5 Simple ways to increase immunity instead of panicking about MERS
We don’t know much about the MERS virus at this point and the properties of the current strain that is affecting South Korea. However, what we do know is that so far it has been transmitted mainly in the hospital setting among elderly people who are likely to have already compromised immune systems. Instead of spending your energy thinking of worst-case scenarios, why not use this as an opportunity to strengthen your own immunity? Here are 5 everyday tips that, for the most part, we all know:
8-10 hours of solid sleep per night can help to recharge our system, including our immunity. It’s easier to understand when we look at the negative consequences to our immunity from lack of sleep, which can include lower T-cell counts, higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, imbalanced cortisol and blood sugar levels. There are plenty of strategies to improve sleep, and all of them include some combination of the following:
• Avoiding screens such as TV’s, cell phones, computers, at least 1 hour before bedtime
• Cutting back on caffiene, especially during the afternoon or evening
• Drinking less liquids in general during the evening
• Incorporating a mindfulness, journalling, or breathing ritual to unwind from the stresses of the day
2. Stress reduction
When our bodies are in a stressed state, the sympathetic, or “fight / flight” portion of the nervous system is predominant. This causes a number of changes in our bodies which all enhance survival in the short term but borrow from our long term health; blood and nerve activity is shunted from our core vital organs to our muscles so that we can move safely from threats, and accordingly our digestive and immune function suffers. Cortisol is released from our adrenal glands, which raises our blood sugar so that we have fuel to move from predators, but also has the effect of increasing inflammation and decreasing immunity. Consider incorporating a mindfulness technique into your daily routine or to have as a tool during those stressful moments.
The intestinal lining has some of the greatest immune activity in our body. The reason why is simple; it is where our bodies encounters, breaks down, and assimilates the most foreign material, and therefore has the greatest potential for interacting with pathogenic substances. It is a dynamic system with cooperation between our bodies enzymes with a community of bacteria of mind boggling proportions- on the order of 10^14 cells or 400-500 separate species of bacteria. Good bacteria, provided by probiotics or fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, etc., aid our digestive system by helping to break down foods for us and providing fuel to the intestinal lining itself as well in the form of Short Chain Fatty Acids. The link between gut flora, immunity, and the overall immune system is constantly being strengthened: here is some more information on how to strengthen your gut flora from a colleague: http://primaldocs.com/members-blog/build-your-anti-viral-flu-fighting-primal-microbiota/
4. Lymphatic system
Our lymphatic system is a system of vessels, nodes, and organs that works as a drainage and filtration system for our body. One of its main functions is to assist the immune system in filtering and getting rid of debris from infections; think of the last time you had a cold and felt “swollen lymph nodes” in your neck. Unlike the heart in the circulatory system, there is no intrinsic force that pumps the fluid through these vessels; the primary way that the lymph moves is via one way valves and muscle pumping. This means that the more that we move our bodies, the better our immune filtration / drainage system is going to be!
This word has all but lost its meaning these days, but the principle behind detoxification is still helpful when it comes to improving immunity. Immunity is the ability of our body to effectively fight against and incorporate foreign, potentially harmful substances into the body. When we engage in activities such as smoking and drinking, we are constantly exposing our bodies to unquestionably toxic substances which cause scarring in our lungs and liver. The more extra burden we put on our bodies from these substances, the less ability our bodies will have to deal with other pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. The other aspect to consider is the ability of the body to rid itself of waste. Here are the main avenues of elimination and the ways we can optimize them:
• Digestion: whole foods, high fiber diet, dark leafy greens, food hygiene.
• Urinary/Kidneys: increasing water intake (but not during mealtimes as this can dilute your digestive enzymes).
• Skin: skin brushing, lymphatic massage, saunas.
• Lungs: abdominal breathing, cardiovascular exercise, hiking.
• Liver: foods that love the liver (beets, artichoke, dandelion, etc.), high fiber diet, castor oil pack.
Extra: Naturopathic Medicine
The castor oil pack is one example of a way to aid in detoxification through the Gallbladder/Liver pathway. Two other ways to stimulate immunity and increase vitality:
- Contrast hydrotherapy: a simple therapy which you can add to your shower routine. 3 minute of hot, 1 minute of cold, repeated 3 times and ending on cold.
- Warming socks: best used when you are starting to feel the onset of a cold or upper respiratory condition. Helps to drain congestion from the upper body.
Hope these tips are helpful for you and above all, stay safe and email me if you have any questions!
Naturopathic Doctor and Manager
Create Wellness Center