A strong and efficient immune system is perhaps the greatest health asset. But in today’s world, maintaining optimal immunity is turning out to be one of our greatest health challenges. Beyond protecting against viruses like the common cold or flu — although this is certainly a critical consideration for the upcoming season — our immune systems work very closely with many other body systems.
Immunity is interconnected with digestive, neurological, hormonal, cellular, energetic, cardiovascular and cognitive health and much more. In fact, scientists are constantly unraveling the intriguing and far-reaching powers of immune function. Rather than simply protecting us from foreign invaders and germs, a strong and vital immune system is core to nearly every aspect of our long-term health and vitality. And in today’s world, we need strong immunity more than ever.
There are just too many factors working against immune health: unhealthy diets, lifestyle habits, stress and exhaustion, environmental factors, and even the drugs that were designed to protect us from germs. For example, recent studies have illuminated the health risks and dangers of certain antibiotics. Other reports demonstrate that many harmful species of bacteria are evolving into deadly, drug-resistant forms. Flu vaccine effectiveness is overestimated, according to numerous reports — including a recent study from University of Michigan stating flu shots provide only moderate protection and, in many cases, no protection at all.
Luckily, there are numerous ways to effectively support your immune system that, in turn, support many other aspects of long-term health and vice versa.
Diet And Digestion
Good digestion forms the foundation of a strong immune system and requires balanced nutrition from a diet filled with vegetables, complex carbs, healthy fats and lean protein. This also includes good hydration with plenty of filtered water all day long.
The worst dietary assault to immunity is overconsumption of refined sugars. But even if you eat well, if you have poor absorption due to impaired digestion, you’re missing out on an abundance of nutrients needed for health. In addition, the friendly bacteria in the gut play a key role in supporting immune function. It is important to nourish these friendly flora with supplemental probiotics as well as prebiotics. Cultured foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt and kim chee all provide excellent sources of friendly bacteria. Supplemental digestive enzymes can also aid digestion and strengthen immunity.
Other botanicals and nutrients with specific digestive and immune boosting benefits include:
- Medicinal mushrooms
Unless the body has a strong circulatory system, nutrients aren’t conveyed to immune cells, germs and wastes build up, and communication between various aspects of immunity breaks down. Poor circulation also contributes to chronic inflammation and vice versa, creating a vicious immune-suppressing cycle. Daily exercise (even just a brisk walk), hydration and circulation-boosting nutrients and herbs can increase immunity. I also recommend a Tibetan herbal formula that contains 19 unique botanicals that work together to support circulation, boost immune function, reduce inflammation and provide antioxidant protection. A particular enzyme called nattokinase is also very beneficial for circulation and immunity, along with other herbs such as honokiol from magnolia bark, turmeric root and ginger.
A growing collection of research shows that stress may be one of our greatest immune killers. (Lack of adequate sleep can have similar effects.) Chronic physical and mental stress, anxiety, and even pessimism have been shown to detract from health in numerous ways, including a reduction in immune function.
On the other hand, happiness, laughter and strong social networks boost immunity and protect against chronic and acute illness. Loving pets can provide a critical boost to immunity as well. Do what brings you joy and satisfaction: Spend time with people who uplift you. And remember that kindness and love are great healers and protectors all on their own.
Specific Botanicals And Nutrients
There are many natural ingredients that directly boost various aspects of the immune system, fight bacteria and viruses, detoxify harmful substances, and increase resistance against allergens. Some top recommendations:
- Medicinal mushrooms show remarkable intelligence in the body. In the case of immunity, they help to train immune cells and increase their disease-fighting powers. In my clinical practice, I recommend: Coriolus, Ganoderma, Agaricus, Cordyceps, Umbellatus and Maitake.
- Beta Glucans are complex carbohydrates derived from bran, mushrooms and yeasts. They nourish immune cells and boost their activity significantly.
- Vitamins A, C, D3, E, zinc, selenium and other trace minerals are all important for a strong immune system and for overall health. Look for a balanced multivitamin with natural, food-based nutrients.
- Modified Citrus Pectin is derived from citrus peels and has been shown in published research to dramatically boost Natural Killer cell activity and effectiveness and support other aspects of immunity. It has also been shown to protect against cancer and other chronic diseases and to safely remove heavy metals and toxins from the body.
- L-Carnitine is an amino acid that boosts cell mitochondrial function, helping to power up immune function.
- Garlic is a powerful antimicrobial that boosts immune function, supports detoxification and promotes cardiovascular health. Research shows it may be effective against deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Astragalus is a traditional Chinese herb that has been shown to boost immunity, protect against cancer and offer other long-term benefits for overall health.
Together, these recommendations can supercharge your immune system — even if it’s already under attack. They can also benefit other critical aspects of overall health, including mental and emotional well-being. By supporting the system that actively defends your health, you can rest easier knowing that whatever threats may come, your immunity will be in top shape to handle them as best it can, many times without you even noticing it. What you will notice is greater energy, more vitality and overall well-being. For more health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org.