Boosting Your Immune System

Stay Healthy this Season

Now that Fall is here, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about your health and overall well-being, which most definitely includes taking care of your immune system to prevent illness or to decrease duration of one, if you do happen to get sick.

So I’m giving you my top ways to stay healthy this season, read on to learn more:

 

1. Probiotics

It may surprise you to learn that about 70-80% of your immune system is comprised of the bacteria that live in your gut! These friendly bacteria live in the GI tract, and in addition to promoting good digestive health, they also play a vital role in the immune system, as they support the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight against infection. Amazingly,  the human body contains about the same number of gut bacteria molecules as it does cells for the rest of the entire body! With that being said, it’s no wonder that these bacteria are very important to health! 

It would be very easy for me to create an entire blog post about probiotics alone, but I’m going to try to keep this concise, and of course encourage you to do your own research! With that said, many people have gut bacteria that are out of balance, which may potentially wreak havoc on your health. Because of refrigeration and certain agricultural practices, such as soaking foods with chlorine, much of the food in our diets contains little to no probiotics; in fact, many foods contain certain antibiotics which destroy the good bacteria in our bodies. Also, many people use antibiotic treatments during illness, which also destroys not only the harmful bacteria, but also the good bacteria that we need in order to thrive! Sugar, GMO foods, gluten, emotional stress, certain medications, alcohol (except for red wine), sedentary lifestyle, smoking, poor sleep, and over-sanitation also are responsible for destruction of beneficial gut bacteria.

So incorporating more probiotics in your diet is key, and there are several ways to do so:

  • Eat more sour foods-Eating fermented vegetables and using apple cider vinegar is one way to up your consumption, as both contain not only probiotics, but also certain types of acids that support the function of probiotics (and may even function like prebiotics in some cases; prebiotics are food for probiotics). Apple cider vinegar can be added to water or a beverage, ideally about a tablespoon, once or twice daily. There are also certain probiotic drinks available, in particular, kombucha, some of which also contain apple cider vinegar. Fermented vegetables to try are sauerkraut and kimchi.
  • Consume more probiotic-rich foods-In addition to kombucha, as mentioned above, high-quality goat milk yogurt and coconut kefir are also great options! These can be consumed by themselves or added to a smoothie.
  • Take a quality probiotic supplement-It’s important to choose the right supplement and there are certain things you should look for when selecting one. These supplements usually come in capsule form and the label should include the genus, species, and strain of the probiotic. The product should also contain the number of colony forming units (CFUs) present at the time of manufacture. It’s also important to keep in mind that the majority of probiotics will be destroyed with heat, so knowing the company used proper storing and cooling techniques is vital!
  • Feed the probiotics in your system-Lastly, one way to naturally boost the probiotics in your system is to feed them, of course! These bacteria are living organisms, so they require fuel in order to thrive. What they need most is fiber, so getting good, high-quality fiber in your diet actually causes the probiotics in your body to increase. High-fiber foods to add include chia seeds and flaxseeds, and both are easily incorporated into a smoothie. Other sources might include organic fruits and vegetables, especially sweet potatoes. 

There is much more to be said about probiotics, and I may cover them at more length in a later blog post, but this is great information to start with. And as I said above, I encourage you to do your own research!

2. Elderberry

Elderberry actually refers to several different varieties of the Sambucus tree, a flowering plant belonging to the Adoxaceae family. The most common type is Sambucus nigra or the European elderberry, also referred to as black elder. The tree is native to Europe, but is also is widely grown in many other parts of the world. Elderberry gets its name from Native American herbalists, as they regarded it as a wise “elder” plant due to its capacity to promote health and vitality. Tradional Native uses include immune-boosting, wound healing, pain relief, and also supporting daily regularity. It has also been used in parts of Europe to make a tea from the flowers of the tree to support respiratory health. 

There have been three double-blind, placebo-controlled (the gold standard of scientific research) human clinical studies, which have confirmed Elderberry’s benefits for the immune system, as it helps to activate the immune system when the body is under threat. It’s so appealing due to its ability to reduce the length of an immune challenge. 

Elderberry is packed with antioxidants, including Vitamins A and C. Its antioxidant power is greater than berries well-known for their antioxidant content, such as blueberries and cranberries. However, its real power comes for the flavonoids it contains, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and rutin. A lab analysis of 28 different kinds of berries found elderberries have more flavonols (a type of flavonoid) than any other berry tested. The flavonoids in elderberry bind with foreign invaders in the body and prevent them from entering the cells; these flavonoids also support a healthy inflammation response, which is great for promoting comfort during various immune challenges. 

Elderberry activates the innate immune response, which is the body’s first line of defense against threats, and it is also the fastest response. Because of this, elderberry is able to take effect in a short period of time, so it’s great to take as soon as you start to feel under the weather. Elderberry is also long-lasting, so in addition to being able to provide a short-term boost, it can also be taken at a lower dosage (once daily) all Winter long.

Elderberry may be taken in capsule form, but Black Elderberry is typically taken as a syrup. For short-term use, adults should take one teaspoon ad the first sign of discomfort and continue taking twice daily for several days. For long-term use, the dosage should be reduced to one teaspoon daily. Children will require a lower dose: ages 1-2, 1/8 teaspoon; ages 3-5, 1/4 teaspoon; ages 6-12, 1/2 teaspoon. These should be taken twice daily for short-term use, again at the first sign of discomfort. For long-term support, reduce the dose to once daily. 

3. Oregano Essential Oil

Oregano essential oil is well-known for its healing and immune-boosting properties. It naturally fights infection due to its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, as well as antiparasitic compounds. In 2016, a study published by Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, found that the main compounds in oregano that contribute to its antimicrobial power are carvacrol and thymol. There have also been several other studies that have found the oil from oregano to exhibit antibacterial activity against a number of bacterial isolates. This powerful essential oil is also an immunostimulant and even is helpful when dealing with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

With that said, oregano oil is very potent, and it should be used carefully. The oil should be diluted with another carrier oil (almond, sesame, jojoba) if applied topically to the skin. A drop or two poured into an empty capsule may be used to take internally, which is most beneficial when fighting a bacterial or viral infection. 

It’s important to note that not all essential oils are created equally. But there are high-quality, 100% pure essential oils on the market. I highly suggest doing research into some of the different companies before deciding to purchase an oil. This is especially important if you are going to apply the oils topically to the body or take internally, as you want to ensure that you are not taking in any unwanted chemicals or toxins. 

In addition to these three powerful immune boosters, I also recommend drinking plenty of water, appropriate physical activity and exercise, getting adequate sleep each night, eating a balanced diet full of quality nutrients, and getting out in nature as much as possible to promote your body’s own Vitamin D production through sunlight exposure. All of these things are important for optimal immune system health and function, as well as overall well-being.

If you are pregnant or nursing, you should consult your physician about using any or all of these suggestions, as well as using your own intuition, and of course, doing your own research! 

“The ground work for all happiness is health.” -James Leigh Hunt

All rights reserved, The Joyful Journey Blog © 2018

 

Leave a Reply