The immune system is our defense system made up of many biological structures and processes that protects us against disease. In order to function properly, our immune system must detect a wide variety of pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, and distinguish them from our own healthy tissue.
Triggers to the immune system can be anything from the common cold to your household cleaning products and a constant exposure to pathogens, toxins and chemical substance can bring your immune system into overdrive leading to symptoms such as allergic reactions, irritations, headaches, gut issues and an overall weakened immune system which can take time to kick into action when you most need it.
Proactively managing and supporting your immune system can help to improve both your physical and mental health and wellbeing placing your body in an overall stronger position to respond to triggers or attacks to your immune system.
Nutrition and Gut Health
There is a lot of information on the importance of gut health on our physical and mental health. But did you know that 70-80% of our immune cells are in our gut?
The immune system and gut microbiota have developed a mutualistic relationship, regulating one another and cooperating to support each other since we were born and is maintained throughout our lives.
The immune system promotes the growth of beneficial microbes and helps maintain a stable microbial community, while in return, a healthy microbiota produces signals that support the development of immune cells and contributes to immune responses. This healthy communication supports protective responses against pathogens, and promotes tolerance to harmless microbes and their products.
Eating foods that feed our beneficial bacterial i.e. prebiotics help to support the growth and maintenance of good bacteria and the microbial community in our gut.
Prebiotic foods include: Oats, unripe (but not green) Bananas, Kimchi, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Garlic, Onions, Leeks, Dandelion Greens, Chicory Root, Asparagus
Keeping your Gut in optimal health allows it to absorb the nutrients from the food and drink you’re consuming to keep your body healthy and provide the immune support you need.
Filling your diet with immune boosting nutrient dense food is a key way to increasing vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients into your body
- Aim to eat a least 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This should be 2 fruit and at least 5 different vegetables per day (with vegetables being at least 2 portions of green leafy veg and at least one cruciferous veg). Utilise smoothies, soups, casseroles, stir-frys to really pack in as many vegetables, herbs and spices as you can.
- Consume a diet high in vegetables and fruit especially those containing Vitamin C – e.g. Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kiwi, Strawberries, Sweet Peppers, Oranges, Cherries. Vitamin C is water soluble and not stored by the body so it’s important to eat vegetables and fruit everyday and regularly throughout the day.
- Foods containing antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties such as garlic, ginger, turmeric have been used for thousands of years for immune support. Incorporating these into your diet will also provide added benefits in supporting your immune system
Stress is part of our daily lives and can last from a few minutes to years. Stress can help as a motivator but when it feels overwhelming and is chronic, this is when Stress can weaken and take its toll on the immune system.
It's important to minimise, manage and eliminate stress from out lives as much as possible as it causes your body to produce higher amounts of Cortisol – the stress hormone.
If your body is producing large amounts of Cortisol over time this can lead to an increase in inflammation in the body and decrease the body’s lymphocytes – the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, such as influenza, common cold and cold sores.
High stress levels can also lead to depression and anxiety, again causing high inflammation in the body. In the long-term, sustained, high levels of inflammation can result in an overworked and tired immune system which cannot function effectively and cannot properly protect you.
Lifestyle adjustments that you can make to reduce and manage stress levels are:
- Essential Oils - Using the power of pure essential oils to calm, de-stress and breath more deeply via a water based diffuser or topical application. Essential oils such as Lavender, Petitgrain, Basil and Coriander has shown to have high levels of Linalool – a naturally occurring compound that helps to reduce cortisol levels
- Yoga - Practising yoga also lowers stress hormone levels and calms your nervous system to reduce inflammation. Deep breathing helps boost your resistance to infection, while inverted poses in yoga can help circulate fluid through your lymphatic system, filtering out toxins. Combining essential oils with your yoga practice will further enhance your practice and benefits to your body.
- Meditating or practising Mindfulness for 10 - 15 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week can lower your stress levels. Utilising calming or wood/grass based essential oils such as Frankincense or Vetiver helps to reduces your cortisol levels and inflammation
Toxins can negatively impact how effective our immune cells keep a check on the immune system preventing our immune response from over-reacting and becoming too strong which can end up harming the body rather than helping to protect it.
Using greener and cleaner products especially in your home and work environment can reduce the toxin exposure your body is exposed to. This supports your immune system by helping it not to over-react in producing antibodies to “attack” the allergen.
We spend 90% of our time indoors so it’s important to have a clean but green environment where our immune system is not overactive. An great way to achieve this is by using the natural antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties of 100% pure essential oils as your everyday cleaning and laundry products.
For ideas on green cleaning recipes follow my link here and contact me to purchase 100% pure essential oils. Proactively using pure, high quality essential oils will support cell health and healthy cell replication placing your body in a stronger position to fight viruses and infections, especially when utilising the natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of essential oils. This article shares the 6 best anti-viral essential oils: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321401
A lack of sleep can adversely impact your immune system due to fewer cytokines being produced. Cytokines are a type of protein which are produced when you sleep and target infections and inflammation.
Getting the recommend 7-8 hours of sleep a night will help your immune system stay in shape, and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity
Practising sleep hygiene can really help to improve quality and increase quality of sleep if you experience interrupted or poor sleep. Try out some of the sleep tips below:
1. Practice mediation or mindfulness
2. Have a relaxing bath one hour before bed with a large scoop magnesium bath salts to help relax the body, consider adding essential oils such as Lavendar, Petitgrain,
Frankincense, Vetiver or the Serentiy Blend
3. Diffuse essential oils and blends such as the once mentioned above to relax and calm the mind and body. Apply essential oils onto the soles of the feet and relax in bed.
4. Sleep in a cool bedroom
5. Switch off from all social media at least one hour before bed and do not have devices in bedroom
6. Invest in some blackout blinds to block out all light and encourage the production of serotonin
7. Have a dinner rich in fibre
8. No coffee or caffeine after 3pm
9. Take a walk in the afternoon to set circadian rhythm and get some fresh air.
10. Get into and out of bed at the same time to set a routine and help prepare your body for wake/sleep times