There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the need to have good immunity. But what does that actually mean and how do you achieve it?
Our immune system prevents unwanted microbes from having a freeloading feast on nutrients inside the body and creating a toxic waste environment that could threaten health. Without some form of protection our bodies would be subject to invasion and exploitation from microbes such as bacteria and parasites.
The first level of protection is, of course, the skin. This barrier to the outside world includes not just the skin we can see, but also a layer that is known as the epithelial layer. The epithelial layer lines any opening to the outside world such as the lungs and respiratory system, the reproductive system, the length of the digestive system, and even the ears and nose.
The second level of protection, one that sits on top of the skin, is the microbiome. The microbiome comprises a critically important layer of microbes that act as beneficial colonisers which help to keep the skin healthy and in good condition. It is estimated that we have between 3 – 10 times as many microbes in our bodies than cells, depending on who is doing the counting, and it is critical to keep these little critters in a healthy balance.
Together these two layers account for dealing with 99.99% of infecting or disruptive invaders. It makes sense, therefore that a top priority is to develop and keep a healthy microbiome, not just in the gut, but in and around the whole body.
A good quality probiotic, one that has at least five different types, can help here, as well as naturally fermented food such as kefir, sauerkraut etc.
Now if the invaders get inside the body, beneath the skin and epithelial layers and into the cells and tissue fluids, then the immune system kicks in at a molecular and cellular level.
Immunity here works by seeking out unwanted microbes and developing antibodies to deal with them, as well as learning about them and thus creating memories for any future threats of the same kind. This intelligent system can distinguish between supportive microbes and disruptive ones. It also seeks out any miscreant cells. These are cells that are not functioning optimally and are irreparable as well as any that are potentially disturbing to the overall harmony of the body.
The critical balance between whether we get sick or not, or the degree to which we get sick, depends on the strength of the immune system in its ability to get ahead of the race concerning the invading microbes before they replicate and cause damage.
How do we do make this happen? How do we ensure our immune system is at the top of its game?
The immune system uses a vast amount of energy. You will know this if you have ever had the flu and not been able to get out of bed because of the energy of the body is being used by the immune system to fight the infection. Consequently, it is critical to provide the body with significant amounts of high-quality nutrition and hydration. Aim to have a colourful diet full of organic fresh vegetable and fruits, plus healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, and, unless vegetarian, small amounts of line-caught fish or grass reared meat. Also, add in plenty of quality water to keep well hydrated and flush toxins.
Consider supplementing with vitamins C and D3 because many people are deficient already. It can also be useful to add digestive enzymes to go alongside the probiotic to ensure adequate absorption of dietary nutrients as well as developing that all-important healthy gut microbiome.
Exercise is critical too. Our bodies are designed to move, which not only oxygenates the system but also helps blood circulation and lymph. The lymph system plays a significant role in supporting good immunity. Unlike blood, though, it doesn’t have its own pumping system and relies on body movement.
Finally, a healthy mindset is integral to a healthy immune system. In particular, it is essential to minimise the stress response. The reason for this is because stress puts the body into fight or flight mode. When in this mode, the body is preparing to run from danger or stay to fight it. In turn, this means that energy and resources are pulled from the internal organs, diverted from essential repairs, and other functions, in order to give priority to sending energy to the muscles of the arms and legs. In other words, stress shuts down the immune system.
We are currently in times that many are finding incredibly stressful. If you can switch off the news, keep away from the scare stories on the internet, and instead find positive ways to support your wellbeing and those you love, then you will reduce your stress levels and thus improve your immunity. You could also try listening to meditation tapes and practice deep breathing to help bring your energy down to the belly, for example.
A healthy immune system means you are much less likely to be susceptible to infections, and if you do get them you are much less likely to be severely affected and much more likely to recover fully and quickly.
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Please note: I am not a doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice.