by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
Most natural health practitioners agree that when it comes to strengthening the immune system, there is a two prong approach to keeping and staying healthy. The immune system is a fascinating network of cells, tissues, and organs, which work together to defend the body against attacks from “foreign” invaders. The body does this in two different ways. First, the body must recognize that it is being invaded, either by pathogenic disease, toxins or some other outside threat. Second, the immune response should then be activated quickly so the pathogen does not destroy many cells.
The skin and mucous membranes serve as a first line of defense for preventing pathogens from entering the body. If the immune response fails to control the first onset of attack, deeper defenses mechanisms work by identifying the foreign pathogen and mounting a response that targets it for destruction. Because a large percentage of the immune system is found in the digestive tract, developing a strong immune system from birth begins with creating a healthy digestive system.
Some experts believe the percentage of immune system function in the intestinal tract can vary, based on genetics and early pathogenic diseases, which may occur, most all are in agreement that the system is in the “pirus patchet”. Others say the intestines account for an even greater percentage of immune function. Either way, the colon and liver need to be cleansed of the toxins and accumulated wastes that can decrease energy and weaken the immune response.
Stimulating the immune system is a short term approach to initiating a cellular change by increasing production and general activity of certain immune cells. This is done in a considerably small amount of time (a few weeks). This approach is often done at the first signs of symptoms and not as a preventative. This form of immune stimulation works by increasing the activity and defense of certain immune cells in the body.
Supporting the immune system is a long term approach to providing key nutrients to nourish the body in order for our immune defenses to work at its most optimal levels. This is done in a considerably longer amount of time (a few months). Here are some of the best ways to support your immune system:
1. Better nutrition – means eating more of a plant based diet. Everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all nutrition program but everyone can benefit from eating less processed foods, sugars, alcohol and salt.
2. Anti-inflammatory diet – is a plan rich in those foods that help to decrease inflammation. Not a diet, but a lifestyle in food choices that help the body to work at its best and healthiest levels.
3. Moderate exercise stimulates the immune response. It is the remedy for aches and pains, weight gain and poor muscle tone. Everyone, no matter what their age, must keep moving.
4. Good quality sleep is essential for the body and organ systems to repair the damage they endure daily.
5. Herbal combinations are a necessary part of any lifestyle plan. Used to increase the immune response and support a healthy lifestyle, you should consider herbs and nutrients such as a good daily multi-vitamin, maitake and reishi mushrooms, olive leaf, colostrum, garlic. Consider doing one week of echinacea, goldenseal, vitamin C (larger doses 2,000 -5,000 mg in divided doses or until bowel intolerence) and zinc.
6. A combination of antioxidants such as turmeric, alpha lipoic acid, green tea, pycnogenol, resveratol, acetyl-l-carnitine, carotenoids and Coenzyme Q10.
7.Digestive enzymes work on the digestive tract, a major area for immune support. Consider pre and probiotics, bromelain, fiber, quercetin, and grape seed extract.
8. Avoid repeated stressful situations, excess fear, anxiety, and depression. Stress factors and negative emotions can undermine and compromise immune function. Holistic therapies can be extremely helpful in overcoming stress and maintaining a balanced and a peaceful state of mind. Consider acupuncture, herbal medicine, laughter, massage, meditation, music and yoga to name a few.
9. An occasional, gentle detox is a great way to help the body when it becomes overwhelmed by our get-it-done, do-it-now lifestyles. Consider such detoxes as the juice therapy detox, yoga detox or food detox.
10. Listen to your body. Your body will let you know when it is becoming rundown, lethargic, tired, feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed, anxious and extremely stressed. Listen to your body and follow its lead. It will always help with the solutions.