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What Makes us More Vulnerable to Illness - Part 1 Food


This is Andy, and my colleague Sandra and I want to introduce you to a great collaborative initiative between The Foco Academy and Full Functional Wellness. 

We are both functional nutritional specialists and focus on helping people rebalance and regain their health using the principles of functional medicine to uncover the factors behind people becoming ill. 

Together, we have created a 4-part series that addresses The Factors that Make Us More Vulnerable to Illness.  The theme for this series is particularly important and timely, given the realities of the pandemic.  It’s also particularly valuable as people are taking stock of their health and wondering how they can help themselves and their families to stay well and minimize their risk of becoming ill.


Throughout our discussion today, Sandra and I will be sharing information with you.  As we kick this series off, it’s important to put some context around the whole issue of being sick.  And this is not just being sick from a disease or developing an acute or chronic condition – this is also about becoming sick from bacteria or a virus. 


This is because the factors that make us sick, in general, are the ones that create pre-existing conditions overall, and it certainly became clear as the pandemic evolved, that having pre-existing conditions dramatically impacted not only one’s susceptibility to disease, but also directly influenced the outcome of being diagnosed with the Coronavirus – not only how quickly someone recovered – but also whether or not they actually recovered.


It’s also important to note that having co-morbidities (meaning having more than one pre-existing condition or other factors impacting health) also greatly swayed the outcome of being diagnosed with the virus. In the context of the virus, the importance and severity of some of these co-morbidities fluctuated, though overall, the mainstays in this category are things like:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular conditions, like heart failure, coronary heart disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state…meaning someone with a weakened or malfunctioning immune system
  • Lung problems associated with asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and cystic fibrosis
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Obesity…with a person having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher
  • Smoking
  • And both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes


And added to this list and increasing the complexity of peoples’ level of risk are also factors like:

  • Age
  • Belonging to certain ethnic backgrounds
  • And gender


Well, Andy, that’s a rather extensive list.  And not only that, but the numbers of people who have 1 or more of these conditions is staggering.

Here are just a few statistics:

Worldwide, there are around 50 million people with dementia, with approximately 10 million new cases being diagnosed each year.

In the US, more than 25 million people have asthma, with around 16 million having COPD.

Regarding Cancer – it is the second leading cause of death globally with approximately 18 million people having it, and in the US, almost 2 million people diagnosed each year

And regarding heart disease, almost half of all Americans have cardiovascular disease

 There can be no denying that these conditions exist and they do so very broadly in populations around the world.  And as has been evidenced, they also greatly impact a person’s ability to fight coronavirus and win.


So, then, where does our 4-part series come in?  Well, each part is perfectly aligned with the core strategies of how to stay healthy.  Or in other words, how to fight illness, regardless of its source.  And each of these 4 parts will feature a topic especially pivotal to being and staying healthy.


When Andy and I taped our last webinar, we discussed how genetics influence only 30% of our overall health. This is something really important to remember because many of us feel deflated or already destined to ill health because of our genetics – of what we were born into.  But what this means is that the remaining 70% is not influenced by genetics – but rather by food and lifestyle factors – of decisions you make - and it is food and these lifestyle factors that make up our 4-part series: 1 session related to food, and the others to sleep, thoughts, and exercise.


And regarding food – the topic we’re discussing today, there can be a lot of complexity.  And a lot of differing perspectives.  What is a good diet? How much should I eat?  When should I eat?  How is weight related to food?  And how is health related to food?  Well, let’s get started on this!


There are a few food fundamentals that can help in keeping our bodies strong - that if you use these to guide and influence your food-related decisions, then you’re really making some great decisions. 

Overall, the key is to choose a nutrient-dense, properly-prepared, whole-food diet.  What this means is a natural food, high in nutrition and that is not overly cooked or processed. 

These are stark examples that follow, but it helps to make the point:  choosing a pear over a marshmallow, choosing a chicken breast over a fried chicken leg, and choosing soup made in your kitchen, versus any soup coming from a can or dehydrated cube.  Hopefully the more nutrient-dense whole food and healthier prepared choice seems obvious to you.


And it can become second nature when grocery shopping or at a restaurant making a choice from a menu to use this guideline; just ask yourself how close to the source is this food item I can considering to purchase.  Is it a potato or a potato chip, crisp or French fry?  Is it a salad drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or a salad dressing that includes unpronounceable preservatives and hydrogenated oils, that are not friends to your cardiovascular system and specifically your heart.  In time, such decisions become second nature.


In terms of diets, and eating in general, this is where bio-individuality comes in.  Bio-individuality means that there is no one-size fits all.  That every person is unique with highly individualized nutritional requirements. Our health and what we need to sustain it is based on our personal differences in anatomy, cell structure, metabolism, body composition and system functioning. 


But as we talked in our last webinar, one of the most powerful take-aways regarding how you think about food is to know that it is powerful - that food can harm the body and it can also heal and rebalance it.  Ideally, that should be the quest of all of us, to at some point, be able to definitively know which foods fall into which category – does this food item help or hurt my body. 


Outside of conducting a more methodical inquiry into this, the best way to know is to just observe your body.  Did you feel good after eating that?  Do you have rashes on your body?  Did you get gas or indigestion from eating something?  These are all strong signals from your body that indicate that you should pay attention to these and act accordingly – meaning, continue to eat it, or not.  These are certainly indications that your body has a sensitivity, allergy or other inflammatory reaction to the food in question.


That’s a really great point Andy.  A while back, I discovered that I am allergic to eggs.  I love eggs, and I had eaten them my whole life, but based on my reaction to them, it was clear that it was necessary for me to eliminate them.  I certainly miss them, and from a nutritional stand point, they have great nutritional value – but from the bio-individual aspect of my body, I will need to look for those nutrients elsewhere.


And this does raise the question of what could be a good diet.  There are some guidelines here too as well that can be helpful for people.  I use a few filters when determining this. For instance, I try to eat organically, non-gmo (genetically modified), free-range, grass (and not grain fed) food sources.  And variety.  Lots of variety.  And color.  The more colorful a plate the better.


Depending on where you live, organic foods may be more costly, so a great website to use as a resource is www.ewg.org.  (EWG stands for Environmental Working Group).  This is the group behind the ‘dirty dozen’ and the ‘clean fifteen’ lists that are created each year which suggest which foods should really be eat organically, and those they feel can be safely eaten when not organic, as they do not retain high levels of pesticide residue.


And to just address the grass versus grain fed food, the reasoning is that grass fed-food usually contains less total fat, which means that grass-fed food contains fewer calories.  But one of the key reasons is that the fat composition of grass-fed food is much better than grain fed, meaning that the fatty acid composition is better in grass-fed because it has less monounsaturated fat than grain-fed, and it usually has more nutrients, including beta-carotene, has vitamins B, D, and E – and has 2 to 4 times more Omega-3’s and 5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid – a very helpful fatty acid found in meat and dairy products – known to play a role in weight loss and in retaining lean muscle mass). 

On the flip side, grain-fed meat contains 4 times more fat (and the bad type if you’re trying to stay away from heart disease), and has higher Omega-6 fatty acids which promotes an undesirable Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, which can lead to and sustain inflammation. 

And this is very important for anyone who is trying to lower inflammation in their body – and this is essential for anyone dealing with certain medical conditions, especially if there is an autoimmune component to the condition, like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, Type 1 diabetes, and thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.   As a tip, anything that includes the suffix or term ‘itis’ in it, is meaning to indicate a disease or inflammation….like tonsillitis, appendicitis, colitis, or pancreatitis.  Unfortunately, there is a really long list of such words.


Yes, for sure there is a long list.  I think with food, another question people inevitably have is how much should they eat.  And this is usually linked to peoples’ concerns regarding weight. I think this is a good time to have a look at weight.  Over the 1960’s and 70’s, obesity rates stayed fairly similar and were fairly low.  As the available of processed and fast foods became more easily accessible, both in the grocery store and also at restaurants, it increased dramatically and sharply:  for adults, it went from just over 13% in 1980 to almost 35% by 2008 – and for children, over this same timeframe it went from 5 to 17%.  Currently, these numbers are staggering.  According to the CDC, approximately 40% of adult are obese and over 71% of adults in the US (are overweight, including obese).


The impact of this weight gain has taken a great toll on health with dramatic increases in health problems and chronic diseases like: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, kidney disease, and more.  But it’s also important to note that the risk of dying prematurely increases, and that the risk increases with the addition of more weight.


For many people who look to maintain their weight or to lose weight, there is a great concern and focus with counting calories.  From a functional nutritional perspective, I think that an easier way of dealing with this is, again to follow the guideline of eating a nutrient-dense whole-food, properly-prepared diet.  Because you really don’t need to count calories when your plate is full of broccoli, green beans, potatoes, yams, lentils, onions, tomatoes, and spinach – and when you are supplementing this with fruits like apples, pineapple, black cherries, strawberries and mangos.  And properly preparing the food is also an important element here too, because steaming, stir frying or even eating some of your food raw, is preferable to deep frying or breading your food.


This is really important because the relationship food has to health becomes quite clear.  The role of our immune system is to keep us well, and to fight off anything that does not belong in our body.  However, eating too much of the wrong food and too little of the correct food means that our body is not given the proper nutrients for our immune system to function optimally.  And that this has huge repercussions on our health, and longevity.  It means that chronic diseases are on the rise, and that quality of life is on the decline.  And that the connection between eating the wrong foods and our vulnerability to illness has a direct link. We cannot underscore the vital role of eating a nutrient-dense, whole-food, properly-prepared diet.


Absolutely, your body can only perform to the standards of what you give it to function.  So, let’s look at our Top 5 Food Takeaways from today to help make your body less vulnerable to illness - these are:

1 – Choose nutrient-dense foods (if you find this difficult, just compare a couple of foods you are thinking of eating, and choose the one you think has more nutrient value)

2 – Maximize your intake of whole-foods (and reduce or cut out processed foods)

3 – Ensure your meals are properly prepared (some cooking methods reduce the nutrient content of the food and can increase the bad fat content of the food)

4 – Maximize your intake of organic, non-gmo’d and grass-fed food

5 – Include color on your plate – the more colorful the better


We are so happy that you chose to be with us today. And we would love for you to leave us comments on what topics you would like us to discuss in the future.  As well, if you would like additional information on what we’ve discussed today – or in any of our webinars, please let us know; we are very happy to provide this information to you.  Thank you so much for being here!


I’m Andy and I’m Sandra, and we thank you for being here!


We can help you. We have created a 7-part mini-series on boosting your immune system. It is our gift to you for a limited time only. So if you want to change direction, and work on your health, follow the link here and register. You will get instant access to this 7-part series, free of charge and full of valuable information. We even throw in some bonuses for you. 

So click here to  get started on your optimal health.



Until next time, love what you live, and live what you love. 


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Watch this webinar to learn how high toxicity in your body causes inflammation and lowers your immunity against viruses, making you sick and Tired. Learn about the three simple tests to measure how toxic your body is.