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    Simple Hacks to Build Immunity & Avoid Sickness by Shawn Wells

    Simple Hacks to Build Immunity & Avoid Sickness by Shawn Wells

    No one wants to get sick, or aid the spread of this virus. What can we do to keep ourselves safe and healthy?

    Our number one defense against sickness is a strong immune system. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from microscopic threats like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Involving many types of cells, organs, and proteins, this system’s job is to distinguish our tissue from foreign tissue. If the immune system encounters an antigen (aka. pathogen, bacterium, virus, parasite etc.) it triggers an immune response, and the body fights to dispose of this foreign invader.

    If your immune system is weak or overall unhealthy, your body’s response will be less able to fight antigens and you’ll be more vulnerable to getting sick and developing more severe symptoms.

    What do we do during viral seasons? We load up on vitamins, medications and disinfectants. While I’m not dissuading the importance of these things, it’s important to remember:

    Healthy immunity starts with a healthy body.

    The best way to boost your immune response is to improve your overall well being. Are you eating whole, nutrient-dense foods? Are you getting enough sleep and fresh air? What is your overall stress level?

    • Things that weaken the immune system:
    • Poor diet (sugar-rich, processed foods with additives)
    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol intake
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Dehydration
    • Obesity
    • Stress
    • Antibiotics
    • Not maintaining regular exercise

    In contrast, here are some easy lifestyle habits that can improve your overall health and boost immunity:

    Eat a whole food diet: It is always important to avoid processed foods and prioritize a whole, nutrient-dense diet, but especially when we fear our immune system may become compromised. We’ll get into more details about eating for immunity below.

    Get adequate sleep: Sleep is SO essential and most of us don’t get enough of it. While we sleep, our bodies shift into “restoration mode”, producing higher levels of hormones, chemicals and white blood cells which heal wounds and fight infection. This study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, explains the core relationship between sleep and immunity.

    Right now, as we practice social distancing and home isolation, is the perfect time to catch up on sleep and establish a better schedule for when life goes back to normal. The most beneficial snoozing hours are before midnight.

    Minimize stress: Mental stress is one of the most detrimental factors against building immunity. Minor stress is normal. But if your job, relationship or financial situation is eating away at your mental health, keep in mind that it’s doing the same to your physical body. When you’re mentally overwhelmed, the body puts the immune system at the bottom of the priority list.

    Keep checking in with yourself. Pinpoint anything that may be causing you unhealthy amounts of stress, and see how you can change or eliminate it.

    Pro tip: A daily meditation and/or yoga practice is proven to lower stress and anxiety.

    Wash your hands & disinfect your phone: This goes without saying, but often people don’t realize how many germs we carry on our phones. For hands, use soap and hot water. Wash for 20 seconds, and don’t forget between the fingers and under the nails. Rubbing Alcohol makes a great daily disinfectant for phones and other devices.

    Exercise: Observational studies show that those who exercise tend to suffer fewer infections that those who do not. Whether it’s a walk in the park, jog, yoga practice or online fitness class, aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

    Get fresh air: Especially when facing a lung-targeting virus, breathing fresh air is imperative. Inside, we primarily breathe pathogen-laden recirculated air. Going outside gives our lungs a chance to discharge toxins, increase oxygen intake and lower cortisol.

    Hydrate: A good rule of thumb is to drink at least half your weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 170lbs, aim to consume 85oz (2.5 litres) of water daily. If you feel cold, herbal tea is a great alternative.

    Sauna (ideally Infrared): This form of thermotherapy has been used for thousands of years for hygiene, health, social, and spiritual purposes. The extreme heat raises your core body temperature by 1°-2°C, inducing an artificial fever and triggering the body’s defence system accordingly. This study at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia explains on a cellular level how regular sauna use reinforces the body’s defence mechanisms.

    Pro tip: alternate between hot and cold (ex. sauna and cold plunge) to maximize benefits.

    Lymphatic Massage/Dry Brushing: The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport white blood cells throughout the body via the fluid “lymph”. It also helps rid the body of waste, toxins and unwanted materials. Our lymphatic system is one of two circulatory systems in the body, but unlike the vascular system, there is no organ responsible for moving fluid around. Adding a daily 10 minute lymphatic self-massage or dry brushing session stimulates lymphatic drainage and assists normal lymph flow.

    In addition to improving our lifestyles, there is a plethora of natural supplementation that can have great effects on immunity. Be aware that when purchasing supplements, it’s important to prioritize quality – look for those that have gone through thorough testing, have detailed ingredient lists and are recommended by professionals.

    There is some controversy on the effectiveness of supplementation to specifically prevent and treat the virus. Scientists, like Linda Van Horn (chief of nutrition in the department of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine) all over the world agree that “….eating a nutritious diet and getting proper sleep and exercise are the best ways to strengthen your immune system.” That being said, there are many studies stating the efficacy of certain vitamins and herbs in supporting immunity, and it’s never a bad idea to take extra precautions.

    During this outbreak of novel virus, it’s important to focus on supplements that support lung and respiratory health. Our lungs’ number one job is to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, but they have a plethora of other functions including: blood pressure regulation, pH balance, infection protection, blood reservoir, mucus clearance, speech and detoxification. When the lungs become compromised, it causes a domino effect throughout our entire body.

    Some of the most helpful immunity-boosting supplements and herbs are:

    Liposomal Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant, aids in the absorption of minerals like zinc and iron, builds collagen, and helps protect organs by bolstering fatty tissue.

    What does “Liposomal” mean? Liposomal vitamins are encapsulated in pockets of fat cells (called liposomes) rather than using capsules, tablets or powders. Currently, this technique is the most effective way to ensure proper absorption.

    Oil of Oregano: Oil of oregano is nature’s antibiotic. It reduces inflammation, provides antioxidants, treats fungal infections and kills bacteria. It is extremely effective, but be careful not to overuse it or take it for more than two weeks at a time.

    Zinc: Zinc is a mineral of many functions, but it is best known for its ability to bolster immunity. There are many studies proving zinc can prevent sickness and/or shorten the length of colds and flus.

    Echinacea: Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows in North America, and it’s been used as medicine for centuries. Clinical results have been inconclusive thus far, but scientists believe it can help prevent respiratory infection.

    Vitamin D3: Referred to as a vitamin, Vitamin D also acts as a hormone in the body. This review of 25 randomized trials finds that taking V4itamin D has a protective effect against respiratory-tract infections. It’s very hard to get adequate vitamin D from food – the best source is sunlight – so it’s a great supplement to take, especially during the winter. Look for Vitamin D3/K2 combo in gel caps or liquid form.

    NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine): NAC is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce phlegm and cough, loosen mucus and decrease the deterioration of lung function. It helps replenish glutathione levels in the lungs and decrease bronchial inflammation.

    Omega 3 for the Immune SystemOmega-3: Almost all of us are deficient in Omega-3s. This essential fatty acid is chronic for reducing inflammation. Try to consume foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel walnuts, pumpkin seeds, in addition to adding a supplemental dose of Omega-3.

    Elecampane Root: This root has been long-used to treat lung diseases including asthma, whooping cough, and bronchitis. Elecampane contains the effective phytochemical “inulin” which coats and soothes the lining of the bronchial tubes and helps clear the lungs of congestion. It’s a powerful root to take as both a preventative and a treatment-aid.

    Curcumin: Most commonly found in turmeric, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce airway inflammation. Traditionally used in Asian medicine, it’s safe at high-doses and can be taken on it’s own or deliciously added to foods like rice, coffee, eggs and curries.

    Briefly mentioned above, I’d like to reiterate the importance of eating an immune-boosting diet. Here is an easy guideline you can follow to make the most out of your meals!

    Eat whole, nutrient-dense foods: Avoid all processed & packaged foods, and always check the ingredient list. Recommended items to keep on hand are: eggs, grass-fed beef, pork belly, bone-broth, yams, squash, zucchini, high-fat plain yoghurt, almond butter, 90% chocolate, avocados, cheddar cheese, nitrate-free sausage, frozen berries, spinach, canned salmon, olive oil and coconut milk.

    Moderate alcohol: Excessive alcohol usage can increase inflammation and disrupt immune response.

    Avoid sugar: Eating or drinking too much sugar slows down the immune system by putting your white blood cells in a coma-like state.

    Cook with garlic and ginger: Garlic is an immunity-boosting superstar (and it keeps the vampires away!) Rich in organosulfur compounds, it is used for its antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. In fact, garlic was the main preventative of Gangrene during both world wars. Consuming raw garlic is best. And most widely known as an antiemetic (anti-nausea), ginger is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

    Eat vitamin C rich foods: Citrus, bell pepper, broccoli, kale, strawberries and parsley are all examples of vitamin C rich foods. Taking a supplement is advantageous, but it’s always better to eat your nutrients when you can.

    Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate (at least 85%) may help protect the body’s cells from free radicals due to the antioxidant theobromine.

    Eat flavonoids: This 2016 study notes that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defence system. Consume them by eating blueberries, grapes (including red wine), tea, onions, kale, broccoli and tomatoes.

    A healthy immune system is necessary for survival – and it starts by leading a healthy lifestyle. By making some of these small changes in habits and diet, you can make a big difference in the strength of your body’s defences.

    There is a lot here, but start simple: Eat a whole food diet, take vitamin C, sleep well, drink more water and less alcohol, and go for a 30 minute walk once a day. Then you can start stacking more of these items into your routine to maximize potential immunity benefits.

    Incorporate as many of these immunity-boosting hacks as you can to help keep you, and your family, strong and healthy during this time.



    Original blog may be found directly on Shawn's site here!  

    Stay connected with Shawn Wells:

    Want to be featured by ICON Meals? Submit your stories to info@iconmeals.com or send us a DM on IG or Facebook!

    10 Foods That Lower Stress

    10 Foods That Lower Stress

    By Team ICON Contributor Shawn Wells


    Modern life can be full of stressors — money and relationships are two of the most obvious ones, but smaller-scale worries like the morning commute or making sure your home is in order when guests arrive can add up to significant stress.


    The good news is many healthy foods can actively fight stress! Here are 10 of my favorites:


    Chamomile Tea 

    Warm drinks make us happy and relaxed. Chamomile is known to reduce anxiety, possibly due to the antioxidant apigenin.



    Nature's multivitamin! Eggs are rich in nutrients like choline, providing a healthy stress response.



    These delicious blue treats are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which may reduce stress-related inflammation and improve mood.


    Greek Yogurt

    Probiotic foods like yogurt may promote better mental health and brain function. They may also  ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.⁣


    Dark Chocolate

    Besides satisfying your sweet tooth, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating dark chocolate with 70% cocoa content or higher may reduce the stress hormone cortisol*.


    Fatty Fish

    Don’t be dissuaded by the name — these fats are excellent for you. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and tuna may ease depression and improve mood⁣.



    We all know milk is a great source of calcium, which may ease depression as well as the symptoms of PMS.



    Like the fatty fish mentioned above, this amazing fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) is loaded with stress-reducing omega-3 fatty acids.


    Pumpkin Seeds

    These taste amazing when roasted, and they’re rich in magnesium and tryptophan which calm your sympathetic nervous system and prepare the body for sleep.


    Leafy Greens

    Swiss chard, spinach, and similar leafy veggies are good sources of magnesium, an important mineral that plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions including the body's stress response.⁣





    Stay connected with Shawn Wells:


    Instagram @shawnwells

    Facebook /shawn.zhr



    Want to be featured by ICON Meals? Submit your stories to info@iconmeals.com or send us a DM on IG or Facebook!

    How To Handle Stress

    How To Handle Stress

    Stress is a normal part of life. It’s a physical response to events that make us feel threatened, also known as “fight or flight.” Some of us thrive on higher levels of stress, while others are  much more sensitive.The good news is it’s possible to define, take on, and prevent daily stressors.


    How Stress Works

    Our stress response comes from the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Conversely, our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) promotes a relaxation response. It’s obviously in our best interest to keep the balance tilted toward PNS, but modern society makes that more challenging. Money, politics, social media, health concerns, and plenty of other daily stressors pop up every day.


    Stress can be good when channeled in a healthy way, but chronic stress commonly contributes to health problems ranging from high blood pressure and heart disease to infertility and rapid aging. Long-term chronic stress can accelerate the deterioration of important brain functions.


    Health Dangers of Chronic Stress

    The chronic presence of cortisol, the stress hormone, can dramatically degenerate the brain. High cortisol levels over long periods of time can injure and even kill the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning new skills. 


    The Limbic System, our stress regulator, is closely tied to hormonal activity. When we perceive a threat, the Limbic System responds turns on and off various hormones and digestive functions to give the body what it needs. It then memorizes the trigger so it can respond faster next time. Chronic stress can overwork this system and cause hormonal imbalance.


    Overproduction of stress hormones can eventually shut down functions that allow for growth, reproduction, and immunity. With stress levels at an all-time high in today’s society, you can see why issues like chronic illness, digestion problems, and sexual dysfunction are so common. Reproduction, digestion, and fighting off illness are low priorities to your body when it thinks you’re in an emergency. 


    Psychological dysfunction can also arise from chronic stress. Anxiety, panic attacks, and pain disorders can become unexplainable problems. Anxiety can be a rational response to a perceived threat, but a chronic state of anxiousness can alter the brain chemistry to the point where it responds irrationally and uncontrollably to everyday situations. Initial symptoms of this include an inability to focus, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and hand tremors.


    How to Handle Stress

    So how can we make stress manageable? Many times stress comes from the feeling of having to tackle major problems alone. Here are a few suggestions on how to confront these issues:


    • Develop a support network of friends and family. Loneliness and isolation drastically increases susceptibility to stressors.
    • Gain control with preparation. Reduce stressful surprises by maintaining a strict schedule.
    • Evaluate your stressors so you know what to look for. They are far easier to handle when you can identify them.
    • Expose yourself to constant positive reinforcement. Turn off the news, avoid negative people, read uplifting books, and most importantly, find a reason to laugh!
    • Unplug on a regular basis. Instant access to an ocean of information is unhealthy, and often puts us in a bad mood. Get outside for some fresh air and exercise!
    • Exercise, period. Our bodies are made to move, and exercise can come in many different forms. Join a casual sports league. Take regular walks and jogs (this is extra easy if you have a dog). Exercise releases endorphins into the bloodstream that directly combat negative cortisol. It’s also very effective therapy!


    Don’t let stress get you down. If you would like to learn more, listen to episode 8 of the ICONiCAST podcast.


    Yours in Health,

    Joseph Brilliant, D.C.