Mind, Body & Spirit: Your Immune System

Let’s discuss holistic care on a basic level: your immune system. There are many factors involved in boosting or depleting your ability to defend the body against illness. We explore five of them here, but first here’s a look at what makes up the immune system.

The immune system is made up of special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs, which defend people against germs, infections and microorganisms every day, usually performing well the enormous task of keeping us healthy. However, sometimes there are problems with the immune system that can lead to illness and infection. To avoid problems here is a short list of some holistic interventions:

Sleep/rest cycles: You need between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted rest every night. If you’re tired when you wake up in the morning, you may not be getting enough rest. This can lower your ability to fight off germs. Too little sleep adds stress to the body and we don’t need that. Sleep deprivation suppresses the immunity response, making it difficult to fight off germs.

Nutrition/hydration: Support your immunity by having plenty of colorful servings of fruits, especially citrus for the vitamin C and veggies; the more colors the better. Get more zinc and flax seed oil in your diet. Read all the labels of everything you buy, don’t eat it if there is something you cannot pronounce as an ingredient. Steer clear of processed foods and refined sugar and wheat. Add blueberries, yogurt, honey, oatmeal, garlic, teas especially those with ginger, fish, and even chicken soup to provide the nutrition we need to keep all our cells healthy and strong. Water and fruit and vegetable juices keep everything flowing. Have plenty of protein which doesn’t always have to come from animal sources — you can have nuts and beans, tofu and dairy.

Exercise: try to get at least 30 minutes of good heart pumping exercise a day, quick-paced walking, a jog, a yoga class, Pilates class, Zumba, take the stairs, skip all the car rides. All this exercise gets the blood flowing smoothly and rids the body of old used up cells and produces new ones. Do something you enjoy: tennis, swimming, golf; it will build muscle, help maintain your weight and get you into social situations.

Stress: Stress is unavoidable and sometimes actually good for you, but chronic extreme levels of daily stress and beat down your germ-fighting cells, and weaken your immunities. Find healthy stress relievers that can take the edge off, like; exercise, a relaxing yoga class (restorative or yin yoga classes), get a massage, meditation, listen to music, try talking to a friend or partner so you can get it off your chest, or do something fun! The important thing is to unwind what wound you up daily and recover from stress. Avoid being put in a position to create extra stress in your life, i.e.; learn how to say NO once in a while.

Community/Outlook: research has shown the more friendships and love you have in your life the healthier you are. Optimism also plays a role in how fit our immune system is; the more positive you are, the better you take care of yourself. A positive outlook and laughing at least once a day decrease stress hormones such as cortisol and activates certain immune cells. Put on a funny movie, or read a joke book and have a good laugh — it will do wonders for you.

To sum up we have a few more well-known tips thrown in for good measure: reduce your antibiotic use; resist the urge to run to the doctor for every small cold. Of course it goes without saying that the less you smoke, drink alcohol and overeat the better your body will perform on all levels.

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