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Five Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System
By Kathy Thorpe, MA, CHom
Most of the time, one’s immune system does an excellent job of defending against viruses, bacteria, abnormal cell development and cancer. However, sometimes it fails and we become sick or develop a chronic illness. Furthermore, as we age, most people will experience some degree of immunosenescence or the gradual deterioration of the immune system brought on by aging.Here, the body’s capacity to respond to infections, inflammation and abnormal cell growth gradually weakens. As a result, older people often have more incidences of viral andbacterial infections as well as pneumonia and cancer.
Who would want to boost their immune system?
Anyone who suffers from frequent viral or bacterial infections or has a chronic illness. For example, if you get frequent colds or the flu, especially if they turn into bronchitis, pneumonia or sinus infections, your immune system could use some support. If you have cancer, are recovering from cancer or have any other chronic illness, you will have a compromised immune system. Finally, anyone who would like to prevent getting a chronic illness and wants to live a longer, healthier life, could benefit from some immune support.
What can we do to boost our immunity?
The immune system is a complex system whose major components are the thymus, the spleen, the lymph system, bone marrow and white blood cells as well as a sophisticated network of macrophages, helper T cells, natural killer cells, B cells, cytokines and many other players that interact to protect the body from pathogens. In fact, the system is so complex that even leading immunologists say they only understand the tip of the iceberg when it comes tothe immune system.
And yet, there are some effective, researched ways to help support the immune system:
Chinese tonic herbs have been used for thousands of years to improve health, vitality and increase longevity. These herbs have undergone extensive research and been shown to effectively boost immune function. An excellent formula is Supreme Immune Tonic from Six Persimmons Apothecary. This formula is comprised of the kings of the tonic herbs and mushrooms that specifically support the immune system. For example, astragalus strengthens the body’s ‘wei qi” or its surface defense system while fortifying the lungs and protecting against external pathogens. It increases both specific and non-specific immunity and increases white blood cell count. It also has anti-cancer propertiesby enhancing natural killer cell activity and inhibiting the growth of tumor cells. Reishi mushroomstonify the blood and areessential for rebuilding a patient’s overall health, energy and vitality. They increase the number of white blood cells, have wide-spread anti-bacterial activity and inhibit the growth of viruses. They increase monocytes, macrophages, T-lymphocytes, cytokines, interleukin, tumor necrosis factor and interferon. Cordyceps is an effective herb to tonify the kidney yin and yang and improve overall energy and vitality. It enhances overall immunity by increasing lymphocytes and natural killer cells as well as interleukin, interferon and tumor necrosis factor. In addition, it has been shown to significantly inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. The remaining herbs in the formula: Ginseng, Eleuthero ginseng, Rhodiola, Gynostemma, Lycium, Schizandra and Polygonatum all provide unique immune boosting properties as well as improve energy, memory, mental focus, clarity and vitality.
Nutritionmay be one of the single most important steps you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy. The recipe is simple: lots of organic vegetables (raw and cooked), organic fruits (not fruit juice), lean protein, vegetable fats (avocados, olives, etc.) and a small amount of non-gluten grains. Most importantly, you want to minimize inflammatory foods that congest the body and dull the functioning of the immune system such as gluten, dairy, animal fats, sugar as well as the many chemicals that are found abundantly in processed and packaged foods. Remember the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Our bodies desperately need the nutrition, enzymes and micronutrients in fruits and vegetables.
Regular exercise and activity is one of the keys to a strong immune system. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, controls body weight and protects against a variety of diseases. It supports immune function directly by promoting circulation of the blood and lymph which enables the cells and substances of the immune system to move freely throughout the body and to do their job more efficiently. In Chinese Medicine, there is a saying that stagnation is the root of all diseases. Certainly exercise and regular movement will keep the immune system functioning well. Be sure to get 30 to 45 minutes of exercise every day. If you have a desk job, get up and move around every hour or so.
Good sleep is another essential contributor to healthy immune function. If you miss a little sleep here and there, it may not be a problem. But chronic sleep deprivation can have an immediate impact on your immune system. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to get colds, influenza, strep throat and other viral and bacterial infections. Prolonged sleep loss has also been linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. If you have sleep issues, get help. And that doesn’t mean popping sleeping pills the first time you can’t fall asleep. Go see an alternative medicine provider who can help you get at the root of the problem. How you respond to stress will certainly need to be addressed as stress is linked to the quality of your sleep.
Supplements: There are a few supplements that will help get your immune system back on track especially if you are fighting any kind of infection. Vitamin D has several immune boosting properties including its ability to help fight infections. One way it does this is by stimulating the production of cathelicidin, a protein with natural antibiotic properties. Take 5,000 IU daily especially during the winter months and increase to 10,000 IUs daily if you have a cold or flu. Zinc helps fight all kinds of infections, so take 25 mg. daily or up it to 50 if you have an upper respiratory tract infection. Vitamin C has anti-viral and immune enhancing properties. Take 1,000 mg. daily for overall immune support increasing this to 5,000 mg daily if you are ill.
All of us want to live a long, healthy life. To do that, we can learn valuable lessons from Chinese medicine about how to strengthen our immune systems and improve our overall energy, strength, stamina, memory, clarity and vitality at the same time.
Kathy Thorpe is a classical homeopath and a natural health writer who has been writing about alternative approaches to health and wellness for the past ten years. Prior to that, she taught English at U.C. Berkeley and at the University of Colorado. She can be reached at 303 583-0179
Kathy Thorpe is the author of https://six-persimmons-apothecary.myshopify.com/. Visit the site for more information about Homeopathic Anxiety Remedy, Immune System Support, Immune System Boosters, Natural Sleep Remedy.
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