By Cheryl Fagras
There is much talk in these times of boosting the immune system, but what does that really mean? If the immune system is being neglected and unsupported, it can’t properly function to fight pathogens or infections. If the immune system is overly stimulated, autoimmunity can become a chronic issue causing it to attack the body. Keeping the immune system in balance is the true goal.
There are many challenges in this world that can take the immune system out of balance. Lives full of stress, lack of sleep, diets of nothing but processed foods and little exposure to sunshine and the great outdoors. Chemical therapies currently used to treat different disease states, whether taken orally or injected, can either suppress the immune system or send it into hyperdrive.
Here are some effective strategies to help bring balance to a healthy immune system.
- Pay attention to emotional well being. Emotions, human connection and keeping stress in check play an important role in the functioning of the immune system. A sense of connection and mood levels have a profound effect on white blood cells. Loneliness is associated with increased cortisol levels and lowered immune response. Stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline work to drastically weaken immune function. Conversely, when we are relaxed and happy, our cells produce serotonin, dopamine, and relaxin, which have a strengthening effect on the immune system.
- Consistent and restful sleep is crucial to a balanced immune system. It is the time for healing and rejuvenation to all body systems.
- Nutrition is foundational to immunity. Adequate intake of vitamin C and the mineral zinc is key. This can be achieved by eating a balanced diet of organically grown food which also provides other essential vitamins and minerals. Supplements are the next best option, but all supplements are not created equally.
• Vitamin D (aka hormone) is essential for a balanced immune system. It is best achieved via skin exposure to sunlight.This hormone can be found in some foods, but they are limited. Supplements are available, but can have a toxic down stream if taken in high doses.
• Herbal support can aid the body in strengthening or balancing the immune system. Herbal immunomodulators and herbal immune stimulants are two basic categories, each having a different function. Seek guidance from a naturopathic doctor or skilled herbalist.
These herbs support the immune system. Also called deep immune tonics, they are used for longer periods of time and have a more balancing rather than stimulating effect on the body. Many immunomodulators are also adaptogens, which are tonic herbs that help to support and balance the body in adapting to emotional, physical, and mental stress. Examples are Astragalus, Black Elderberry, Lions Mane, Turkey Tail Reishi, Elethero, Holy Basil
Herbal Immune Stimulants These herbs are used on a short-term basis. They address acute infections by stimulating white blood cell activity and aid the body to resist infection during the initial stages of infection as well as throughout the duration of an infectious illness. They generally do not effect our immune memory cells, and because their effects fade fairly quickly, they must be taken at regular intervals or continuously. Some examples of herbs in this category are Echinacea, Garlic, Myrrh, Usnea