In Genesis, when God created all of the things, He called them good. This included the magnificently intricate immune system that He created to support the human body. The human immune system is a complex network throughout the body that essentially works as a gatekeeper to keep foreign pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, and fungi) that can cause illness, infection, or disease out and to heal the body when those pathogens happen to get in or any of our systems experience damage.
Through various organs, mucous membranes, cells, vessels, proteins, bodily secretions, and biological reflexes our bodies create a precious ecosystem that protects us on the inside and on the outside. When the body suspects a foreign invader by recognizing its antigens (proteins on the outside of the pathogen that alert the immune system), it sends first responders to scope out the issue and get it out of the body. This often results in an inflammatory response and the body begins the process of removing what doesn’t belong. This is where secretions and biological functions, such as stomach acid, tears, pus, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, etc. come into play.
Once the body has started the process of removing the pathogens, it also creates antibodies so that the body will recognize the antigens if they ever return. Antibodies can also help neutralize toxins that poison and damage the body. This is how our bodies build a defense system against the pathogens that we come into contact with on a daily basis and establishes a natural immunity. Antibodies don’t guarantee that we will never get sick, but they help the body to be alert and can stop an invasion from escalating to dangerous levels.
Pathogens can be found on our skin, on various things we touch throughout the day, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, on our pets, and so on. However, our immune system is typically prepared for battle and protects us often times without us even knowing. Now granted there are cases where individuals are immunocompromised and things don’t necessarily go down the way they’re supposed to, but for the most part humans have a typical immune response.
Our lifestyle plays a huge part in how effective that system works. There are numerous things that we can do to help our immune system out and boost its ability to fight off cooties. Supporting your immune system doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, but being intentional and consistent will definitely help. When we take care of our bodies, we support the way it was naturally made to function.
Here are 7 ways you can support the immune system the good Lord gave you:
1. Be mindful of what you are putting in your body.
The majority of our immune system lives in our gut, so it is important that we pay attention to what we consume and our overall gut health. Eating whole foods that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants help support cellular function, which in turn helps protect the body against pathogens and also decreases inflammation. Foods that are high in vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as quercetin, zinc, and selenium, are very beneficial to the immune system. Poor nutrition can result in increased risk of infection, slower healing process, and increased risk of experiencing severe symptoms and complications with illness and disease.
Try adding more dark leafy green vegetables, berries, citrus fruits, onions, eggs, wild-caught fish, carrots, nuts, and red bell peppers to your diet. Foods like garlic and honey also have antimicrobial and antiviral properties that can help fight off infections. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water to flush your body of waste and toxins. Consult with your physician or functional medicine practitioner before adding any supplements to your regimen.
While there are numerous foods that can support the immune system, there are also numerous foods that can increase inflammation levels, and in turn decrease immune function. When our bodies are constantly trying to fight off inflammation from inflammatory foods it can overwhelm the immune system, which diminishes the body’s ability to fight off other potentially harmful pathogens. Try eliminating highly inflammatory foods like dairy, sugar, alcohol, and gluten as much as possible.
2. Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
The average adult needs between 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to function efficiently and effectively. Lack of adequate sleep hinders the body’s ability to produce important parts of the immune system, which in turn leaves us more susceptible to all of the pathogens when come into contact with on a daily basis. Sleep deprivation can also cause elevated levels of stress hormones, which affect the body’s ability to fight off foreign invaders, as well as cause a whole host of other issues. When we sleep the body goes to work fighting off inflammation and renewing cells, so it’s important that we give it sufficient time to do its job. Create a bedtime routine and an optimal sleeping environment to catch more zzz’s.
3. Engage in some form of physical movement on a regular basis.
Research shows that regular physical exercise can improve your immune system by fighting off communicable diseases, including viral and bacterial infections, as well as non-communicable diseases like cancer and chronic inflammatory conditions. Exercise boosts the cells that attack pathogens and reduce inflammation throughout the body, which reduces our risk of illness and disease, and slows the aging process. Exercise also helps to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, as well as detoxes waste from the body as we sweat.
Working out once in a while may boost your immune system temporarily, but the effects will diminish, so the best way to support the immune system through exercise is by moving consistently throughout the week. Most experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Find some form of movement that you enjoy. You’ll be more likely to stick with it. Exercise doesn’t have to be brutal punishment. Honor your body and have fun with it.
4. Go outside.
Getting outside can boost the immune system in multiple ways. First, soaking up some sunshine can boost your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that has antimicrobial and immunoregulatory properties, which helps it to play a crucial role in the immune response. Getting at least 10-30 minutes of sun exposure several days per week is the best way to elevate your vitamin D levels.
Exposing ourselves to various elements in nature can boost the gut microbiome. Microbes can be found all around us and within us. We all have good and bad microorganisms in our bodies. Some of them can make us really sick and some of them are crucial to keeping the body healthy. Research suggests that 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, so keeping a healthy balance of the good and bad microbes can boost the immune system, as well as affect the way we feel physically and mentally. Establishing a diverse gut flora of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms plays an important part in the body learning what is beneficial and what is harmful. When the bad microbes outnumber the good ones, it can open the door for the progression of infection, illness, and disease. So, it is super important that we expose ourselves to a variety of microbes to support the good guys.
5. Minimize your stress levels, stay grounded, and focus on your mindset.
Research shows that small stressors and chronic stress can significantly reduce the function of the immune system. When we are stressed the body produces chemicals that suppress the immune system, which in turn increases the risk of getting sick. We are also prone to pick up other unhealthy habits when we are stressed, such as drinking, binge eating, skipping out on exercise, etc., which can also take a toll on our immune health.
Short term suppression of the immune system from smaller stressors is not nearly as detrimental on the immune system as chronic stress. Staying in a constant stress response throws the body all out of whack. Not only does it greatly increase the risk of frequent infections and illness, but it also leads to chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stomach ulcers, autoimmune diseases, and gastrointestinal dysfunction. For more information on self-care and stress management hop over to our blog from a couple of weeks ago called “10 Self-Care Practices to Stay Grounded in the Chaos”.
6. Reduce your toxic load.
Each of us are exposed to toxins each and every day. From the air we breathe, to the clothes we wear, to the couch we sit on, to the beauty products we use, to what we eat and drink, to the products we clean with, and so on. When those toxins start to build up, the body becomes burdened, which inhibits the efficacy of the immune system. This toxic burden on the body can cause hormone disruption, various cancers, and numerous other symptoms that prevent optimal function. Start by being mindful of the foods you chose to eat, the products you use on a regular basis (makeup, lotion, soap, etc.), and the cleaning products you use. Next month we are doing a whole series on reducing toxic load across multiple areas, so be sure to keep an eye out.
7. Try essential Oils
Essential oils are plant extracts that can boost the immune system and promote overall health and wellness. Some oils can be applied topically on the skin, some can be inhaled, and some can be ingested. Please be sure to check for proper usage and any precautions before using a particular oil.
Blends, such as Young Living’s Thieves, which includes cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary, are great for boosting the immune system. It is said that during the Bubonic Plague thieves would cover themselves with an aromatic blend similar to what is found in Thieves to protect themselves as they robbed the dead. Thieves has antimicrobial and antiviral properties. It can be used to purify the air, as well to clean surfaces. When diluted with a carrier oil, Thieves can be applied topically to support the immune system. Thieves Vitality is a Young Living line that can also be ingested and is great in warm tea.
Other oils that boost immune system function are oregano, lavender, tea tree oil, and frankincense. Below you can find a great immunity boosting blend that can be applied to the spine and bottoms of the feet daily. If you feel yourself starting to show any of signs of illness start applying it hourly to help your body fight whatever may be going on.
20 drops lemon
10 drops oregano
10 drops frankincense
10 drops tea tree oil
10 drops thieves
10 drops peppermint
10 drops lavender
Top off with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil