Never before have our immune systems been under such attack as now. The prevalence of modern day disease is rampant and seems to be spreading at an alarming rate. The good news is that natural options are available to help strengthen our immunity. When the body’s natural defence system is functioning at it’s peak, super-bugs, viruses and bacteria are quickly eradicated and the threat of infection is eliminated.
To improve one’s immunity, a multi-pronged approach is required. This includes a focus on healing foods, supplementing with targeted nutrients, practising good lifestyle habits as well as eliminating harmful substances and stressors that depress the immune system.
Eat foods with strong antibacterial, antiviral and immune boosting properties;
- Garlic: contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria.
- Mushrooms: contain powerful compounds called beta glucans, which bind to macrophages and other scavenger white blood cells, activating their anti-infection activities. Mushrooms are also rich in protein, fibre, vitamin C, B vitamins and (most notably) vitamin D; all of which help strengthen immunity.
- Aloe Vera: contains specific polysaccharides which boost the immune system. It also has strong antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal qualities.
- Turmeric (curcumin): reduces inflammation, the root of all serious disease. Turmeric also helps improve the behaviour of cellular membranes which in turn makes the cells more resistant to infection and malignancy.
- Liver: is chock full of essential immune boosting nutrients including iron, B-12, vitamin A and zinc. Vitamin A in particular, is known as the anti-infective vitamin due to its integral role in the immune system.
- Coconut oil: contains a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) called lauric acid which disrupts the lipid membranes of offending organisms. Lauric acid converts in your body to monolaurin, the same compound found in breast milk that strengthens a baby’s immunity.
- Ginger: has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It helps boost immune function and combat cellular damage.
- Propolis: is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial which modulates immune response.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: (kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) help support liver and immune function by boosting the liver’s ability to flush out toxins.
- Cinnamon: a strong immune boosting spice with antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
- Clove: a powerful antioxidant and good anti-inflammatory with mild anaesthetic benefits.
- Grass Fed Red Meat: is an important source of zinc. Zinc deficiency can greatly increase your risk of infection. Zinc aids in the production of white blood cells in the body, helping them act more aggressively against foreign bacteria.
- White Tea: helps inactivate bacteria, viruses and fungi. The immune boosting effect of white tea has been found to be even greater than that of green tea.
Immune boosting nutrients to include;
- Adaptogens: such as reishi, siberian ginseng, astragalus and pau d’arco not only improve the body’s ability to handle stress, they also enhance immune function. Take a course of each consecutively to give your immune system a broad spectrum boost.
- Liver Supporting Herbs: such as milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root, artichoke and turmeric support and improve liver function. A healthy liver promotes a healthy immune system. The liver lymphocyte population is enriched in macrophages called Kupffer cells which play a key role by capturing and digesting bacteria, fungi, parasites, worn-out blood cells, and cellular debris.
- Vitamin C: (ester C with bioflavanoids, rosehips, camu camu, acerola cherry) is an immune enhancer that helps white blood cells perform at their peak and quickens the immune system response.
- Vitamin D3: (from sunlight, cod liver oil or in supplement form) with sufficient D3 levels in the body it can produce its own natural antibiotic (cathelicidin) which engulfs and destroys unwanted intruders. D3 also helps regulate any immune system imbalances as well as improves general function.
Zinc: plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system. It is necessary for white blood cell function as well as acts as a catalyst in the immune system’s killer response to foreign bodies.
- Probiotics: (supplement or from fermented foods such sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and yoghurt) help keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs.
- Colloidal silver: is a broad-spectrum immune enhancer with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
- Immune Enhancing Herbs: (goldenseal, echinacea, cat’s claw, elderberry, olive leaf, oregano oil) are powerful immune boosters which offer extra protection if you are at risk or suspect you may have an infection.
Eliminate foods and behaviours that suppress the immune system
The biggest culprits in immune suppression are:
- Sugar: weakens white blood cell function.
- Alcohol: puts strain on the liver.
- Smoking & drugs: this is a no-brainer!
- Dairy: tends to stimulate excess mucus production in the body and can depress immunity if you have an intolerance.
- Corn, soy, and wheat (gluten): These are all genetically modified foods that are best avoided.
- Damaged fats: from hydrogenation, processed foods, transfats, vegetable oils and margarine are deterrents to a healthy immune system.
- Chronic stress: Stress is rightly called the silent killer and too much stress invariably leads to a lowered immune system.
- Excessive EMF exposure: Limit time spent in front of the television and computer screens, reduce cell phone usage as much as possible, turn off your wireless when you sleep and avoid lingering anywhere close to transformers on electrical power lines.
- Sitting indoors: Limited sunshine exposure combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is especially detrimental to your immune system.
- Lack of sleep: depresses immunity as much as any stressor, as well as promotes inflammation and even reduces your body’s ability to regenerate.
Practice good lifestyle habits
- Laugh: positive emotions associated with laughter decrease stress hormones and even increase certain immune cells while activating others.
- Spend time in nature to de-stress and re-energise your body.
- Relax: Practise deep breathing exercises, yoga or pilates, read, listen to music, play… whatever it is that helps you relax. This will most especially do wonders for your immunity.
- Practise daily gratitude, have a positive attitude and also learn to be content with life.
- Cultivate healthy relationships: Research shows that the fewer human connections we have, the more likely we are to get sick, suffer with anxiety, and even live shorter lives!
- Drink plenty of water to boost the immune system, as well as flush out toxins.
- Exercise is a proven immune system booster. Do something you enjoy and then do it outside if possible.
Overall, improve in all of these areas and your immune system will be able to function at its optimum. This will then offer you the best possible protection against modern disease.
As always, consult with a qualified health practitioner to determine which natural solutions are best for your individual situation.