Do you find yourself feeling under the weather a lot or maybe you’re just looking for preventative measures to stop yourself from getting sick? The first and most important key to this is a healthy immune system and the good news is that there are some great natural ways to improve your immune system. Read on to learn more about them.
Nutrition and the Immune System
Nutrition, or your diet, is the single most important key to having a strong immune system. Essentially, what you feed your body will determine how healthy it ultimately is. By eating processed or fast foods, you are not getting the nutrients that your body needs. Look towards fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and wholegrains. These foods are high in vitamins and antioxidants that your immune system needs. When eating fresh fruits and vegetables, ensure that you eat a wide variety from all the different colours available. The different colours indicate the different compounds that they contain. For example, a typical immune system boosting diet will contain five servings of fruits and vegetables, seeds, cold pressed oils, garlic, protein-rich foods and whole grains.
If you feel that you need to take vitamins, a multivitamin may help you to get what you are lacking in your everyday diet. It should contain vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid, magnesium, and selenium. It also needs to contain iron, zinc, chromium, and copper.
Herbal Therapies and the Immune System
There are many different herbs that can be used to help boost the immune system. These include:
- Echinacea – can be used to help fight colds and flu as it increases the numbers and activity of white blood cells, as well as increasing the production of interferon, a vital chemical for the immune system response
- Goldenseal – can help to prevent infections
- Vitamin C – increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies. It is also a potent antioxidant.
- Vitamin E – is an antioxidant and immune booster. It stimulates the production of B-cells that produce antibodies to destroy bacteria.
- Beta-Carotene – increases the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells, and T-cells, as well as being a powerful antioxidant.
- Zinc – increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and makes them more aggressive.
- Maitake – this is a mushroom that stimulates the immune response by activating T-cells, the body’s defense against viruses and cancer cells. It also contains polysaccharides, which are chemicals known to boost the immune system.
- Cat’s Claw – has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and contains alkaloids that stimulate immune function.
- Aloe Vera – contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and other ingredients that act as an immune booster and also a natural antiseptic. It is recommended for serious immune deficiency conditions.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract – is antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal but should only be taken when you already feel ill.
- L-Arginine – is an amino acid that promotes wound healing and also supports the immune system. Dairy, meat, poultry, and fish are all good sources. Supplementation is important as levels drop during times of stress. It works by stimulating the thymus gland, which in turn stores the disease-fighting t-lymphocytes until they are needed.
- Probiotics – these are good bacteria that inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and promote those that aid digestion and promote a healthy immune response to infection.
- Liquorice – this works particularly well when the immune system is suppressed by stress or steroids. Only take it when you feel ill.
- Glutamine – is critical for normal brain and immune function. It is the natural form of the amino acid glutamine and also a component of glutathione, the body’s primary antioxidant.
- Garlic – the primary active agent in garlic is allicin, and it is a well known antioxidant. Garlic also helps to fight pathogens, making it excellent for combating infections and viruses.
Sleep and the Immune System
Sleep is important not only for rest and rejuvenation, but also for supporting the immune system. It is when we sleep that the immune system is replenished and strengthened. Losing even one night of sleep can significantly suppress the immune system.
Melatonin, a natural hormone, is released when darkness falls. It makes us feel drowsy and helps us to achieve a deep and restful sleep. However, as well as helping with sleep, it is a powerful antioxidant that helps to support immune system function, so that while we are sleeping the immune system is functioning in order to support healing within the body.
Exercise and the Immune System
Moderate exercise is an excellent way to support the immune system. It can even temporarily improve the production of macrophages, the cells that attack bacteria. Over long periods of time, regular exercise can boost the immune system but it is important not to exercise too hard as you can actually decrease your immune system.
Stress and the Immune System
Stress can be very detrimental to the immune system, and prolonged periods of stress will lead to a poorly functioning system. Therefore, it is vital to find ways of combating stress. This could be through meditation, exercise, yoga, indulging in a favourite hobby, talking to someone, learning to prioritise…whatever works best for you. Check out our articles on stress management and reduction to find a solution that may work for you.
Infections and the Immune System
Recurring infections, slow wound healing, allergies, thrush, colds, and flu are all signs that the body’s immune system is not functioning as it should. A healthy adult should not suffer from more than two colds a year.
However, if you do suffer from recurring infections, it is likely that you have taken antibiotics to try and overcome them. As a result, antibiotics are now the biggest cause of fungal and bacterial infections. This is because they create an environment in the body that favours fungus and bacteria – killing off the good bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in check.
By supporting your immune system with the methods in this article and using natural methods where possible to fight off infections, you will reduce your reliance on antibiotics, as well as begin to experience fewer and fewer infections as your immune system starts functioning optimally.
Aromatherapy and the Immune System
Aromatherapy is a great way to boost the immune system. Stress is a major factor behind a poorly functioning immune system. When you are stressed the body secretes cortisol, which is helpful in small doses, but in large doses, it is actually harmful to the body and lowers the body’s immune response. Therefore, aromatherapy for relaxation will improve your immune system. Essential oils that are renowned for their relaxation qualities include tea tree oil, chamomile, and lavender. These can be used in a burner, in the bath, or in massage oils.
Essential oils for massage are great as the massage will improve your circulation and help you relax. The smell of the oils will help to reduce anxiety, and your skin will be nourished by the oils as well. The skin is actually one of the most important barriers keeping infection out of the body, so it is important to take care of it. Talking to an aromatherapist will help you to find the best oils for your skin type. Use the oil in steam therapy, for massage, to soak in a bath or even use it as a spritzer.