by Amanda Box
Has sickness left you worn out and hung out to dry? Do you feel like, no matter what, every year you just can’t seem to escape the seasonal cold or flu? Maybe you suffer from a chronic autoimmune disorder that leaves you in a state of constant exhaustion and pain. Is it possible to intervene in this process and make your immune system stronger? Yes and I am going to show you how!
Our bodies have a built-in complex system that is designed to recognize and destroy foreign invaders. This system is so incredibly effective that it literally saves our lives on a daily basis by eradicating viruses, bacteria, cancer cells, and so much more. It is always working as we go about our daily lives, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Most of us don’t notice our immune system until it fails to stop a sickness before it starts. Once we feel that tickle in our throat, the nasal congestion, or that achy feeling in our body, we become disappointed thinking that, once again, our immune system has failed us.
But, what if it is the other way around? In most cases, we are responsible for impairing our immune system! We often give our immune system some of the worst working conditions possible, yet still expect everything to run smoothly. So many of us fail to give our body what it needs to have a healthy, well-functioning immune system!
The 7 Steps To Immune System Recovery
There are 7 essential steps to a powerful and strong immune system. Making these steps a central part of your lifestyle can pull you out of sickness and into recovery. These 7 steps will boost your immune system and give you an overall sense of well-being. When these important steps to immune recovery are not implemented, a weak immune system is often the result.
Weakened immunity leaves you vulnerable to sickness and disease. Ignoring these important aspects of health and wellness can also send your body into an imbalanced state. It is this state of imbalance that can cause your immune system to overreact and attack your own body! This self-destructive process is behind autoimmune disorders like M.S., fibromyalgia, and lupus.
Take each one of these 7 steps into account. Each and every step is extremely crucial for immune system recovery. Omitting even one step can make all the difference in truly restoring immunity throughout your body.
1. Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep is a very common factor in those with compromised immune systems. The direct correlation between lack of sleep and low immunity has been acknowledged through recent studies. Sleep is the time during which your body maximizes the chance to heal and repair. Our body’s immune system functions best at night because it doesn’t have to compete for energy when the body is at rest. This is often why fevers spike at night. The immune system is strong and fighting the best it can to kill the foreign invader by increasing the body’s core temperature.
When you deprive your body of this essential restoration time, the result is compromised immune function. T-cell function decreases and triggers inflammation in the body when you are not rested.
Boost immunity by going to bed before midnight and getting at least 6-8 hours of rest. A regular exercise plan also improves sleep. If you struggle going to sleep, start your sleep routine earlier. Also, supplements like melatonin, L-tryptophan, and GABA can help facilitate a more restful and deep sleep.
2. Reducing Stress
Stress is the #1 cause of disease, bar none. It tops the chart at being the root behind 99% of all disease! Stress puts a burden on every single system in the body, including the immune system. It has also been well documented that cortisol, the hormone released during stress, can significantly lower the immune system if chronically elevated.
Prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response. As a result, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation promotes the development and progression of many diseases.
I am one who can testify to stress’s effect on immunity. I consider myself a healthy individual who rarely gets sick. However, if I let stress or anxiety take over my week, I begin to feel run down and sometimes end up battling a cold or sinus infection. I have experienced this cycle enough times that I now take every precaution I can to lower my stress. I have found that lowering stress is more effective at preventing sickness than immune boosting supplements like vitamin C or garlic.
Autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia have their roots in stress related causes like emotional trauma. Situations like divorce, loss of a loved one, or a loss of a job can be so traumatic, that a disease process is triggered in the body.
Stress encompasses all things emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Remember, even what you eat can put stress on your body. This is just another reason why a healthy diet is so important to boosting your immune system.
3. Healthy Diet
You are what you eat. If you eat unhealthy, you will be unhealthy.
As previously mentioned, unhealthy foods put unneeded stress on the body. Fast foods and processed foods contain toxic chemical ingredients that your immune system often recognizes as foreign invaders. This overstimulation of the immune system can sometimes trigger autoimmune reactions in the body. This is often common in the gut and can lead to bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These diseases begin because your colon becomes the site of a constant allergic reaction. As time passes, the inflammation and immune response leads to intense damage and pain.
Diet also plays an important role in providing the nutrition needed to keep the immune system strong. You have to feed your immune system what it needs to thrive and function properly. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids are all important nutrients that are essential for immune function.
Quit eating fast foods and processed foods and start preparing your meals from scratch. Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and stay away from sugar! Sugar strips your immune system leaving it weak and vulnerable! The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that found the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria is significantly lowered for up to 5 hours after eating 100 g of sugar!
Research has shown that sedentary people take twice as many sick days a year than those who exercise regularly.
Though no one knows exactly how exercise boosts immunity, studies have proven it has a direct correlation. Many believe this connection has to do with exercises ability to oxygenate the blood and push white blood cells through the body at a faster rate.
Increasing your heart rate during exercise also helps to raise your core body temperature. This raise in body temp can kill bacteria or viruses in the body. Exercise’s ability to lower stress in the body is also a fantastic reason to adopt the habit of physical activity.
Exercise lowers cortisol levels thereby lowering your stress and helping you to sleep better at night! All the more reason why exercise is great for immunity!
You don’t have to exercise an hour everyday to reap the benefits of increased immunity. Something as simple as [am4show guest_error=’noaccess’] taking a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes can get your heart pumping.
5. Reducing the use of Pharmaceutical Drugs
The overuse of antibiotics has wreaked havoc on the immune systems of millions of people across the nation. Though antibiotics can act as a miracle for certain bacterial infections, their overuse has led to the formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA.
One danger of antibiotics is that they don’t distinguish between good and bad bacteria when they are in the body. This often leads to a depletion of good flora in the gut. When the balance of the gut is compromised, it leaves us susceptible to viruses, bacteria, and fungi that otherwise would not be a problem. The side-effect of lowered levels of beneficial flora is behind some of the worst opportunistic infections like C-diff.
It is very important to only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary. They have no beneficial effect for viral infections and can actually lower your immunity making the infection last even longer!
Other pharmaceutical drugs also contribute to lowered immunity. Corticosteroids may work well for inhibiting allergic reactions, but their long-term effects can leave your immune system damaged and weak. The CDC even warns against the side-effects of these medications stating they can leave the body susceptible to fungal infections like candida, Pneumocystis pneumonia, and Histoplasmosis!
There are many natural alternatives to both antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. Some of my favorites include oregano oil and colloidal silver for eradicating bacteria. Also, curcumin from turmeric acts as a very powerful anti-inflammatory and alternative to corticosteroids without the side-effects.
5. Maintain a Healthy Gut
Eighty percent (80%) of your immune system resides in your gut, making it extremely important in immune system strength and recovery. As I already mentioned, antibiotics can damage your gut by killing off beneficial probiotic bacteria. This leaves the gut susceptible to overgrowth of toxic bacteria and fungi like candida. These toxic microbes can damage the intestinal wall and create something called Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition where the walls of the intestine become damaged and permeable. Tiny molecules from our food can pass through this permeable intestine and into the bloodstream. The immune system recognizes these proteins as foreign invaders and launch an attack that creates immune responses that range from headaches to skin rashes. Because this immune response can occur systemically, autoimmune diseases like Celiac, arthritis, and psoriasis can also result.
Keeping your gut healthy involves staying away from foods and medications that damage the gut lining as well as eating foods that promote balance. Some of the best ways to maintain a healthy gut are:
- Avoiding antibiotics
- Eliminating processed foods and GMO foods (contain chemicals that damage the gut) [clean 15 dirty dozen insert]
- Avoid high allergen foods like wheat, corn, and soy
- Incorporate fermented foods into your diet (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut)
- Take a strong probiotic supplement daily
6. Preventing Dehydration
I am constantly surprised by the amount of people who simply don’t drink enough water. Millions of people are in a state of dehydration on a daily basis and don’t even know it! Inadequate water intake prevents the body from eliminating toxins from the body. This leaves these toxins in the body circulating in the system which causes even more damage. Also, bacteria and viruses can grow and multiply if not eliminated frequently. For example, what would normally be flushed out of the bladder can multiply and become a full-fledged UTI if your water intake is too low or infrequent. Water flushes body toxins out of them body which prevents these types of infections.
Water also helps to oxygenate our blood, which keeps our immune cells strong and healthy. It is also a crucial part of keeping our lymph system working. The lymph system is important for circulating white bloods from the thymus throughout the body to remove toxins from the blood.
Proper hydration is also important to keep our eyes, nose, and mouth moist. Bacteria grow at a faster rate in dry cavities. Also, a lack of moisture can cause irritation and possible inflammation.
A good rule of thumb is to always check your urine color. If it is dark or bright yellow, you aren’t drinking enough water. Your urine should be light yellow or clear. Staying hydrated will also help you sleep better and increase your energy during the day. Keep a water cup with you at all times. I can assure you that the more you drink water, the more you will crave it!
7. Sun Exposure
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our immune system. However, the recent push for sunscreen and decreased sun exposure has left many of you deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for the function of immune cells in our body. T cells cannot activate and become killer cells without the presence of vitamin D. Without vitamin D available in the body, they will remain inactive, therefore unable to do their job at killing pathogens!
Many people feel tired, sluggish, and have depleted immune systems simply from a lack vitamin D! I recommend getting your blood tested for vitamin D if you feel like you may be at risk. A healthy level of at least 60 ng/ml is best for healthy immunity.
Boosting vitamin D levels is as easy as going out into the sun for 20 minutes a day with exposed skin. You can also take vitamin D3 during the winter months for an extra boost. Taking 35 IU per lb. of body weight is a great daily dosage when the weather is not permitting.
If you are tired of a weak and worn out immune system, then take the time to restore its efficiency. It is an intricate system that needs both our care and attention. When you take the time to incorporate the 7 steps of immune system restoration, you will literally be taking your health back into your hands. Your resistance to disease will increase, you will ward off colds and flu, and your overall vitality will skyrocket! Begin today and step by step, take back your immune system and your health!
If you liked this article, then you’ll love these:
- How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
- 5 Ways Exercise Boosts the Immune System
- Repair Your Immune System to Heal Lupus
Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.
com/ for contact info.