Last time we talked about the first two ways to support your body's immunesystem. In review, there are four ways or areas we can strengthen our immune system.
Eat a diet rich in nourishing foods
Support the good microbes in your body and environment
Detoxify to give the inflammatory arm of the immune system a break
Use essential oils and herbs to support your body's natural defenses
To read about the first two on the above list, check out the previous blog HERE. Today we are going to discuss the other ways you can prepare your body to be ready for environmental attacks. This is a longer post. Hang in there, and bookmark this so you can come back to it for reference.
Detoxify Your Body
Detoxification may not automatically come to mind when you think about supporting your body's immune system, but a high toxin level in your body can lead to an overwork of your immune system. How?
Toxins that are loose in the body cause damage to tissues, interfere with hormones and neurotransmitters, and in other ways increase the overall inflammation in the body. This is not a problem when it is happening on a small scale—in fact, our body was designed to handle this very thing—but when the toxins increase, so does the damage. This means that inflammation (a branch of the immune system) has to become more and more active to address the increase of damage from toxins. The more active it becomes, the more resources it needs. The "resources" of the immune system are nutrients (like cholesterol, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, etc.), energy from metabolic production, and different (specific) immune cells. Many of the same resources are needed both to fight infection and to deal with inflammation. So if toxin damage is high, causing increasing inflammation, then the resources will be directed to the inflammatory branch with the purpose of reducing inflammation. This is good, until a pathogenic microbe decides to invade the body. Then the infection branch of the immune system finds itself understaffed and under-resourced. Without enough resources to fight off the invaders quickly and efficiently, the immune system does the best it can, but it often takes a longer time to restore the body to health and balance. Sometimes the immune system cannot remove the invading threat, and that microbe finds a "corner" to take up residence in. If this happens, these microbes stay in the body and put a constant, low-level drain on the immune system that is constantly fighting to keep them in check. And when the immune system is weakened, these microbes may surface, causing more obvious and acute symptoms.
You can help your immune system out by detoxing.
A simple way to support your immune system is by reducing the amount of toxins, which then reduces the amount of inflammation in the body. There are some simple ways to detoxify your body. Walk in the sunshine!
Sunshine (on unprotected skin) initiates detox through one of your body's normal pathways for detox. Getting enough sun can be challenging in the colder months, but try to expose as much skin as possible, depending on the weather. And you will be able to stay outside longer if you are moving! And movement is not just about staying warm: when your muscles are worked your lymphatic system pumps stronger, as does your heart, which also help your body to remove the toxins.
Drink plenty of water!
I am not a huge fan of the "8 glasses of water every day" rule, because each individual body is going to have different water needs at different times, and this will likely change several times a day. Sometimes 8 glasses are too many, and sometimes it is not enough! Listen to your body to know what "enough water" means. To get you started, enough water means that your urine is pale yellow and does not have an odor, your lips are not dry, and you are not thirsty. When detoxing, it's very important to drink enough water to allow the body to flush the toxins from the body.
Get enough sleep!
Did you know that your body does most of its detoxing and repairing while you are sleeping? And this is not just sleeping whenever... actually your body heals the body more before midnight than after. In the words of Joseph Antell, a Clinical Nutritionalist and a Certified Herbalist, "Every hour [of sleep] before midnight is worth two hours after midnight in terms of healing..." So get to bed! Your body needs to rest. If you have problems sleeping, which is common in many health conditions, doing things like detoxing, eating nutrient-dense foods, turning off WiFi and leaving electronic devices out of the bedroom, and using natural sleep remedies like essential oils, herbs, or even a warm bath or warm milk can help your body get into a pattern of sleeping.
Support the Body's Natural Defenses
Sometimes our body needs some extra help. Maybe you just started eating nutrient-dense foods. Maybe your body's defenses were weakened by a stressful day, or not enough sleep. Maybe the microbe that is trying to invade is especially strong, or one your body hasn't seen before. Or maybe your body is doing a fine job fighting off the invaders, but it will appreciate any outside help you can give it. When you feel sick, do all the things we have talked about so far. Drink lots of meat stock. Avoid sugar, even from fruit. Double up on your fermented cod liver oil dose. Get lots of sleep and drink plenty of water. You can go out in the sun if it is sunny, not too cold or windy, and you are well wrapped (including your head and neck). In addition to all these, there are things provided in nature that support our bodies through the natural course of being sick. This is a large topic in itself, and today I will just introduce some of these to you.
Candied Onion: Cook in lots of butter, ghee or lard, then topped with a fried egg boosts the immune system and soothes a sore throat
Fermented Garlic (or raw): Raw or fermented garlic boost the immune system and can kill some pathogenic microbes
Honey: Raw, unfiltered honey has immune-supporting properties and is effective as a cough suppressant
Unpasteurized milk: Raw milk contains the active form of calcium (calcium lactate), which kills pathogens. Will help reduce a fever
This is not an exhaustive list of food!
Lavender: This is an antihistamine, so it will help calm inflammation from allergies or invading microbes
Oregano: This is a powerful antibacterial. It is a very hot oil, and should always be diluted with a carrier oil if applied to the skin
Protective blend: This is a blend of essential oils with antimicrobial properties, like clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary. It also supports the body's natural immune system
Respiratory blend: This blend contains things like eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon, which help to open up the airways and sinuses
Tea Tree: This has antiviral and anti-fungal properties, and can be helpful to support the body in fighting these types of infections
Many other essential oils support the body in a particular circumstances, but they are too specific to write about here
Important Note: I only recommend therapeutic grade essential oils. Essential oils bought at a health food store, or Walmart, are likely synthetic, diluted, and/or manipulated. To find out about the essential oils I recommend, and how to purchase them, click HERE.
Flower essences (work with a practitioner or look in reference books)
Food-based supplements (like Acerola Cherry Powder, Indian Gooseberry, Calcium Lactate, etc.)
Herbs and tinctures (including Elderberry syrup, Echinacea, etc)
Homeopathic remedies (work with a homeopath or look in reference books)
As you can see, there are many specific ways you can support your body's immune system, both before an infection, and during one. Every body responds a little differently, so try different tools to see what works best for you and the members of your family. But don't forget to start with the basics!
If the immune system doesn't have enough resources or immune cells, or if the body is overwhelmed by inflammation, or if you aren't drinking enough water for things to move quickly, additional support can only help you so much in your sickness. And don't get overwhelmed with how much you could do! Just pick one thing and start doing it. Then keep going, and keep learning. You are going to do great!
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