Updated: Nov 28, 2019
The immune system is a complex arrangement of synergistic segments made up of cells, tissues and organs that are continuously barraged by stimuli.
The immune system does NOT function on it's own and it's important to remember the association with neurological, digestive, environmental and hormonal factors.
Managing stress, diet, lifestyle and exercise are crucial for a healthy immune system.
The immune system has two arms: innate (what we are born with) and adaptive (ever evolving that adapts depending on what is thrown at it)
The immune system itself is so complex the best way to imagine it simply, is 'like a little army'. If your body comes into contact with an antigen (a toxin or foreign substance) there are cells that will identify the antigen and then go and 'tell' the correct soldiers (cells) to come and fight it off. Our immune system also has a memory so once we have encountered the antigen the memory part remembers what needs to be done for the next time we come across it. It is ever changing and evolving and I for one find it fascinating.
So.....what can we do to support it, ensuring it is optimal???
Firstly ....to all you parents out there. Let me explain "The Hygiene Hypothesis" - our children are growing up in sterile homes, drink chlorinated water, are washed daily and given antibiotics regularly. It is thought 'from an immunological perspective' that this is actually harmful. Remember the immune memory I told you about - it needs a chance to 'build' so contact to antigens isn't always bad. Let them play in the dirt once in a while.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy immune function so get outside and monitor your levels carefully.
Eat mushrooms - mushrooms contain beta glucans, naturally occuring polysaccharides, which are immune boosting. There is also a body of evidence using them with insulin resistance and high cholesterol. Mix them up - choose the fancy ones too.
Increase antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E by eating more fruits and vegetables, oily fish, seeds and nuts (not too many nuts!!). Don't do the easy option of buying supplements off the shelf because a) the dose may be insufficient b) the excipients may be harmful to your case c) interactions and contraindications have not been checked by a professional and d) your absorption may be hindered so it would be a complete waste of money - speak to a functional medicine practitioner.
Echinacea is something we always have in the cupboard. It should NOT be taken every day but at the first signs of infection. For example, my youngest had a cold so the rest of the family were given ginger, lemon, manuka and echinacea shots for three days to optimise our defence (be careful with ginger if you are taking anti coagulants as it can have an additive effect!) echinacea inhibits the action of an enzyme that breaks down hyaluronic acid - needed to prevent the adhesion of bacteria. It also promotes the regeneration of connective tissue.
Manuka honey - DO NOT use with children under 1 and be cautious with blood glucose levels!!! Manuka is an anti microbial and is excellent used topically. We like to use it for sore throats but it can be used on wounds or acne as well. Never buy less that 10 UMF (unique manuka factor) as this is indicative of it's microbial activity and why it is so expensive.
There are many other nutrients that we would assess to ensure your immune system is firing on all cylinders. I simply cant mention them all here as a) I would be out of a job and b) it would take FOREVER!!!
Finally to those who ask about research to back up facts - cough mixture, sore throat sprays, pastilles and over the counter products may 'on occasion' offer short respite from 'symptoms' but just focus on why???? optimise the immune system with the help of a professional and you will no longer require these products......that don't work. Wait.......did I write that out loud????