’re on the same page helps drive those healthier behaviors, and then in the long run, will increase your immune system.
Chuck Gaidica: So being a good example, starting with the list of things you’ve given us in this podcast is a really good starting place, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes. If you take care of your body, your body will take care of you.
Chuck Gaidica: And I know this because I’ve kind of dug into the research now on dementia and memory issues, they are finding more and more that eating, exercise, good heart health equal sign good brain health.
Grace Derocha: Absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: So this is a circle that’s going, you’re showing us, from your gut through your entire body. It really is true. It’s all emanating outward.
Grace Derocha: Well, and I don’t know if you heard this before, but the gut is called the second brain-
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Grace Derocha: … because there’s literally … they’re connected. And so, that’s why that serotonin being made there, and then we all know the heart is kind of the driver of everything that beats and pumps through us.
Chuck Gaidica: So if there’s one takeaway, one thing we could start today, what would you say it is for good immune health? What should be the one thing we should think about when it comes to boosting? Because you’ve given us a good list.
Grace Derocha: Oh, so many things. I would tell people to, one, look at where they’re at today. What are you already doing pretty good? And then, what can you do better? I feel like most adults probably need more sleep, they need to drink their water. And even if you could have more fruits and vegetables, whatever these little … maybe you’re pre sedentary, and just starting to take little walks throughout your day, even standing up a little bit more. So take a real hard look at where you’re at, and what can you improve upon? Because we did talk about a lot of things. Are you maybe having too much alcohol on the weekends where you don’t need to have that?
Chuck Gaidica: And you know who you are. But if you-
Grace Derocha: Stop smoking.
Chuck Gaidica: You’re telling us, if we take care of our immune health, it’ll take care of us. And this is a good time of the year to start to experiment. And if you’re adding broccoli to your diet, I’m just making it simple, right? You’re also getting the fiber, and you’re getting the vitamins.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: It’s all helping all the other systems of your body.
Grace Derocha: Absolutely. Yeah. And I would say, I’m going to blow your mind right now, so we often think of a pharmacy where we get medicine, P-H-A-R-M-A-C-Y, but maybe if we start thinking of a farm, F-A-R-M-acy-
Chuck Gaidica: Oh.
Grace Derocha: … to help us. Let food be thy medicine, let it heal you.
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting. Very interesting.
Grace Derocha: I would like to prescribe that kind of F-A-R-M pharmacy.
Chuck Gaidica: You know what? I’m going to go … I prescribe matzah ball soup to everybody, just a good chicken soup as we head into the season, made with good solid vegetables, huh?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Yum.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Well, good to see you again. And you’re looking very healthy today, I might add.
Grace Derocha: Thank you.
Chuck Gaidica: You’re encouraging me now to make sure … I’m going out to lunch after this with a buddy, I’m loading up on the veggies. I think it’s a good thing to do.
Grace Derocha: Yes, do it.
Chuck Gaidica: Hey, we’re glad you were listening today to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you’d like to know more about the show, if you like the show, check us out online, You can leave us reviews on iTunes or Stitcher. You can get new episodes, old episodes on your smartphone or tablet. We’ve got a really great line-up. What is this? We’re Episode 39. So there’s a ton of stuff about de-stressing, exercise, where to go run in the state. Just get outside and enjoy it, even as the air gets a little colder. All kinds of great stuff in previous episodes as well. If you want to subscribe, go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. Wishing you the best of health today. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Take good care.

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