We've been designed with an amazing first line of defence called our innate immune system. It protects us every day from invading pathogens, viruses, bacteria, fungus and whatever else the body perceives as a threat. The main purpose of the innate immune response is to immediately prevent the spread and movement of foreign pathogens throughout the body. We also have a second line of defence, our adaptive immune response, also known as an acquired immune response. The effect of the adaptive immune response is long-lasting, highly specific, and is sustained long-term by memory T cells. There are various things that can either weaken or strengthen these lines of defence. Things we may take for granted eveyday can have long-lasting impacts on our immunity and thus our health.
Here is a list of things that weaken as well as things that strengthen our immunity - Things that weaken the immune system - - Stress- When we're stressed, the immune system's ability to fight off pathogens is reduced. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system. - Diet with a lack of vegetables, high in animal fat & refined sugars - we are what we eat remember. So a diet high in saturated fats, and sugars and low in high fibre rich vegetables, creates inflammation in the body and releases the same stress hormone corticosteroid, which we already know weakens our immunity. - Antibiotics & certain prescription medications - whilst there is no doubt that antibiotics have saved peoples lives the overconsumption, has lead to resistant bacteria and pathogens that antibiotics can't kill. Not only that they are like a "BOMB" in the gut, that kills both the bad and the good bacteria in the gut. Certain prescription medications also have impacts on GUT health, the centre of immunity. - Lack of vitamin d - being inside all day - Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant, it also boost vitamin D levels. Also when we are inside all day we are surrounded by artificial recirculated air which can spread airborne pathogens. - Sedentary lifestyle - lack of exercise or physical activity - exercise boost our endorphin levels and can have an impact on our immune antibodies. Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. The opposite is true of a sedentary lifestyle. - Lack of sleep - Sleep boost the activity of immune cells, its when our body repairs and replenishes - thus if we are not getting enough sleep our body has no time to repair and our immune system can suffer. Things to boost your immunity - - GUT support -Literally 80% of our immunity is in our GUT, the microbiome/bacteria in there has a direct link to the effiency of our immune system. Thus boosting GUT health is the first line of boosting the immunity. Fermented foods like miso, kombucha, kefir, coconut yoghurt are all great for adding good bacteria to the gut. Of equal importance is fermentable fibre rich vegetables & prebiotics to actually feed the good bacteria in the gut. Things like slippery elm powder, inulin powder, bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, the skin of apples, chicory root, beans are all examples of prebiotic rich foods. - Herbal medicines - we have been given various gifts in nature in the line of herbal medicines to boost our immunity as well as fight pathogens. My favourites for boosting immunity are - Astragalus, Echinacea, Holy Basil, Elderberry, medicinal mushrooms (reishi, cordyceps, shiitake), oregano, thyme. Herbs that are specific for fighting infections are - Andrographis, Echinacea, Elderberry, Elderflower, Yarrow, Peppermint, garlic, ginger, thyme, lime flowers. - Essential oils - Essential oils are 100% pure plant power and are fantastic for both boosting immunity and fighting infections. You can use them topically, mixed with a carrier oil, diffuse them in a diffuser or in a stem inhalation bath & some can be taken internally. The following are my favourites for the immune system - clove, cinnamon, wild orange, lemon, lime, thyme, oregano, blackpepper, tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary. - Vitamin c - vitamin C is one the most commonly associated vitamins with the immune system - it is a rich antioxidant, and helps to fight free radicals in the body and boost the immune system. Here is a list of foods rich in vitamin C - however I do suggest that if there is an infection having a strong dose of a practitioner grade vitamin C powder to ensure the cells are saturated is indicated - camu camu powder, açai powder, matcha green tea, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, papaya, red, green or yellow capsicums, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes. - Vitamin d - as mentioned above vitamin D is imperative for the immune system. It is mainly produced in our body by exposure to sunlight and allowing our large boned parts to be in sunlight - however there are certain foods that contain vitamin D like egg yolks and fatty fish. - Zinc - Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses and boost it up. It is imperative for health in general but of particular importance in immune compromised states. The following are some foods sources of zinc - lentils, chickpeas, beans, sunflowers, billberry, brewers yeast, capsicums, egg yolk, ginger, fatty fish, pumpkin seeds. - Nature - being around nature, grounded and calm is one of the best way you can boost your immunity and ward off infections. When we are grounded in nature we absorb negative ions from the earth which are rich in antioxidants, helping to fight free radicals and boost our immunity. We are also calmer and not allowing the stress to wreak havoc on our bodies which again boost immunity and protects us. - Exercise - as mentioned above, exercise boosts our endorphin levels and can have an impact on our immune antibodies. Physical activity helps clear our lungs of bacteria and strengthens our airways. Even better if we can exercise outside, in nature, in the sunlight! - Healthy diet - I can never say it enough - but we are what we eat, so if we load up on antioxidant rich, natural antibiotic rich foods and cut the crap of processed, saturated fat and sugar we are giving our body a real fighting chance to protect itself. - Water - the most vital to life - water removes toxins from our body, it boost our immunity, fights infections and saturates our cells carrying oxygen to our cells. When we are dehydrated we are inflamed and are not providing oxygen or nutrients to our cells. So to boost immunity flood your cells with life saving water! The bottom line is, yes be prepared, be vigilent & be proactive but do not be fearful or petrified of viruses, bacteria, pathogens our body is DAILY bombarded with these things & daily protects us!
If you want more specific advice or would like practitioner grade supplements of any of the above mentioned vitamins or herbs please get in contact with me, remember that prevention is better than cure so boost your immunity now!
To inspire an immune boosting diet, here is the ultimate of soups that will knock the socks off any pathogen!
2 spring onions
1 clove of garlic
Tsp of Turmeric powder, black pepper powder and ginger powder
1 Tsp of Reishi mushroom powder
1 tablespoon of miso paste
Handful of spinach
1/2 red cabbage
Handful of mushrooms - any will do but if you can get your hands on some medicinal mushrooms even better
3 celery stalks
Any other vegetable that you've got in the fridge
Handful of fresh thyme & oregano
2 litres of soup
1 cup of red lentils
1 cup of brown rice noodles
3 Wild limes of Iran - Dried limes
Herbamare to taste
Fry up all vegetables, add spices and mushroom powder, add water then all the other ingredients - let simmer for 1 hour!
In Health & happiness
Sarah Emily Herbalist