HOW TO NATURALLY STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
“The right raw materials…can double or triple the protective power of the immune system” – Joel Fuhrman
Through no fault of our own, we are continually exposed to organisms that are inhaled, swallowed or inhabit our skin and mucous membranes. Whether or not these organisms lead to disease is decided by the integrity of our body’s defence mechanism - The Immune System.
When our immune system is working properly, we feel wonderful and vibrant. But when we have an under-active or over-active immune system, we are at a greater risk of developing infections and other health conditions and our body definitely lets us know that something is wrong.
If you are wondering how to boost your immune system, be advised that it doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. There isn’t a magic pill that you can pop and instantly feel better.
It’s a matter of strengthening your immune response over time with lifestyle changes, healthy food choices and the use of immune-boosting antimicrobial and antiviral herbs, used in cooking, in the form of supplementation or essential oils. In fact, there’s never a bad time for supporting a healthy immune system and the great news is there are relatively simple ways you can boost you and your family’s immune system health.
WHY IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM SO IMPORTANT?
Because our immune system is our built-in first line of defence for our bodies, therefore it is always important to ensure we give it what it needs to help in our everyday lives, so it can kick straight into action and defend us against any harmful invader. Thankfully, nature provides us with a treasure trove of botanicals, herbs and other ingredients to support a healthy immune system. In my opinion, here are the top healthy immune system-supporting ingredients nature has to offer.
Known as “the immune system vitamin” in studies, vitamin C works with other amino acids like proline to strengthen areas of your body, including connective tissue. Kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, bok choy, cabbage, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, papayas, spinach, strawberries, oranges and black currants serve as rich natural sources, but for times when you need more, a supplement called Amla, made from Indian Gooseberry brings you high quality immune defence support due to it being a very high source of Vitamin C compared to other fruits. It is also rich in iron and calcium and has been known to give beauty benefits to hair and skin because of its antioxidants that reduce cell damage.
An essential trace mineral involved in hundreds of enzymatic functions in the body, zinc plays a crucial role in overall wellness. It catalyses nearly 100 enzymes and is essential for proper protein synthesis in the human body. Zinc supports immune system health in its own right, and also relies on vitamin C to maximize its role in the human body. We need to take in zinc each day because our body doesn’t manufacture it. Zinc-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas and Cacao Powder, can help us get the zinc we need, although animal sources like grass-fed beef, liver or kefir are often more bioavailable in the body. Supplementing is often necessary to hit your zinc goals, but make sure to buy a high quality brand, because cheap supplements give poor results and there is no point wasting the time, money or effort on products that give little to your body in forms of nutrition and immune strength.
Astragalus is a plant within the bean and legume family. It has been treasured for centuries in traditional Chinese herbalism and is one of the most powerful herbs on the planet for supporting immune health. Specifically, the root of the plant is made into many different forms of supplements, including liquid extracts, capsules, powders and teas. Some evidence shows that it may increase your body’s production of white blood cells, which are the cells of your immune system responsible for preventing illness. Astragalus supports the gut which in turn also stimulates immune system health. It is commonly used to treat colds and upper respiratory infections, and research suggests that it has heart benefits too. In animal studies it has shown to kill bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to being directly exposed to sunlight. You can also get it through certain foods such as; tuna, salmon, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks or by supplementing to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood. Vitamin D has several important functions. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and facilitating normal immune system function. Research has shown that it is better to get regular doses of vitamin D for optimal benefits as opposed to once a month high dose supplementation.
Also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia and is a staple in Eastern Medicine. One of the most important effects of the Reishi mushroom is that it can boost your immune system. Studies have shown that Reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system. What’s more, these studies have found that some forms of Reishi may alter inflammation pathways increase the activity of a type of white blood cells called natural killer cells. These cells fight infections and cancer in the body. Although most immune system benefits of Reishi mushroom have been seen in those who are ill, some evidence has shown that it can help healthy people, too. In one study, the fungus improved lymphocyte function, which helps fight infections. Overall, it is clear that Reishi impacts white blood cells and immune function.
The roots, stems and leaves of ginseng have been used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness or infection. It improves the performance of your immune system by regulating each type of immune cell, including macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, T cells and B cells. It has also proven to possess antimicrobial compounds that work as a defence mechanism against bacterial and viral infections. A study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine suggests that ginseng extract successfully induces antigen-specific antibody responses when it’s administered orally. Antibodies bind to antigens, such as toxins or viruses, and keep them from contacting and harming normal cells of the body. Because of ginseng’s ability to play a role in antibody production, it helps the body to fight invading microorganisms or pathogenic antigens.
Ayurvedic medicine has relied on ginger’s ability for how to boost your immune system before recorded history. It’s believed that ginger helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in our organs due to its warming effects. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. Ginger root can treat a wide range of diseases with its immune-nutrition and anti-inflammatory responses. Research shows that ginger has antimicrobial potential, which helps in treating infectious diseases.
Studies show that green tea contains antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties. It works as an antifungal and antivirus agent, and may be helpful for immunocompromised patients. Strengthen your immune system by drinking a good-quality green tea daily. The antioxidants and amino acids present in this tea will help your body to fight germs and get well. There are many varieties of green tea such as Green Tea Kombucha, Green Tea Passion Fruit Matcha and Pure Green Tea. Choosing a high quality brand is important when purchasing tea, as unfortunately there are many on the market that are filled with toxic heavy metals that harm your immune system rather than help it.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. It is also known as a potent modulator of the immune system. If you want to experience the full effects, you need to take a supplement that contains significant amounts of Curcumin. Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2,000%. Some supplements will include both the curcumin, and the black pepper combined such as Antyplus substantially increases the effectiveness of this herb. Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with a fatty meal.
There have been several areas of interest in the research related to Cat's Claw, most notably the effects on the immune system and the inflammatory pathways in the human body. The group of chemical compounds in Cat's Claw known as glycosides have been the centre of much of the research investigating how this plant may promote a healthy inflammatory response, thus it helps to support the healthy functioning of the immune system. The native Ashaninka peoples have found this plant to literally be a gift from the gods. It is naturally grown mainly in the Amazon Rainforest and in other tropical areas of South and Central America. Cat’s claw seems to work both by boosting your immune response and calming an overactive immune system. Some claims suggest that cat's claw treats some viral infections. Cat's claw is also said to have antioxidant, anti-mutagenic (preventing mutation), and anti-inflammatory effects. Other claims suggest that cat's claw may help treat ulcers, AIDS and cancer.
Another great way to boost your immune system is by the use of essential oils. You can use these topically with a carrier oil, such as Jojoba, Almond or Coconut Oil. Or you can diffuse a couple of drops into the air in your home, office or car.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ESSENTIAL OILS FOR IMMUNE HEALTH?
Myrrh is one of the most widely used essential oils in the world. Studies conclude that myrrh strengthens the immune system with its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. A 2012 study, validated myrrh’s enhanced antimicrobial efficacy when used in combination with Frankincense against a selection of pathogens. Researchers expressed that myrrh oil has anti-infective properties and can help to boost your immune system.
Below, I’ve included some of the most common essential oils for immunity, plus a few that contain powerful antimicrobial compounds that can be especially useful in fighting off a wide range of bacteria, viruses and fungi:
So, as you can see there are a lot of food, supplements, herbs and oils you can use to start boosting your immune system and improving your health naturally. As you are taking care of your immune system, you've got to practice the proper lifestyle, including stress reduction, getting healthy amounts of sunshine, exercising, spending time in nature and fostering feelings of gratitude and hope to overcome fear. Resetting your mind-set to a state of joy, gratitude, love, faith and hope are essential.
Remember…YOUR PATH TO HEALTH STARTS HERE…a small change today can mean a big impact tomorrow. You can find the ingredients for this recipe by clicking on the direct links above.
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The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Healthy Options Market. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright. They are solely intended to spark discussion and the thought process behind issues pertaining to general health, wellness and are for sharing knowledge and information on research only. They are not medical advice. Always seek the advice of a Professional Healthcare Provider when making any decisions regarding your health.