Novel virus infections have surfaced in the human population for thousands of years. Several factors have contributed to this but most can be directly linked to an increasing population. Immune deficiency is often clinically evident in so many clients and the improvement of individual resistance to infection has become fundamental treatment in Naturopathic practice - leaving people worldwide looking for ways to boost immunity and stay healthier.
Whilst clients are often interested in vitamins, supplements and herbs for infection and immunity, this must still be placed in a broader context of an effective long term plan for robust health and wellness. The immune system interacts with all body systems and whilst other health concerns may seem unrelated, they can impact greatly on immune health.
The clinical management of compromised immunity can be broken down into 8 areas of focus and as always, they will centre around prevention and not cure. The main message is that building long-lasting immunity takes time and a commitment to your health all year round, not just during the colder months. Sure, winter is a great time to ramp up supportive strategies but continuing to make immunity your focus is your best course of action and especially relevant for all of us in 2020. Here are our top immune system booster tips to follow to help boost immunity.
Immune Boosting Tip 1 - Stop Smoking
I don’t mean to sound harsh here but, please stop! Smoking has a negative impact on both innate and adaptive immune responses. Regardless of what type of cigarettes you are smoking, if you are breathing in nicotine, then you are reducing your ability to form B cell antibodies and T cells can no longer respond effectively to incoming antigens. If you have teenagers or young adults in the family, you can tell them that the same applies to vaping.
Building Immunity Tip 2 - Maintain a Healthy BMI
Metabolic Syndrome and obesity have a significant influence on immunity and pathogen defence protocols. These weight-related conditions give rise to systemic markers of chronic, low-grade inflammation that have the ability to activate leukocytes causing the dysfunction of metabolic tissues.
The lymphoid tissue also weakens making it hard for the body to coordinate effective immune responses, which in turn leads to immune deficiency. A healthy BMI doesn’t have to be for vanity purposes but rather for your health and wellbeing. This will allow you to reduce your chances of chronic disease progression and ensure long term wellness.
Immune System Booster Tip 3 - Cut Back on Caffeine
Too much caffeine can prevent your immune system from effectively fighting off infection. I know this one hurts! I didn’t say quit coffee, just be mindful that caffeine has a very negative impact on our adenosine receptors as well as our stress response hormone, cortisol. This effect can actually inhibit immune function causing systemic inflammation in the body. So stick to 1 coffee per day if at all possible.
Boost Immunity Tip 4 - Adopt a Wholefood Diet
We should all be aiming towards balance when it comes to our diet. A whole food diet is one that involves eating an adequate amount of protein, limited refined carbohydrates and sugars, organic fruit and vegetables and an abundance of pre and probiotic foods. Let’s also try and avoid any known allergens that may be causing inflammation. So many clients come into my clinic with reactions to histamines and synthetic additives.
Sometimes this is the bodies way of telling you that there is disharmony present. Don’t push through, address this with a Naturopath and get your wellness back on track. Fundamentally getting this balance right will prevent a depleted immune profile. A healthy microbiome in the gut is your best defence against viral infection and is always a preferable option to long term supplementation.
Immune System Boost Tip 5 - Maintain Optimal Hydration
Water is a critical nutrient, yet there are many unanswered questions about how much water is required for overall health, including immune health. Water comprises 75% of body weight in adults. It is a known fact that water is essential for physical performance, cognitive performance, gastrointestinal function, cardiac function and renal function. In general, good hydration is crucial to our survival.
Water is a solvent, a substrate, a building block, it’s a carrier of nutrients and waste and can be linked to many various functions of the immune system. So drink filtered water as often as you can. Hydrate your cells so they can perform for you to the best of their ability.
Building Immunity Tip 6 - Incorporate Regular Exercise
Our immune system is highly responsive to exercise. The extent and the duration of exercise are known to influence the degree of physiological stress in the body. Moderate exercise is known to enhance immune-surveillance and decreases the likelihood of chronic disease. Exercise can alleviate the effects of ageing on the immune system.
Keep exercise moderate and uplifting as heavy exertion can cause transient immune dysfunction and can increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections. So don’t push so hard. Replace punishing gym workouts with yoga, swimming, jogging or team sports that focus on joy and connection.
Stay Healthy - Manage Emotional Stress
Emotional stress is a huge concept as it affects physical, psychological and emotional situations. If your response to a perceived stressor initiates a stress response, the main system affected is the immune system. Stress causes inflammation by way of proinflammatory cytokines. This also appears to be the case with chronic stress. Stress has also shown links to latent virus activation.
This mechanism for frequent activation can cause the long term depletion of the immune system. Managing stress is such a broad term and can seem overwhelming, however, is an important skill to master and your body will thank you in the long term by rewarding you with good health and wellbeing.
Make Sleep Hygiene a Priority
Sleep and circadian systems exert a powerful regulatory influence on our immune system. Prolonged sleep deficits which accompanies a stress response can encourage the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and can produce immunodeficiency. Sleep is particularly imperative for initiating efficient adaptive immune responses to produce long-term immunological memory.
This is a classic example of how the body systems all work together as a team. Lack of sleep puts a strain on the nervous system which can intensify feelings of stress. An increase in stress response can lead to low immunity. This is why wellness warriors like to look at the individual as a whole because good health can only be achieved when the entire body is in balance.
Enjoy a Happier, Healthier You
During these uncertain times, it is easy to feel helpless. We use masks and hand sanitisers to protect ourselves while we wait for Scientists to come up with a vaccine. However, since the dawn of time, the story of evolution is also the story of microorganisms and how we all co-exist. It seems that our common evolution with micro-organisms has reached a critical status of late. Increasing antimicrobial resistance and increasing viral outbreaks like COVID-19 are all significant threats to our global village.
Additionally, the concept that you only pay attention to your immune system during the winter months needs to change. Treating infection and boosting immunity are undoubtedly areas of health where orthodox medicine and complementary, natural medicine can intersect very successfully.
So while we wait for science, let’s do what we can to be the healthiest versions of ourselves moving forward. Begin practising boosting immunity for yourself - starting from the inside out. This is already proven science that we can use to our advantage