How many of us wait till we’ve got a cold or flu to tank up on Vitamin C and other natural medicines? Trust, me, I’ve been through this. Year after year I feel like I’m getting a little more preventative… It’s a process, you see, especially when we’ve been really used to just taking medicine when we need it.
So why is this important? Our bodies are pretty adaptive right, they can handle it… If we get a cold or flue, we’ll just ride it out like everyone else? Well… our immune system is very complex and on guard like, all the time! We really need to be supporting it as a natural part of our routine, not just to prevent getting colds and flus, but to help towards optimal health and wellness and prevent hidden chronic inflammation and infection that may be under the surface… Plus there may be a whole host of things already happening beneath the surface that is zapping your energy and making you at greater risk of a lowered immune system , colds and flus…
There are many factors that can influence our immune system
If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to many of my points below… thats ok… It just means you may need to devote more time and effort to making sure you create the balance needed to keep your immune system functioning well… Giving it what it needs to balance out any previous predisposition.
Eating diet high in carbohydrates means we need more insulin to get the glucose from carbs into cells (this is because carbs break down quick and easily and so require quite a bit of insulin). This over time weakens the sensitivity of insulin – it just doesn’t work as well to get insulin into the cell and so we have excess glucose on the system – often on top of a diet that already includes an excess of carbohydrates. This excess gets stored as fat, which in turn burdens the immune system. But insulin secretion causes inflammation too… that’s why a lot of people with chronic illness like to be on a high fat, high protein diet – to reduce the inflammatory side-effect of insulin secretion.
In times of stress, or the fight or flight response – cortisol is released as a messenger to signal glycogen breakdown into glucose for energy for fight or flight response (among other things) but when this doesn’t happen more insulin is needed and this increases inflammation. Also cortisol release directly increases inflammation (pro-inflammatory cytokines – Interleukins) too having an additive effect to the point mentioned above!
Being born by caesarean and/or having been breastfed for short period of time can impact the immune system significantly… An infant is born with a sterile environment in terms of bacteria in the body so birth process is the 1st exposure to bacteria – natural birth gives more beneficial bacteria to the baby via birth canal, caesarean does not. There are ways mothers ensure bacteria proliferation when they’ve had caesarian such as bacteria transplant form the mother’s vaginal cavity. Hospital births expose child to MRSA and other harmful bacteria which can be balanced with helpful bacteria from the mother. But infant pick up bacteria from mother’s skin, suckling, and immune cells from breast milk, which helps them build their layers of protection and immune system. Weaning full off breast milk and onto food too early can damage the fragile gut and microbiome – for example weaning onto a high carb diet or onto gluten or high lectin foods.
If your immune system has been affected by this you will want to boost your immune system even more as a way of compensating for the early years. A probiotic is essential for you!
Being brought up in a very clean or even sterile environment does not provide much opportunity for a child’s immune system that is learning how to develop, to pick up beneficial bacteria from other humans and animals as well as the earth, and also to build antibodies and defence agains pathogens. This is important for immune modulation and regulation (part of how the immune system keeps itself in check) of the adaptive immune system, detoxification, protection of the body, and removing infections. Our immune system needs to learn to protect us, so we need mud and dirt to do this!
Frequent intake of antibiotics as a child or adult can wipe clean the microbiome (bacteria) environment in the body and frequent use can cause the unhelpful bacteria to grow unbalanced and become resistant to the drugs. In fact this is happening already to such an alarming rate, all the antibiotics have reported resistance from harmful bacteria. This very well may become the next big pandemic. Bacteria being our 1st line of defence is so important for us! Wiping it out reduces our immunity and makes us more susceptible to infection. If you have to take anitbiotics, always take a double or triple dose of probiotics too! Read about bacteria and why its so important in my other article here!
Exposure to toxins and pathogens from cleaning products and cosmetics and sanitary products are absorbed straight into the bloodstream via the skin or breathing & bypass the liver. Many plastics mimic and disrupt our natural hormone lifecycle and interfere with the liver. Pesticides/herbicides are absorbed in the digestive tract, disrupt the liver and hormones, cause inflammation and studies have shown these to be carcinogenic! So many environmental toxins! But so much opportunity for us to switch to natural and organic products to decrease the toxic burden on our body.
Eating too much of something all the time can also cause intolerances and allergies. Its best to rotate foods.
Exposure to different stressors such as alcohol, fried food, pollution, stress and smoking causes creation of free radicals which cause oxidative stress and damages cells in the body and brain. See my other article on why antioxidants are so important for our health.
Liver congestion – the liver is the body’s filter and when congested after a lifetime of absorbing toxins and not necessarily being able to detox them well, the toxins end up spilling into the body and causing health issues and worsening existing inflammation. This overwhelming burden of toxins also confuses the immune system. Read more about how this works and how good nutrition can support the liver to detox.
What can you do to improve your immune system?
Adapt your metabolism to be more efficient through retraining it by eating more healthy fats and proteins. Read more about why this is important and how to do this in this article.
Increase prebiotic/fermented foods in your diet – they feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut – apple cider vinegar, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, asparagus, onions, garlic, leek, Jerusalem artichoke, sauerkraut, oats, apples, cacao, flax seeds, konjac/burdock/yakon/jicama/chicory root, seaweed, miso, tofu, tempeh, tamari (these must be organic if they are soy based). Abundance and diversity of species of bacteria is important and can occur when eating lots of different fruits and veggies and being exposed to other humans, animals and earth. Read about bacteria and other sources of pro and prebiotics here!
Implement liver detoxifying protocols and introduce protocols based around reducing inflammation by any means possible through diet and lifestyle changes, boosting the body’s nutrient status through an anti-inflammatory diet and supplements, further reducing the inflammatory load by eliminating tolerances and allergens and detoxing, reducing stress and working on denser emotions as well as an helpful thought patterns, optimising the metabolism, retraining the immune system by stopping the looping or inflammatory cascade that hasn’t switched off.
Eliminate all household toxin exposure (cleaning products and cosmetics and sanitary products, plastics, pesticides/herbicides) as well as other toxins like alcohol, exhaust and other airborne pollutants, cigarette smoke, heavy metals and toxins and chemicals in processed foods.
Increase your dietary or supplemental intake of shiitake, maitake, turkey tail, reishi, Lion’s mane, himematsutake, zhu ling, chaga, cordyceps which support immune modulation through supporting T-cells – cells that kill cancer, dendritic cells, macrophages and lymphocytes and also protects against oxidative stress. They also support your cardiovascular system, liver, and have anti-cancer properties!
Increase your intake of foods and supplements rich in antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and the mineral selenium, plus many other plant substances including bioflavonoids ) in order to combat oxidative stress and support the liver to detox and metabolise a loads of other nutrients. These help boost your immune system so it has what it needs to do its job! Almonds, avocado, berries, blackcurrants, broccoli, liver, organ meats, red and green sweet peppers are all good here. Also clove, goji berries, blueberries, artichoke, cacao, berries (elder, black, cran) and coriander/cilantro (essential oil).
Try to rotate common foods and routines so as not to create intolerances/allergies.
Cut out dairy if it’s causing your allergic responses like IBS symptoms, wheezing, skin rashes, excess mucus and bloating, as having an allergy to it can cause asthma, eczema and other atopic diseases.
You can regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation further
Improve & optimise sleep hygiene which helps to produce more melatonin. Read more about how to do this in my article on sleep hygeine here.
Increase vitamin D levels in the body by taking supplements or spending more time in the sun – 20 minutes a day exposing your face arms and legs should do it.
Increase our dietary or supplemental intake of inflammation reducing or modulating nutrients like… Omega-3, Curcumin/Turmeric, Boswellia (Frankincense), flavonoids and quercetin (berries, citrus – lemon, orange, orange peel, grapefruit, best to take a formulae supplement), ginger and other herbs (rosemary, sage, and thyme, clove, green tea, ginkgo, chamomile, hops, barberry, goldenseal, lavender, ginseng, marjoram, feverfew, celery seed), magnesium (found in coriander, mint, dill, chives, basil, sage, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, molasses), bromelain (found in fruit stem of pineapple). Juicing is great and you can also find excellent supplements like one from Viridian.
Use essential oils you can purchase which give the body potent, high quality, therapeutic doses of many of the nutrients discussed above (rosemary, hemp, thyme, ginger, frankincense (boswellia), chamomile, clove, oregano, grapefruit, fennel, helichrysum, juniper berry, lavender, melaleuca, rosemary, wild orange).
We love Biocare! They have the best, natural, toxin free supplements around and an amazing clinical team on hand if you want advice on products… Visit their online shop and resources at www.biocare.co.uk
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Love, Natasha Anand xxx