Laura Cook, INHC, shares helpful information with our clients and the community at large with her insight on the importance of understanding Our Immunity and why it’s more important than ever for healthy living. Austin Body Contouring believes that a healthier lifestyle brings about better living, as an Austin, TX leader in non-invasive body contouring we seek to provide our clients with information that will enable them to live their best lives. We hope you find her insights below valuable as you seek to Be Your Best You!
After the past year, no topic is more relevant than immunity. What most people want to know is, Can I improve my body’s natural immunity, so I don’t get…? The real question has to do with Natural Immunity rather than immunity derived from a vaccine.
What is natural immunity? Natural immunity means that our body is working on its own to protect us from disease and infection rather than a response to a vaccine or serum. The basis of a strong natural immune system begins at birth. As babies pass through the birth canal, their microbiome is “seeded” from the fluids passed on from their mothers. As life happens, this immune system can either be strengthened or weakened.
So…is it possible to improve your natural immunity? The answer is more complicated than, “Yes, take X, Y, or Z.”
Immune System Basics
To help answer the question, we must first understand our immune system and how to tell if it is working properly. The role of the immune system is to protect us from infection, disease, and/or any foreign substance. There are two main parts to our immune system. Our innate immune system acts as the first line of defense since it acts as a barrier to keep pathogens out of the body. If anything gets past this system, the adaptive immune system kicks in. Remarkably, when it is working properly, it records every microbe it has ever defeated allowing the body to recognize and destroy it quickly if it ever enters the body again. This process of creating antibodies to attack and destroy foreign invaders is fundamental to a strong immune system.
How Do You Know if Your Immune System Is Already Compromised?
Before addressing ways to improve and protect the immune system, it is important to recognize what a compromised immune system looks like. It starts with inflammation. Inflammation in the body shows up in a myriad of ways and points to real problems with the immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, immunodeficiency shows up as:
- Frequent or recurrent infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, meningitis, or skin infections
- Inflammation and infection of internal organs
- Blood disorders, such as low platelet counts or anemia
- Digestive problems, such as cramping, loss of appetite, nausea and/or diarrhea, IBS, chronic constipation
- Chronic fatigue
- Slow-healing wounds
- Delayed growth and development
- Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 diabetes
If you are experiencing any of these, it is important to work with your health professional to uncover the root cause rather than just treat the symptom.
What are some causes of a weakened immune system?
Other than the natural aging process, there are many reasons for a weakened immune system. Some are avoidable whereas others are not. Here is a brief list:
- Unhealthy Lifestyle including poor sleep, lack of exercise, eating processed foods, too much alcohol, not enough high-quality fruits and vegetables, poor stress management
- Medications like steroids, immune suppressant drugs, and even NSAIDs like Tylenol and Advil because of their effect on the digestive system.
- Unhealthy microbiome caused by antibiotics, lack of diversity of quality plant foods, an overly sterile environment, glyphosate, pesticides, etc.
- Digestive dysfunction that shows up as constipation, loose stools, and gas is a huge red flag that the immune system is in trouble since about 90% of the immune system is found in the gut. Current research can now trace most diseases to digestion. If digestion isn’t happening, neither is detoxification. All the toxins will continue to circulate through the body putting additional strain on the immune system.
How to Improve Your Immune System – It’s Easier Than You Think
Did you know that we all have cancer cells in our bodies? That may come as a surprise, but our body’s immune system, when healthy and strong, is perfectly capable of destroying them. Now that is a great motivator! Let’s talk about how to strengthen your immune system so it is capable and ready for whatever comes your way. Below is a list you can begin to implement today. Remember, the body is all entwined so strengthening all systems helps boost immunity!
PREVENTION: An ounce of prevention is the best tactic for creating a strong immune system. This list seems obvious but often gets forgotten in the busyness of the day. Wash your hands, minimize touching your face, stay home when sick, cough or sneeze into your elbow and seek medical attention when needed. Don’t smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
DIGESTION: Prioritize your digestion by making sure it works consistently and effortlessly. If this is an area of concern, work with a health practitioner to heal your gut and improve consistency. (Healthy digestion is 1-3 bowel movements daily. Use the Bristol Stool Chart for examples of a normal stool.)
SLEEP: 7-8 hours of sleep is required for the body to regenerate and T-Cells to increase so inflammatory cells can decrease. Plus, this is the time our body needs to rest, repair, and detox as well.
STRESS: Reduce Stress and/or implement stress-reducing techniques to lower cortisol thereby increasing lymphocytes and making the immune system more effective. Start with something as easy as diaphragmatic breathing a few times a day. Make sure your breath reaches your diaphragm so it stimulates the vagus nerve, the nerve that connects the gut to the brain telling the body to relax.
DIET: Eat a well-balanced diet that incorporates organic, non-GMO, whole foods including lean proteins, colorful fruits, and vegetables, along with healthy fats and complex carbohydrates daily. The more diverse the colors, the stronger and more protected your system becomes. Challenge yourself to eat the “rainbow” daily to increase the vitamins derived from food. Also, focus on taking care of the good bacteria in your microbiome by looking up prebiotic and probiotic foods and incorporating them into your diet regularly. You can even learn how to make fermented foods like homemade pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and plain organic yogurt.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Healthy Physical Activity improves the immunosenescence or gradual deterioration of the immune system with aging. Try to incorporate a balance of cardiovascular, muscle strengthening, and stretching throughout the week. Too much of a good thing is too much when it comes to exercise. The body will kick into stress mode with too much exercise, increasing cortisol and impacting immunity. It’s important to find the right balance for you.
SUGAR: Reducing overall sugar intake is by far one of the best things you can do to help since large doses have been shown to suppress the immune system, create dysbiosis in the gut, leads to systemic inflammation, tooth decay, fatty liver, and increases body fat. Unfortunately, sugar is found in almost everything these days. Read labels and learn all the names of hidden sugar.
ALCOHOL: Reduce or limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per week. Research shows a direct correlation between alcohol consumption and decreased immune function. Not only do you feel the effects, but the healthy bacteria do also. Their populations are drastically decreased because the environment becomes toxic to them but great for the harmful bacteria.
LYMPHATIC MASSAGE: Massage is a great tool to alleviate stress, and it also promotes a healthy lymphatic system. Incorporating dry brushing or other forms of lymphatic massage regularly aids in detoxification helping the lymph to circulate through the lymphoid node system. Since this system plays a primary role in immunity, getting a massage should no longer be a guilty pleasure, but a guilt-free pleasure!
When You Need Extra Support or Just a Boost
Sometimes diet and lifestyle just aren’t enough, especially in the toxic soup of our modern environment. There are many supplemental vitamins, minerals, herbs, and even essential oils that can be used to supplement a healthy lifestyle. When choosing a multivitamin, make sure it includes the following since evidence suggests that micronutrient deficiencies in these impact the immune system and immune response.
- Vitamin A – Supports the thymus and stimulates the immune response by promoting the development of certain immune cells and great infection-fighter.
- B Vitamins – Great for increasing the immune system’s ability to fight foreign invaders. Research shows an increase in the production of antibodies when there is enough of these vitamins in the body. It also shows delayed hypersensitivity reactions.
- Vitamin C– is important to the maintenance and size of the thymus and increases T cells. Vit C is also shown to prevent or shorten the duration of infections.
- Vitamin D3 – Most in the US are sadly deficient in Vit D. It is crucial to the function of immune cells as well as many other aspects of health.
- Vitamin E– Powerful antioxidant needed to fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. Shown to boost the production of white blood cells, therefore, fighting off infection.
- Iron– The main role of iron is linked to red cell production along with helping to carry oxygen to cells. Individuals that lack enough red blood cells (anemia) also show a weakened immune response leaving the individual susceptible to illness or infection.
- Selenium– Antioxidant important in neutralizing free radicals which decreases cell damage. Selenium is also linked to preventing infections and decreasing inflammation as part of the immune response.
- Zinc – Instrumental in regulating immune response by increasing the production of immune cells and increasing the chance of maturation of cells.
- Probiotics– Important in maintaining a strong microbiome which is crucial for a healthy immune system, healthy digestion, and overall health. It is recommended to rotate the strains of probiotic populations every few months for diversity. Not all probiotics are equal. Look for 10-100 billion CFU to ensure a healthy population.
- Omega 3’s & 6’s– Strengthen the body’s inflammatory response which supports the immune system
- Turmeric and Ginger– Proven as a safe anti-inflammatory to use instead of NSAID which negatively impacts the microbiome. Since immunity starts in the gut, it is super important to limit the use of drugs like Tylenol or Advil as much as possible.
- Essential Oils – There are many essential oils used throughout the ages to prevent infection and/or strengthen the immune system. This partial list is found in blends of “Thieves” oil, a popular blend based on a band of thieves protected from the bubonic plague due to the mixture of these spices, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary
2020 brought the importance of our immune system into crystal clear focus. We can no longer afford to take it for granted, only thinking about it once it is compromised. Fortunately, everyone can implement healthy choices to improve the overall function of the immune system as well as the whole body. Take steps today that you will be happy with tomorrow!
About the Writer:
Laura Cook holds BA in Psychology and Education and is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She is living out her purpose to empower women struggling with weight, hormone, and autoimmune issues to heal from the inside out by uncovering the root of their symptoms through an integrative approach to health and healing. To create optimal, sustainable wellness, she works with clients to piece together a unique road map of interventions leading to a healthy mind, body, and soul.
Interested in discussing if health coaching is right for you, CLICK HERE for a free initial consultation.
Contact Laura directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
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