Generally, your immune system does a great job at protecting you against harmful germs - but given the occasional failure, it is not only wise to help your body fight off illnesses through a series of minor lifestyle changes, but also pivotal. We’ve all heard the basics; stock up on Vitamin C and consume fruits and vegetables, but how effective truly are these methods when carried out alone?
One common misunderstanding surrounds over-the-counter drugs and the reliance many still have on them. Dr Will Cole, leading functional-medicine expert and founder of drwillcole.com, opened up on this: “In a world full of endless pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs promising to address all our health woes, we can sometimes forget that nature was our first medicine. If this seems “woo-woo” to you, you should know that up to 50 percent of the drugs approved in the last 30 years have come directly or indirectly from natural products. Aspirin, which is based on a natural compound isolated from the white willow plant, is one great example. Opioid pain-killers, derived from the poppy plant, are another; penicillin, which comes from a mold that grows in nature, is a third example of how if we turn to nature, it usually has our back.”
And as the National Library of Medicine reveals, only about 15 percent of plants have been explored for their medicinal potential, which leads us to assume that plenty of natural remedies exist. Simply put, over-the-counter drugs will sometimes be a quick fix; but they are not necessarily the ideal option. Take antibiotics, for instance - too often prescribed unnecessarily, they will also destroy the good bacteria that your body requires.
So what can one do to help their immune system in its battle against sickness? As Human Performance Consultant, Ben Greenfield explains, “creating a bulletproof immune system begins with moving lymph fluid throughout the body, keeping the respiratory system ready, limiting pathogens passing through the skin, keeping white blood cells elevated, strengthening the spleen, and repairing and maintaining proper gut health.”
We’re taking a look at both renowned and lesser known ways of putting the above into practice and boosting your immune system:
Partake in physical activity
While exercise may seem like a no-brainer, it is important for one to understand what its purpose is in order to carry it out well. As Greenfield explains, physical movement - particularly “shaking the body in an up-and-down motion for a couple of minutes” - will better your lymph system’s circulation. This will therefore clear toxins from your system and help your body process supplements. Exercise routines consisting of yoga and swimming are particularly effective at strengthening bone marrow, your spine, as well as the kidneys and adrenal glands.
Refrain from smoking and drinking
Heavy smoking may result in a plethora of unhealthy consequences; the most known among those being heart disease, cancer and/or respiratory tract infections. However, even light smokers are prone to issues concerning the immune system. Alcohol too makes it harder for the immune system to defend the body against harmful germs, and while light amounts are said to benefit your health to a degree, binge drinking should be cut out.
While easier said than done, relieving stress is an effective way of aiding your immune system. Ever noticed particular sicknesses you experienced followed a stressful phase in your life? While the link between long-term emotional stress and immune function has not been fully determined, research has shown that colds and other illnesses tend to crop up when stress is at play. Start by making use of breathing techniques and trying out meditation.
Make time for sleep
Sleep is an important time for your body, with long-term sleep deprivation known to cause severe diseases. Your immune system is also affected, as it releases proteins named cytokines while you sleep; some of which are needed when you are unwell. Try using an essential oil blend named thieves blend by diffusing it as you sleep, which will help your immune system, as well as digestive and respiratory systems.
There is no doubt that one’s diet affects their immune system; in fact, research has continuously shown that people without the right access to proper food are prone to infectious diseases. But even with that information, it may be daunting to start out a healthy diet. Greenfield recommends that "coconut products, garlic, medicinal mushrooms, and chia seeds” are included in your meals to “provide antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal compounds that support the immune system.” Obtain your pre-biotics through plant foods rich in fibre, and do not shy away from eating vegetables while still dirty, as soil based probiotics will also help the immune system.