How to Boost the Immune System Naturally
Your immune system is always on guard, ready to fight off the pathogens that are ready to invade. Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, cancer cells or foreign proteins are always around us. The immune system usually does a pretty good job of staving off illnesses most of the time.
However, everyone gets sick sometimes. The good news is there are things you can do to reduce the severity and duration of the illnesses you do get. In this hub, I will outline the best foods, supplements and lifestyle tips to keep you healthy.
Each person is unique and each person has their own unique immunity. Listen to your body and follow the tips below that feel right for you.
How can you tell if you have a weakened immune system?
You will get colds, the flu and infections more often. You will feel tired most of the time. If you get cuts or scrapes, they will take longer than usual to heal.You may develop allergic reactions. You may even develop an autoimmune disease, a disease where the immune system attacks the body, such as lupus.
These things can impair your immune system:
- Stress- whether it is physical, emotional or mental stress, it is hard on the immune system.
- Improper nutrition, including people on strict diets, people who eat a lot of junk food, or elderly people.
- Under active thyroid
- Poor liver function due to disease or overload.
- Chronic diseases
- Mercury amalgam fillings
- Toxins, pollutants and infections
If your immune system is not as good as it should be, what can you do about it?
Food is medicine
A good diet is your best bet. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and some animal foods. Avoid sugar and too much fat.
Variety is the key to a balanced diet. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and try to eat some leafy greens everyday. Have at least five different grains that you eat throughout the week, such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, couscous, quinoa and oats. This should ensure that you get all the nutrients you need plus an adequate amount of fibre.
Protein will stimulate your immune system response and decrease the occurrence of bacterial and parasitic infections. You should get between 40-70 grams a day depending on your gender, age and situation. Find protein in meat, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Eat lots of onions, garlic and ginger to stimulate blood flow and kill off pathogens.
Drink water, about two litres a day to flush out toxins.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports immune strength, tissue health and adrenal function. Aim for 1000mg a day. When you are fighting a cold or flu, you can take a supplement every four hours up to 10,000 mg a day, if you can tolerate it. Your bowels will tell you when you've had too much.
Zinc is important in immune cell function. It is found in animal foods, whole grains, nuts, yeast, soy and mushrooms. Zinc lozenges can reduce the severity of cold symptoms if they are taken from the first time you feel a little tickle in your throat. Aim for 15-75mg daily.
Essential fatty acids are vital for cell membrane health and immune cell production. It is found in fish, flax seeds, flax seed oil and vegetable oil.
Probiotics, found in yogurt, balance intestinal flora and prevent infections. Look for plain, sugar free varieties as sugar and sugar substitutes depress the immune system.
Herbs to try if you do get sick
Please consult your doctor before using any herbal remedies and do not use if you are pregnant.
Echinacea stimulates the immune response. Take at the first sign of a cold or flu and do not use for more than seven days.
Astragalus contains antioxidants and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. It enhances and stimulates the immune system.
Ginseng stimulates the immune system. It is excellent to take if you are over most of your symptoms but just can't shake that cold completely. Do not take if you have high blood pressure.
Goldenseal supports and heals the mucous membranes. It is very potent and should not be taken for more than seven days.
Oil of oregano has antiviral, antibacterial and anti fungal action. It should be taken with probiotics.
Healthy lifestyle tips
- Wash your hands often. Be sure to wash your hands for long enough. Lather up for at least 30 seconds. Moisturize when you are done. Dry skin is prone to cracking which can let germs into your skin.
- Get enough sleep all the time, but especially when you are fighting a cold or flu. The best day to take off of work is actually before you are sick. When you first feel that little tickle in your throat or you start feeling sluggish. If you rest then, you may not even get sick all.
- Keep a positive outlook on life. Depressed people are more susceptible to certain infections such as the common cold. It feels good to help others, so practice random acts of kindness or give to charity to give your own immunity a boost.
- Laugh more. Laughter stimulates the production of brain chemicals called catecholamines and endorphins. These chemicals affect the hormone levels in the body that are related to strengthening immune response and feelings of joy and pain reduction.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is great for your immunity. It circulates lymph around your body which aids in toxin removal. Exercising outdoors and yoga are top immune system boosting workouts. Aim for 30-60 minutes of activity on most days.
Yoga for immunity
So you have tried your hardest to not get sick and it happened anyway. There are a few things you can do to make yourself feel better. Suck on some sugar free lozenges for your sore throat, or make a little tea with honey and lemon. Make sure to get enough fluids, especially if you really don't feel like eating anything.
Here is a broth recipe you can make to sip on throughout the day:
3 stalks celery or bok choy
1 cup spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic
Chop and place in a large pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer about an hour. Strain and drink hot or cold.
It is probably a good idea to make a big batch of this in the fall and freeze a few jars to have on hand. No one feels like putting this much effort in when they are sick, so have it ready at your disposal.