Once more for the record: I’m not a doctor. I have no formal medical training. I can’t diagnose, treat or heal any medical conditions. The info provided is strictly my own opinion and the results of my own personal experience and research. Always consult a medical professional if you suspect illness or disease. None of these statements have been approved by any governing agency, domestic or foreign.
What do you really know about your immune system? If you are like most people, the answer is, not a lot. Everyone knows the basics. The immune system is what keeps us from getting sick. It’s the system that kicks out the bad germs, bacteria and viruses.
I’ve sat here for an hour now trying to decide the best way to simplify how the immune system works so that I can explain to you how to help keep it strong. What I’ve decided is that there is no easy way to break it down. Instead, I’ll be pointing you to several other well-written, easy-to-understand websites. I suggest that you check out this article at Howstuffworks.com if you are interested in knowing how the immune system works. Otherwise, just understand that the immune system is affected by and/or related to every single organ of the body and requires some very specific things to keep it working properly.
First of all, it needs to be fed. Vitamins, minerals, elements, enzymes…all of these are necessary to keep your immune system strong and focused. So, is the answer a multi-vitamin or supplement? I don’t believe so. The body absorbs vitamins, minerals and nutrients from food sources much more rapidly and efficiently than when taken in the form of a pill. This is one of those rare facts that homeopaths, doctors, nutritionists and the universe can all agree on.
That doesn’t mean that you need to eat 50 different fruits and veggies a day to get all the nutrients that your body needs. Mother Nature is a multi-tasking expert. Most fruits and veggies contain a whole little package of vitamins and nutrients within them. A few, recently dubbed ‘Super-foods‘, contain a big package of vitamins and nutrients.
It has also been proven that organic foods contain higher levels of these vitamins and nutrients. I know all the arguments…organic costs too much, it doesn’t look as pretty, it’s harder to obtain….I’ve heard and felt them all. The truth is, though, they are cheaper over time. The few extra dollars a week spent on organic instead of non-organic will help ensure a stronger immune system, which leads to fewer sick days, less money spent on medicine and increased energy and productivity.
Many fruits and veggies also contain antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral elements. Imagine them as steroids for the immune system without the side-effects, if you will. Sometimes our immune system will get overloaded with processed foods, environmental toxins, viruses, germs and a gazillion other depressants. It’s hard work fighting off all those enemies! Whose system couldn’t use an extra bit of muscle?
Here are a few foods that will help keep your immune system strong and healthy:
carrots, cucumbers, leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc), eggplant, tomato, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, onions, garlic, oranges, avocado, honey, apples, berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), lemons, limes, grapefruit, papaya
Raw veggies are best, but really, who wants to munch down on a raw onion? Any form you eat them in (except canned) is great, just don’t microwave them or over-cook them. Try steamed asparagus drizzled with fresh lemon juice and dash of sea salt. A fresh fruit salad sprinkled with some freshly grated coconut, raisins or nuts and a hint of fresh mint. Add some extra onion and garlic to your meals. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you’ll feel so much better!
Our immune system also requires a constant, fresh source of oxygen to function properly. How often do you take the time to just sit and breath? Do you know the best way to breathe? Did you even know there was a ‘best way to breathe’? This is one reason that I always recommend yoga. The combination of breathing and movement helps stimulate the organs of the body, which promotes better function and a stronger overall health.
The skin, too, plays a part in the immune system. It is our first defense against a whole army of deadly bacteria and germs. It is the largest organ of the body and is capable of absorbing just about anything that comes in contact with it. That is why it is incredibly important to have a good skin-care regimen that is free of chemicals and unnatural ingredients that the body often sees as ‘foreign material’.
While your skin will fight it as long as possible, eventually it will catch up with you and suddenly you have a rash from your soap, dandruff from your shampoo and a nasty case of acne from the same kind of makeup you’ve used for years!
Check your labels when you go to buy your next bottle of face cleanser. Remember that just because it says ‘made with natural ingredients’ doesn’t mean it’s made with ALL natural ingredients. Here are a few ingredients to avoid:
mineral oil, lanolin, PABA, formaldehyde, phenol acid (urocanic, salacylic and others), propylene glycol, parabens (methyl, propyl and others), Sodium lauryl sulfate (also Sodium Laureth , Ammonium Lauryl, and other “sulfates”)
Some natural ingredients to look for that contain antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and other immune-boosting properties ( and many other beneficial characteristics including moisturizing, healing and protecting) include:
shea butter, kokum butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, grapeseed oil, olive oil, sesame oil, aloe vera, honey, beeswax, tea tree, lavender
There are times, though, that even the healthiest diet and a proper amount of exercise aren’t enough and our immune system goes on the blink. What then? Then you make a doctor’s appointment and gladly snatch the prescription he hands you for an antibiotic, right? Well, you could do that. It’s not my first course of action, though. Here is what I do for myself and my family. I’ve gotten a few friends hooked on it lately, too, I’m afraid. Are you ready? It’s kinda complicated…
~I take a lemon and squeeze it til there’s not a drop of juice left. I leave the seeds and pulp in it because they have their own healing characteristics, but you can filter them out, if you prefer.
~Then I add a teaspoon full of some local honey that I always keep on hand.
~I stir it all up, then drink it.
Does it work? I think so. It’s been years since my daughter’s last ear infection, which she used to get at least twice a winter. My last bout of strep throat, which used to happen every year in the spring and fall, hasn’t made an appearance in over five years. We haven’t had a sore throat, a cough or the flu in years. For general health and prevention, I take this 2-3 times a week. At the first sign of any illness, even if it’s just that yucky I-don’t-feel-sick-but-I-don’t-feel-good stage, I take a dose every 6 hours until I feel better. I’ve never had to take more than 2 doses. Usually within hours I am back to feeling good.
Why would it possibly work? Well, several reasons.
~Lemon is an antiseptic that helps kill of germs and bacteria while ‘sanitizing’ the system. It cleanses the throat and the stomach, stimulates the digestion and helps keep the system clean.
~ Honey. This is often called a ‘miracle food’ for good reason. It was mentioned as far back in history as the Egyptian Hieroglyphics for it’s ability to heal and nourish the body, both inside and out. Besides being antibacterial, it is also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, helps heal skin cells, moisturizes, speeds healing, stimulates growth and much more. Read more about honey here!
~Astragalus. Many studies have been done on this Eastern herb and they all show the same thing. It is a valuable herb for stimulating the immune system. This herb seems to not only strengthen the immune system, but it actually helps the body produce immune cells. For more info on some of the studies and effects of astragalus, check out this site.