Wash your hands AND feed your immune system

Washing hands is great, and social distancing is interesting, but everything our body does, including immunity, it does with the components (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) it gets from food.  Let’s add ‘eating your fruits and vegetables’ to the list of how to survive the corona virus (Covid 19) and it may just help prevent lifestyle related diseases at the same time. 


  1. Those on a plant based diet had more white blood cells (source of antibodies to combat bacteria and viruses) compared to non-vegetarians (pcrm.org).
  2. The Mediterranean Diet still rates high for providing plenty of vegetables, fruits and other plant-based foods that are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E that can boost immune function.  Check out “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired” for a list of foods on this diet  (Amazon or abbykurthnutrition.coach).  


  1. Beta-Carotene: Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function by increasing disease-fighting cells in the body. Excellent sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables. Beta-carotene is a building block of vitamin A, which contributes greatly to lung health.  Ideal is 5,000 iu of vitamin A daily. 
  2. Vitamins C and E: Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune response. Humans don’t make our own vitamin C like other animals, so diet is important. Sources of Vitamin C include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, lemons, and other preferably raw fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E sources include nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli.  Ideal is 3,000 mg of vitamin C daily.
  3. Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that can help boost white blood cells, which defend against invaders. Sources include meat, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and lentils. Try to get 20 mg of zinc daily. 
  4. Vitamin D.  We can let other animals eat the plants and provide us with immune enhancing Vitamin D – Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon), cheese, and egg yolks are high in vitamin D.  Ideally 2,000 iu daily is recommended, or more based on blood testing and your doctor’s recommendation.  


Emerson Ecologics has educational topics and supplements on line (wellevate.me/abby-wilson-kurth) and suggests loading up on food and spices with antiviral and immune supportive properties, including raw garlic, coconut oil, oregano, ginger, kimchi, fermented foods, walnuts, pomegranates, green tea, apple cider vinegar, and mushrooms (shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, and turkeytail).  Beta-glucans are the active ingredient in mushrooms, which are thought to “prime” our immune system.  


1.  Black Elderberry or Sambucus nigra

A study on Pub Med says that a black elderberry extract was shown to be effective in the lab against 10 strains of influenza virus. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, a black elderberry extract  reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518

2.  Astragalus

Astragalus is an herb that has been found to have some anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24325861


You can read the history of homeopathy’s success in epidemics over the last 200 years.  If searching ‘genus epidemicus’ for 2020, sources will list the most common remedies for the current virus.  Combination remedies are available at wellevate.me/abby-wilson-kurth or the health food store.  Personally, I look for  a combination homeopathic product that contains Eupatorium perfolatum, which is helpful for body aches with the flu.  Scientific evidence for one homeopathic combination, Engystol, is available on Pub Med (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2998502/).

I’m hoping that this will be of help – me just sitting at home doesn’t seem like enough.  Any other nutritional support you have found helpful in the past and are willing to share?

Intermittent Fasting – Day 14

I cheated.  But in my defense, I was following my own nutrition advice.  I often tell clients who wake up early after 4-5 hours of sleep to try a protein snack.  Oftentimes, blood sugar drops and that causes people to wake.  A few slices of apple with peanut butter can act almost like a sleeping pill for me most of the time.  I have not really been hungry in the middle of the night since starting the fasting, but this particular night I was famished.  

Still no weight loss for me, but a conversation I had today mentioned a women who has lost 100 pounds with intermittent fasting.  I have read that intermittent fasting increases muscle mass so could the fasting along with my zumba, yoga, and pilates be causing an increase in muscle which weighs more?  

Intermittent Fasting Fits My Genes (and hopefully jeans!)

Day Three 

Intermittent fasting is in my genes.  I looked today at a DNA panel from Genomix that I ran on myself related to female hormone function and clearance.  Interestingly, one of the lifestyle recommendations for me based on my genetics was fasting 12-15 hours per day.  The lab was founded by Dr. Kendall Stewart in Austin, and I know that he and other neurologists recommend at least a 12 hour fast, but I had never considered a longer fast than from dinner to breakfast (about 12 hours).  Interesting to see that the approximately 16 hour fasting period I am doing is a helpful lifestyle practice.  

Day Four:  I was happy to fast in the morning as I had gone to a Les Dames D’Escoffier event the night before.  This group of ladies in the food, fine beverage, and hospitality fields do great work raising money for scholarships and businesses that are striving to benefit in the field of food sustainability, as well as providing support to green initiatives in San Antonio. 

For the event, we were to read “My Kitchen Year” and make a recipe from the book.  I am a member, but I do NOT belong in their league as far as cooking.  These ladies are amazing cooks and I ate way too much.  My stomach was happy to skip breakfast.  

Diet Mania

These days everyone is on some diet or another – paleo, ketogenic, low calorie, baby food diet, cabbage soup diet,  or even unknowingly the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) .   Not to be left out, I decided to join some of the crowd and give intermittent fasting a try.  I talked with someone who was eating from 11 am to 7 pm and I thought “that could fit my lifestyle”. Also, I’ve been reading enough to feel this is a legitimate diet.  

The alternative was to count calories and 1200 calories doesn’t let you eat much.  I tend to favor healthy foods like the Mediterranean diet anyway, and use some paleo foods as well, but didn’t want to restrict myself that much.  I’m too much of a fan of vegetables and fruit to do the all meat, all day diet my friend was doing, so intermittent fasting was worth a try.  

My motivation?  To lose a couple of inches off of my waist.  However, I knew there were other benefits and sources indicate that intermittent fasting has been found to increase muscle mass, increase longevity, boost metabolism, reduce blood pressure, and help prevent heart conditions, some cancers, memory loss and Type 2 diabetes.  I also find it helpful to try what my clients may be asking about so why not be a guinea pig for nutrition!?

From conferences I’ve attended, I knew that fasting lets the cells cleanse themselves – a process called autophagy.  I also knew that the digestive tract needs a rest, something called the migrating motor complex which seems to provide a “housekeeping” role between meals by sweeping residual undigested material through the digestive tract.  Clean is good!

What was my experience for Day One?  I noticed I felt lighter, my stomach and abdomen felt happy.  I made it through Bible study and zumba without really missing food, though I had a twinge of a headache about the time I was getting ready to eat.  All in all, not that hard.  

Day Two:  I got on the scale and had gained 2.5 pounds.  Wait a minute, that is NOT the result I was looking for, but I plan to give this a week and see what happens then.  Stay tuned.  

Motivation to Change

This is an excerpt from a new book I am just finishing, “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Disease”. We are fast approaching New Year’s resolution time so perhaps this will help to get a start on a wellness mindset.

STEP #1:  


“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  Aristotle

A few steps forward, a few steps back. Such is the journey of life. It’s all about the learning. It’s all about the learning. It’s all about the learning. 

Chances are you have tried in the past to adopt a healthy habit. Perhaps the memory of this attempt to change, which may not have been successful, leaves you feeling like a failure and keeps you from trying.  Actually, your previous attempt not only shows you are smart enough to recognize the importance of adopting healthy habits, it also was a learning opportunity about new skills and new habits.  

When I’m having difficulties, I ask, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” When the answer comes to me, the difficulty or pain or challenge goes away more quickly. We can be our own biggest hinderance, but if we get out of our own way, we can also be our biggest chance of success. We all have what it takes to succeed if we can:

 Find our motivation

 Find our confidence

 Find our vision


Motivation comes from knowing why lifestyle change is important to you and to your purpose in life

Importance.  Why is having better health important to you? What goals do you have for the future, and how is your health linked to your goals? I always say I don’t want to attend my daughter’s wedding riding in a scooter chair and wearing an oxygen mask—I want to be able to dance. Everyone has a reason, and here are some that I hear frequently:

I want to enjoy myself when I retire.

I want to stay off medications.

I want to keep up with the grandchildren.

I want to feel good.

I want to look good.

I want to travel.

I don’t want to be a burden to my family.

I want to be a role model for my family.

List 3 more reasons why staying healthy is important to you: 




Your purpose. What is that thing that you can’t keep yourself from doing? For me it’s bothering you poor folks with information about being healthy. If I see an article or a show about people’s health, I am immediately interested and can’t wait to read or listen. I donate to causes that feed the hungry. Wherever you give your time, money, or thoughts, that is your passion and your purpose. Poetry, pets, politics, or even pickles. I may not give any of those things time or attention, but I’m glad that someone cares enough to be a superhero in those arenas. 

How would being healthy play into your passion? For instance, if you want to help build water wells in Africa, might having a heart attack limit you? If you love showing dogs, how will you do that if your excess weight impacts your knees so that you can’t walk or run? Physical incapacity takes away what gives our lives meaning. 


Confidence for change comes from remembering our past and present successes

When talking with people, I frequently ask them if there was a time that they felt good about their lifestyle habits.  Maybe they were exercising regularly or their healthy eating was off the charts.  The next question I ask them is, “what strengths were you using that helped you be successful” ? Maybe your time of feeling your best self didn’t even have to do with your health, but perhaps was about your job, your hobby or a relationship.  Whatever strengths you noticed then can be the fuel to move you forward now.  

EXERCISE:  Your Strengths

List your strengths that have helped you in the past and can help you make a positive lifestyle change now.

Carrots vs. Cholesterol

Jay Leno is admitting his admission into the high cholesterol club.  Not a surprise since I have read in the past that he jokingly says he hasn’t eaten a vegetable since 1969.  Per a recent article, Jay found that his LDL cholesterol (the “lousy” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to the tissues, including the arteries) was high.  He made some dietary modifications including giving up the “Bacon of the Month Club” and perhaps he is now walking some instead of driving one of the many cars in his garage.  But there are 5 lifestyle changes Jay can make that would  improve LDL cholesterol as effectively as medication (20-30%), and the same is true for anyone.  

A high LDL cholesterol on a blood test may be only part of the story and further testing can be completed to see if the LDL particles are oxidized (dangerous) or not.  Oxidation creates damage to the cholesterol particles and causes them to stick more to the artery lining to create a blockage.  Vegetable and fruit haters like Leno are missing out on the ANTI-oxidants that could prevent this process.   

There is an on-line brochure from the National Institutes of Health  titled “Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol with TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes)”.  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/chol_tlc.pdf.  It is a long title and a long brochure, however, one page gives the summary of how one can reduce their LDL cholesterol by 20-30% with lifestyle changes.  Here are the 5 steps:

  1. Decrease saturated fat to less than 7% of calories.              Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and come in foods like  butter, cheese, red meat, and of course bacon.  For a 2,000 calorie per day diet this would be around 140 calories from saturated fat per day or less.
  2. Decrease dietary cholesterol to less than 200 mg/day.                   This may be especially true for hyper-responders or those who have a genetic propensity toward high cholesterol.  However, limiting fried foods, fast foods, processed foods and desserts would be helpful for any person.  Some foods with cholesterol are just too nutritious to pass up (think eggs).  
  3. Lose 10 pounds if overweight.                                                          Even a 5% weight loss has benefits for health. 
  4. Add 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day.                                    Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.  Notice, these are all REAL foods in their real form. 
  5. Add 2 grams/day of plant sterols/stanols.                                     These compounds occur naturally in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Sterols and stannous can now be found as supplements or as additions to food because of their cholesterol-lowering properties. 

Joining the “Normal Numbers” club certainly is possible and think of what a celebrity you could become with your doctor, your family, and your body, which will thank you profusely.  This month is National Cholesterol Education Month, so now you are in the KNOW.  

I Don’t Believe in Miracles

“I believe in miracles…..you sexy thing”.  So goes the song by Hot Chocolate and it certainly holds true for the public waiting to hear about the newest miracle food or berry.  Me, I’m going to say that ALL food is a miracle.  All food from nature that is.  Man made food is about as much of a miracle as Frankenstein, thus the term ‘Frankenfood’.

The marketers love to convince us that a particular berry (think acai) is the latest miracle, and that is so much sexier then hearing “eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables” again for the umpteenth time.  Our body does ALL it’s work using nutrients and most all foods have some nutrient that is helpful.  If you ate only acai berries, you would be missing out on many other needed nutrients.  Variety will ensure that we get what we need.

Like foods, some nutrients are deemed a miracle.  Vitamin D has become the latest hot nutrient with doctors testing for and recommending large doses of vitamin D.  The problem is that nutrients work together.  One of the benefits of taking vitamin D (D3 is the preferred active form) is that it helps the body absorbs calcium.  Unfortunately, we want the calcium to get into the tissues where it is needed (muscles, bones) and for that to happen the body needs vitamin K2 (most useful form is K7).  Otherwise, calcium stays in the arteries and contributes to arterial plaque.  

This ‘one nutrient’ thinking is the problem with some of the medical research – scientist try to test for one variable/nutrient to prove its benefit for a particular health condition, but nutrients are synergistic – they work together to make things happen.  Also, some research studies utilize synthetic forms of the nutrients and the Frankenstein theory raises its ugly head  (sorry Frank) with study results that say that nutrient doesn’t have any benefit.

So, the bottom line is to find your miracles in the farmer’s market instead of the marketer’s latest promotion.



I have to admit I am proud I was never a butter hater, even back in the 1980’s when anything with cholesterol was vilified.  Eggs and butter come from nature so they have to be good, right?  As for heart disease and cholesterol, those recommendations were made without scientific proof and time has shown us that processed foods and sugar are really the worse culprits for raising cholesterol above healthy limits.

Butter has butyric acid, which helps feed the cells of the colon, and if the colon is happy so is the rest of us.    Eating indigestible fiber like whole grains and legumes (beans, lentils, peas, peanuts) also help feed the colon, but butter is better (try saying that 10 times!).  

Butter from pasture fed cows is also high in vitamin K2, a seldom talked about nutrient.  Vitamin K2 helps take calcium and put it in the tissues that need it, like the bones, and limits the calcium in the arteries where it contributes to coronary heart disease.  

On the down side (there is always a down side isn’t there?).  Butter is high in calories, so put it in the “eat in moderation” category.  

P.S.  Julia Child and I also share another connection besides butter.  I was recently inducted into Les Dames D’Escoffier, a society of professional women involved in the food, wine, and hospitality industries of which Julia Child was a member.  I wonder what advice Julia would give to the current kale generation?


The most fun in health coaching is watching people who were sure they couldn’t make lifestyle changes gain confidence and become a doer.  Trust me, I have had to convince people to make a start even if it was to just move around for 5 minutes.  I have seen some of these people move on to become people who truly get the wellness message and are putting it into action.  Sometimes we lack the confidence to believe we can be successful making changes in habits or behaviors.

Is your confidence level low, medium, or high?

To develop confidence, try one of these:

  1. Remember a time that you were at your best.  List the strengths you used to get there.  Ask yourself, “How can these strengths be used in achieving my current goals?”
  2. Notice your positive thoughts, the thoughts that help you move forward.
  3. Notice the encouragement you receive from others.  Write down the people who inspire you.
  4. Congratulate yourself when you do something for yourself that shows you are worthy of being healthy, happy.
  5. Try one small change and congratulate yourself each time you complete the behavior.  For example:
  • Decrease sodas by 1 or 2 per week.
  • Notice how you feel when you make a choice that supports your vision, versus a choice that doesn’t support your vision.
  • March in place for 5 minutes several days a week.
  • Add 1 vegetable or fruit to your diet 1-2 times a week.
  • Manage stress by doing something you enjoy 1 time per week.
  • Drink an extra glass of water several days a week.
  • Read about any current or potential health issue you might have and how it can impact you and the people that are important to you. 

Success breeds success so crushing any one of these will grow your confidence. 


Chances are with the arrival of the new year, many of our minds turned to health, and perhaps even the need to detoxify.  As a nutritionist, I can tell you that many people’s idea of detoxification are a bit off the mark.  I remember one friend who was extolling the virtues of a product he called ‘Colon Blow’.  If this is a real product I’m not sure, but there are parodies of this product when you search the internet.  Others extol the virtue of water/juice fasting for many days and use feeling horrible as the badge of honor that they are detoxifying.  

Do you really need to detoxify?  Here is a quiz you can take to see your detox score along with some more complete information about a gentler way to cleanse the body.  https://knowaboutnutrition.com/detox-questionnaire/ 

Do You Really Need to Detoxify?

The good news is that our body does have a self-cleaning system – sort of like having a Roomba constantly sweeping the floor.  But, with more than 6 billion pounds of chemical pollutants being released into the environment in 2001 alone, that cleaning system can get overloaded.  The liver, kidneys, intestines, lung, lymphatics, and skin are charged with the task of getting rid of what is harmful.  

The liver is so important to keeping us safe from harmful substances, that anything absorbed in the small intestine immediately goes to the liver to make sure there is nothing in what we have eaten that will hurt us.  Again the liver is so important that up to 70% of the liver can be destroyed and it will grow back.  When it comes to detoxifying the liver is our hero and its main job is to make toxic substances, which are generally stored as fatty molecules, water soluble so that they can be removed from the body.  The liver does this in 3 phases:

  1. Transformation – Phase 1:  Fat soluble toxins are transformed into intermediate compounds.  The bad news is that these compounds are often more toxic/reactive until they are further converted in Phase 2.   This is not a problem unless a person has a genetic propensity toward a rapid Phase 1 function and a slow Phase 2 function – think about gathering up all your garbage, but not having a bag to put it in (flies, smell – you get the picture).  
  2. Convert to Water Soluble –  Phase 2:  This makes the intermediate compound from Phase 1 harmless, water-soluble, and ready to be removed from the body.  As mentioned before, there can be an imbalance between phase 1 and 2 as a result of:
  • genetics 
  • diet (some foods and supplements make phase 1 enzyme activity so fast that phase 2 can’t keep up), 
  • smoking and alcohol consumption
  • aging (worse for premenopausal women).                                        

This imbalance can cause problems and one example is the pain killer acetaminophen – the active ingredient in Tylenol®. Acetaminophen toxicity is the most common cause of liver failure in the US. when the phase 2 enzymes (especially glutathione) are depleted.

3. Transporters for Excretion – Phase 3:  The now harmless compounds are transported out of tissues to be removed from the body.  Dietary  factors may help (apple, sulforaphane from broccoli), or hinder (curcumin, milk thistle)  phase III transporters. An important part of the excretion process is to have good bile flow from the liver/gallbladder and regular stools as the garbage truck carries away the trash.  Drinking water and eating more quality fiber are important here and may be more gentle than something like Colon Blow.  

Each of these phases require vitamins, minerals, amino acids from protein, etc.  This is why prolonged fasting with water or juice may do more harm than good as the detoxification process needs a lot of energy.   You can look at the products under the “Detoxification” tab at wellevate.me/abby-wilson/kurth to see what kind of nutrients are generally used by professional grade supplement manufacturers to support the detoxification process. 

Another aspect of detoxification now being recognized is autophagy.  In autophagy, the cell has its own recycling system, where Pac Man like organs (lysosomes, autosomes) chew up waste products and what is no longer needed by the cell.  This process is especially important for cells that need to live a long time like the brain, liver, kidney, and pancreas cells, and it is felt improving this process has future impact on diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disease.  There are several ways you can turn up your body’s autophagy process:

  1. Have a period of at least 12 hours without eating.  An overnight fast should be sufficient for most people and will avoid any problems for those with blood sugar issues, etc.  This is a short-term fast.  
  2. Exercise
  3. Higher fats (the healthy fats), lower carbohydrates (vegetables contain many nutrients that help detoxification so make those your carbohydrate source) and low protein
  4. Curcumin, green tea and resveratrol from sources such as peanuts, pistachios, grapes, red and white wine, blueberries, cranberries, cocoa and dark chocolate are helpful as well.

If your detoxification score was high, you might need supplemental help,  but in general here are some things you can do to improve detoxification.

1.  Diet:  A varied, complex, and whole food diet is beneficial for detoxification and every other process your body needs to complete.  Research has found some foods that are detoxification superheroes:

  • Allium vegetables (garlic, onion, shallot, leek, chive)
  • Apiaceous vegetables (may slow down phase 1 detox) (anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, parsley, parsnip)
  • Black raspberry, blueberry
  • Black tea, Green tea, Chamomile tea, Dandelion tea
  • Chicory root
  • Citrus
  • Coffee
  • Cruciferous vegetables (results may vary with different vegetables) (cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)
  • Ghee
  • Ginger
  • Curcumin
  • Daidzein, genistein (isoflavones found in fava beans, soybeans, kudzu
  • Fish oil
  • Luteolin (found in oregano, peppermint, sage, thyme)

2.  Reduce Your Risk for Toxicity

Listed below are some practical suggestions to help lower your exposure to toxins.

To minimize toxins in the diet:

  • Avoid foods high in fat, additives and preservatives
  • Eat organically grown vegetables, fruits, meats and grains
  • Drink plenty of clean source water

To minimize toxins in the environment:

  • Use an effective air purification system
  • Wear protective clothing and/or apparatus when working with toxic   materials
  • Replace furnace and air conditional filters regularly

If you are loving your liver and want to know more about how to help, here are some additional resources.  

Your Body’s Detoxification Pathways — The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc.


Metabolic Detoxification | Life Extension


Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and …


Dr. Kendal Stewart on Autophagy – https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-yy5j4-88f381