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Life can feel super scary.
It is filled with times and periods where it feels like you need to wear a suit of armor to make it through in one piece — illnesses, stress, environmental toxins, global pandemics — it can be a shock to your system.
At any given moment, you could find yourself in the middle of a stress-ridden situation. If you are not prepared and taking care of yourself, you can easily find yourself coming down with the sniffles or caught up in bed quicker than you can say the word Kleenex.
It all comes down to that one little system within you that can make or break how you physically respond to these life invaders. Well, it’s not so little…
The immune system.
Your immune system is a beautiful array of complexities and intertwining functions. And as miraculous as the innate functioning of your immune system is, it can be tricky to fully understand if you are keeping it strong.
Lucky for you, you are an amazing being just like your immune system — Physical barriers such as your skin, mucous membranes, nasal cavities, and lungs work with an internal army that determines how strong, or not your immune system is. Working together, they keep us safe.
When you were a little baby, you entered this world with an immature immune system. As you were provided the means to build up that immune system, you began to encounter natural bacterias and viruses, gradually maturing and strengthening your response. Super cool, right? It’s like a workout for your immunity.
And as you were getting stronger, a complex range of immune cells put on their little army hats and stand guard, waiting to attack foreign organisms and allowing antibodies to create an immune response. This builds up your immunity and protects you — just in case you encounter the same virus in the future.
With all this building and strengthening going on, you got your own little internal immune highway being built, creating hubs of activity at your lymph nodes and glands, such as the thymus, spleen, and tonsils.
You are probably wondering what you can do to boost your immune system and keep you at your healthiest. Here are 7 ways you can protect and support this amazing system:
1. Get a little dirty. Our immune system develops when when we are exposed to bugs and bacterias. Play in the dirt, get your hands into the garden, or allow yourself to get a little grubby outside. And, if you pull a vegetable straight out of your garden, don’t freak out totally if there is a little dirt on it when you bite into it.
2. Strengthen your gut flora. About 70% of your immune cells live in your gut. The stronger the gut bacteria that you have built up, the more it can crowd out the unhealthy bacteria and not allow it to hang out on your gut lining and populate. That is crowd control at it’s finest. To encourage good bacteria in your gut, you need a balance between prebiotic and probiotic foods. Eat plenty of fibrous and prebiotic foods such as bananas, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, and flax seeds. Make sure to have fermented foods in your diet to help build up the good bacteria — sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc. You can also take a high quality, live probiotic to help repopulate the gut flora.
3. Put down the sugar. It has been connected that sugar can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy pathogens. Not only does this greatly impair your immune system functioning, but glucose also is so structurally similar to vitamin C that it can compete with vitamin C uptake in the body. Bad news for your immune system!
4. Stay strong in immune boosting nutrients.
- Vitamin A enhances white blood cell function, antibody response, and thymus function. It is also essential for the health of the skin and mucosal barriers. Try foods such as eggs, cod liver oil, orange and yellow veggies and fruits, broccoli, spinach, dark leafy greens.
- B6, B12, and folic acid helps to decrease stress response and they help to boost immune function and immune response. Try foods such as peas, bananas, nuts, whole grains, liver, eggs, beef, legumes, salmon, leafy greens.
- Vitamin C enhances white blood cell response. Try foods such as oranges, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts.
- Vitamin E is important for cell-mediated and antibody related immunity. Try foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli.
- Zinc helps to destroy foreign particles. Try foods such as oysters, red meat, nuts, beans, whole grains, seeds, legumes, eggs, shellfish.
5. Enjoy some moderate exercise. Moving your body is awesome for the lymphatic system, but too much can actually depress your immunity. Don’t overdo it and allow your body to balance out play and rest.
6. Look at your medications. Medications for autoimmune disorders, cancer, HIV or disorders with chronic inflammation like asthma, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can also depress the immune system and weaken the body’s ability to fight against invaders.
7. Laugh it up (and other stress relieving activities). There is something called natural killer cells that live within you. Don’t worry — they are a good thing! There has been much connection between laughter and the activation of the natural killer cells. Stress depresses the immune system. Engaging in laughter or any other stress relieving activity will help to strength your immune system and keep those sniffles away.
Your immune system is like your home — when you keep it clean and you fix the problems that could cause a breakdown in the foundation and walls of your home, you are better protected from the outdoor exposure.
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