It’s winter here in the southern hemisphere and as the days get colder we are focused on keeping warm. As you know this means being indoors more frequently due to the weather in artificially heated environments and this creates a breeding frenzy for germs.
This is fine if your immune system is strong, if not then we leave ourselves vulnerable to nasty bugs, flu’s and other infections. It’s important to recognize that, although a virus triggers cold or flu symptoms, it is not the real cause of the illness…
What is the Immune System?
The Immune System is the organs and processes of the body that provide us with resistance to infection and toxins. Organs include the thymus, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. The Immune System is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. The cells involved are white blood cells, or leukocytes, which come in two basic types that combine to seek out and destroy disease-causing organisms or substances.
How does the Immune System work?
When antigens (foreign substances that invade the body) are detected, several types of cells work together to recognize them and respond. These cells trigger the B lymphocytes to produce antibodies, specialized proteins that lock onto specific antigens.
Once produced, these antibodies continue to exist in a person’s body, so that if the same antigen is presented to the immune system again, the antibodies are already there to do their job. So if someone experiences a certain disease, for example, chickenpox, that person typically doesn’t get sick from it again. Please note this person isn’t really sick – they are expressing a positive immune response. Symptoms aren’t a bad thing.
When your immune system isn’t functioning the way it should you are more susceptible to catching viruses and bacterial infections. It’s important to look after and support your Immune System so your body can thrive and protect itself against bacteria and common infections.
There are many ways we can end up with a weakened immune system, here’s just three contributing factors that compromise our body’s defence system:
Poor DIGESTIVE power: An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut largely impacts our immune system as approximately (maybe more) 80% of our immune cells are found and generated here. When we have an imbalance of important bacteria that inevitably results in a weakened gut wall, it is incredibly hard for our body to keep our defense systems strong. Here’s just a couple of examples of how we decrease our digestive power:
Poor diet: Eating too much sugar, refined foods and grains contribute to a gut imbalance.
Antibiotics: When we take antibiotics they act like a blow torch and strip away both good and bad bacteria in the gut. Always consider if antibiotics are absolutely necessary.
Too much stress: Inadequately managing our emotional stressors not only uses up important vitamins and minerals, the constant stress cycle requires the body to divert attention from our digestive and immune function and reserve energy for a heightened adrenal state. Long term this is not at all advantageous for our health.
Poor NERVE function: When our spine is subluxated or misplaced our nervous system, or “our master controller” is impacted. The function of the nervous system, immune system and digestive system is incredibly linked and a building body of research suggests that spinal adjustments can have a positive effect on immune function helping the body be more resilient and increase our health and wellbeing.
Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is an amazingly effective antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. The best source for vitamin D is direct sun exposure – short periods of regular exposure before the day becomes too hot. But for many of us, this just isn’t practical during the winter so using oral supplements are our best bet.
7 WAYS to boost your Immune System!
Adequate Sleep and Rest:
Allow yourself at least 8 hours of sleep per night giving your body the time it needs to recover, restore and reboot for the following day. Lack of sleep can result in fatigue and the body being over-worked and over-tired, this will have a negative impact on your immune system.
As we outlined above the interplay between the immune system, nervous system and gut is profound. Adjustments help make sure nerve messages are unhindered to co-ordinate the function of all of these bodily functions. We can help you find a great chiropractor if you don’t already have one. Please see our blog “Adjustments and the Immune System”
You’ve heard this one before, probably from your mum who wouldn’t let you leave the house without a big wooly coat as a child! But, on those freezing cold days it’s important to wear warm clothing, particularly keeping your head and chest warm then your body doesn’t loose energy unnecessarily.
Focus on your diet:
Research over the past ten years has shown that nutrition plays a major role in supporting the production and action of both the cells and the soluble factors of the immune system. Protein, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and certain vitamins and minerals are all key to a healthy immune system. Cut out refined processed foods and stick with organic foods, keep your meals simple and clean full of nutrition dense foods. Cut your sugar down it is particularly damaging to your immune system as it impacts the bacteria balance we discussed earlier.
Zinc is another important mineral needed for healthy immune function. Zinc is found in foods such as red meat, chicken, fish, dairy foods, eggs, legumes and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Other foods that are also great for boosting your immunity include, miso, ginger, garlic, onion, green tea and seaweed.
Take your Supplements:
Probiotics and prebiotics are essential to maintaining our digestive strength and immunity. I recommend a probiotic everyday to keep the doctor and antibiotics away.
Zinc Supplement – as above
Vitamin C, this is an extremely important nutrient for boosting immunity. Foods high in vitamin C include fresh fruits and vegies, especially citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage and parsley.
Oregano Oil has an active antimicrobial agent that is most effective.
Propolis, a bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world.
Olive leaf extract is ancient and used in the Mediterranean cultures for a variety of health promoting uses and is widely known as a natural, non toxic immune system builder.
Be an Optimist:
Did you know your Immune System responds to negative and positive thoughts? A study, which tracked changes in optimism and immune response among first-year law students, found that as students became more optimistic, they showed stronger cell-mediated immunity, the flood of immune cells that respond to an invasion by foreign viruses or bacteria. When optimism dropped, so did cell-mediated immunity.
Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to increase the electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex, the right anterior insula, and right hippocampus, all parts that control positive emotions, awareness, and anxiety. These are also the areas of the brain that act as a command centre for your immune system. When stimulated, they make the immune system function more effectively.
So, lots of ideas for us all on how to stay uber healthy this time of year!
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Yours in Health,
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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