There is a secret to having a strong immune system. Want to know it?
Here it is…. drum roll please…. wait for it…. wait for it…. BE HEALTHY.
That’s it. Sounds simple, right? (Am I being sarcastic? Yeah, a little…) At this time of year, I am often asked “Dr. Amy, how can I boost my immune system?” And the funny thing is, my answer is the same as if you simply asked me: “Dr. Amy, how can I be healthy?”
In both cases, the solution is this: Give your body what it needs. Your body is smart. It knows how to function and heal itself. When you give your body what it needs, your immune system gets stronger, your energy improves, your skin clears up, your hormones balance out, your digestion improves, you feel happier, younger… get the point yet? Health is the natural state of the human body.
YOU are designed to be extraordinary. Your body thrives when you work with it’s natural design.
So why do so many people keep on getting sick? There are two factors to consider. #1 – Is there a particularly virulent germ that is stronger than what your immune system can handle? Occasionally this may be the case, but more often that not, the biggest factor lies in factor #2: Is your immune system (or that of your child) not strong enough to mount an adequate immune response?
In nine years of practice, and seeing hundreds of families – oftentimes because of children who keep on getting sick (stories of repeated courses of antibiotics, puffers, steroids, repeated surgeries for tonsils, adenoids, tubes in their ears, and the list goes on) I can unequivocally say that most of the time the weak link is a weak immune system. A weak immune system is like fertile soil for every germ around. One of the reasons my practice thrives with healthy families is because once people start taking care of themselves with the list below – especially by “keeping their power on” through a healthy brain-body connection – their immune systems naturally get stronger. Regardless of the history of repeated trips to Sick Kids hospital, multiple surgeries, or monthly antibiotics – that story ends once the families start giving their bodies what they need to thrive.
And so, let me clear up a few misperceptions:
Firstly, you don’t get sick every time you come in contact with a germ. If you did, we would all be dead. Your highly sophisticated immune system sets to work co-ordinating its many levels of defenses, and most of the time fights off the “invaders”. In a healthy body, this often happens without you even knowing it.
Secondly, it is essential to understand that those inconvenient symptoms you want to get rid of are part of your immune system response. Coughing, sneezing, and diarrhea are perfect examples of inconvenient symptoms that very effectively “get the gunk out” (as my daughter says) Suppressing symptoms interferes with the intelligent process your body is going through.
When we interfere with the healing process by suppressing symptoms, or failing to give our body the basics that it needs (see below), we inevitably weaken our immune system. I understand that symptoms don’t feel good. And I know the feeling of seeing a child be miserable and wanting to “take it away” – but please remember how amazing your body is. It is not programed for failure. Nurture it, trust it, take care of it – not only because you have a “cold” – but because you have a body. An amazing one, if you let it be.
Immune Boosters Top 10:
1 –LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Your body will warn you with subtle signs when your immune system is fighting something off. Most early signs are behavioural (especially in children) like being more tired than usual, feeling inexplicably cranky, appetite changes, etc. Pay attention and ramp up the measures listed below.
2 – REST. When your body says to rest, LISTEN to it. Establish a healthy sleep routine. Sleep is when your body restores itself and does most of its healing.
3 – MAKE SURE YOUR “POWER IS ON”. Having a a clear connection between your brain and body is one of the most essential requirements in allowing your body to function the way it is designed. Get checked by a vitalistic chiropractor, remembering that the purpose of an adjustment is to open up communication between your brain and your body – which is ALWAYS necessary for optimal function in every system of your body, including your immune system. Adjustments stimulate immune responses for a quicker, more efficient healing. To make sure your brain-to-body connection is clear (and your “power is on”), you should be checked by a chiropractor on a regular basis for general health, at the first signs of a cold or flu, and once symptoms have started to help your body’s immune system work more efficiently.
4 – CUT OUT SUGAR, caffeine, preservatives & food additives. All of these decrease the effectiveness of your immune system. Did you know that 1 teaspoon of sugar can shut your immune system down for 8 hours?! It is especially important to cut these out when symptoms are beginning to surface.
5 – Keep stress in check. Slow down your pace when needed. Try going to bed earlier, and take an epsom salt bath. Chronic stress directly decreases the strength of your immune system. If you are under a lot of stress, you MUST take extra efforts to boost your system.
6 – Get exercise & fresh air daily (20 minutes minimum). Movement keeps the lymphatic system flowing, which is responsible for clearing out the “garbage” (dirt/germs) your immune system is dumping to keep you healthy. And moving your body is simply good for you.
7 – Eat healthy whole foods. Start by increasing your fresh, in-season local produce. Add foods that have natural decongestant, anti-bacterial & anti-viral properties to your daily food or in teas (onions, garlic, ginger & honey are the best time-proven natural cold & flu fighters)
8 – Take high quality supplements: Take the time to buy directly from a health care provider or health store, as many “drugstore” vitamin brands are less potent, and contain many fillers. The three essential vitamins for everyone at all times of the year are vitamin D, fish oil and probiotics. Infants will receive the benefits from their mothers if being breastfed, and can also take an infant-formula probiotic.
- Vitamin D: levels drop in the fall & winter, as your body needs sunlight to make it. A single, 20-minute, full-body exposure to summer sun (without sunscreen) will trigger the delivery of 20,000 units of vitamin D into the circulation of most people within 48 hours. An adequate level of vitamin D is crucial to immune system function, and has been identified as the best defense against flu viruses. Wintertime maintenance doses can be approximated to 1000 IU for every 25 lbs of body weight.
9 – Drink water daily. Dehydration decreases the immune response, and limits your body’s ability to flush out any toxins.
10 – Choose natural approaches before medications (especially suppressants) when possible. The easiest step is to notice the early signs and nip symptoms in the bud. ALL symptoms in a healthy body are working to keep you healthy. A fever is your body’s means of raising the temperature to “cook off” bacteria and viruses and keep them from multiplying. Coughs, sneezes, diarrhea and runny noses are all ways your body eliminates bacteria and viruses.
And that’s it. Follow that list year-round, and I assure you that your health will improve – and along with it, your immune system. HEALTH IS THE NATURAL STATE OF THE HUMAN BODY. Give it what it needs, stop interfering with the process, and watch your health thrive.