Our body’s ability to resist and recover from disease/illness depends on the health of our immune system and our body’s immune response.
The immune response can be divided in to parts:
Adaptive, acquired, specific
The innate immune response is our primary defence system, it acts immediately to protect our body against an invader.
There are two lines of defences in the innate immune system:
First line defenders, that well, are our first line of defence - skin, mucous membranes and other fluids (urine, vomit etc.).
Second line defenders that kick into action if the pathogen has made its way past our first line defenders - antimicrobial proteins (affect the growth of the pathogen), natural killer cells (these guys literally kill the pathogen), phagocytes (basically they eat it) and the body’s inflammatory response (blood flow to area to clear out debris).
This immune response takes several days or weeks to develop; even though it takes a little longer to kick into action it is actually more precise and exhibits a memory. If our body is to come up against the same pathogen again our immune system is able to recognise it and acts with a more vigorous and rapid response killing the pathogen off quicker.
BUT our body is not always in optimal health and our immune system may not always function effectively. Various nutrient deficiencies, excessive stress, low sleep quality, poor gut health, a crappy diet and numerous other factors can affect how well our immune system is able to fight off invaders.
The Immune System and Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies or sub-optimal levels of various nutrients can lead to a poor immune response. Nutrient deficiencies linked to lowered immunity include but are not limited to:
Vitamin D: This is a big one! Vitamin D deficiency is present in at least 25% of Aussies, with over half the population having levels that are considered sub-optimal according to Naturopathic ranges. Check out the photo below to see the difference between normal and optimal levels.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is depleted during periods of high stress - if you’re regularly getting sick during or directly following periods of high stress Vitamin C might be one the key nutrients for you.
Iron: It isn’t just menstruating women that can have issues with low iron, it’s advisable that everyone has their iron levels checked on a regular basis and aims for optimal results, not just normal. Fatigue, heavy periods, pale skin, headaches, recurrent infections, shortness of breath are just a few iron deficiency symptoms.
Zinc: Signs that you might have a zinc deficiency include poor recovery post infections, slow wound healing, loss of smell or a reduce appetite during/following an infection.
The Immune System and Sleep
People who don’t get enough sleep or who have a poor quality of sleep are more likely to get sick after coming into contact with a virus/pathogen.
Some tips for ensuring healthy sleep:
The Immune System and Diet
Diet plays a huge role in every area of health but unfortunately is a factor that is often ignored.
So, diet and immunity…
What should you be eating and what should you be avoiding to ensure your immune system is functioning optimally?
Cloves: antibacterial (destroys/inhibits growth of bacteria), antifungal (kills fungi), antioxidant (savages free radicals), antiviral (inhibits viral infections), immunomodulator (modulates immune response), anti-inflammatory
Garlic: antimicrobial (destroys/prevents development of bacteria etc.), antiviral, antioxidant, mucolytic (breaks up mucous)
Green Tea: antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial
Fancy shrooms; Reishi, Turkey Tail: antiviral, antibacterial, immunomodulator, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
Fennel: antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
Manuka: antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
Rosemary: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Saffron: immunomodulator, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
Thyme: antiviral, antimicrobial
Turmeric: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Vitamin C rich foods: citrus fruit (oranges, lemon etc.) capsicum, chillies, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, kale, thyme, parsley, lychees, pawpaw
Vitamin D rich foods: eggs, oily fish (salmon, sardines etc.)
Zinc rich foods: eggs, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds
Foods that inhibit immunity: junk food, sugary foods, excessive salt (be careful to ensure you’re getting adequate salt, low salt causes issues too), processed meats, highly refined carbs.
The Immune System and Herbal Medicine; Medicinal Mushrooms
There are countless herbal and nutritional supplements available that help to support the health of the immune system and boost our body’s ability to fight off the nasties we encounter daily.
I’ve been using medicinal mushrooms in clinic for as long as I can remember and have a couple of great combinations I often reach for.
The first is a not so delicious liquid that contains: Reishi - Reishi is considered the mushroom of choice for clients say to me, “when I haven’t been well since…” since a virus years ago, since a stressful event, since an accident etc. Reishi helps to boost the immune systems ability to fight off new threats and helps to combat old or lingering issues. It is a great stress reducer, it helps to improve sleep quality and has beneficial actions on the cardiovascular system including modulating blood pressure and cholesterol.
Maitake - Maitake, of course helps to boost/modulate the immune systems function and just like Reishi can reduce high blood pressure.
Shiitake - You’d never believe it, but, Shiitake supports immunity! It also reduces inflammation throughout the body and reduces high cholesterol.
This liquid is available only after a consultation.
I’ve recently started utilising an over the counter product called Masons Mushrooms. This little combo is available without a consultation via my website https://www.its-all-good.com.au/.../super-feast-mason-s...
Masons Mushrooms can be mixed straight into your morning coffee or smoothie making it an easy addition to your daily routine.
Here is why I love Masons Mushrooms. Masons Mushrooms contains the following medicinal mushrooms, all of which have potent immune system boosting properties:
Chaga - Supports energy, addresses diabetes and protects against heart disease.
Lions Mane - Reduces inflammation, has been shown to protect against disease of the cardiovascular system (e.g. high blood pressure) and is considered an anxiolytic and antidepressant.
Cordyceps - Like other medicinal mushroom supports the health of the cardiovascular system. Cordyceps also supports the respiratory system, may aid in the reduction of withdrawal symptoms and supports the reproductive system.
Plus Reishi, Shiitakee and Maitake
The Immune System and Herbal Medicine
There are so many amazing herbs that can help to boost/modulate the immune system and/or kill potentially harmful pathogens.
Here are some of my favourites:
Echinacea: a powerful immunomodulator with anitmicrobial properties. Echinacea is generally considered a safe herb, however it can have negative effects on asthma and may not be suitable for use alongside immune suppressant medications. This pretty little echinacea plant is in my veggie patch in Golden Beach.
Andrographis: is another immunomodulator. It's also an adaptogen (helps us adapt to a stressor), antioxidant and a digestive. I generally reach for andrographis for acute infections/conditions. This herb is not recommended during pregnancy or lactation, can aggravative reflux and is unsafe for use with anticoagulants.
Astragalus: you’d never guess, but it’s an immunomodulator! I generally opt for astragalus for conditions/infections of a more chronic nature. Astragalus is often used alongside chemo for cancer management. Astragalus is not generally recommended during pregnancy or lactation or for acute conditions.
Thyme: thyme is such a fantastic herb to utilise in cooking, but did you know it’s benefits extend beyond its flavour? Thyme is a powerful antiseptic, antispasmodic, antimicrobial herb with expectorant properties. It’s a gooden for addressing sore throats, coughs and underlying infections. Caution is advised during pregnancy, lactation and in people with congestive heart failure.
St Johns Wort: this powerful herb is often overlooked for immune issues and is instead only reached for for mental health conditions, but did you know it can help with both? In addition to its anxiolytic, nerve tonic actions SJW is also an antiviral herb with wound healing properties. It’s not recommended during pregnancy or lactation, for use in children and is contraindicated for concurrent use with medications including, but not limited to the oral contraceptive pill, digoxin, antidepressants, omeprazole or anticoagulants.
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