How to Support Your Immune System

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During certain seasons of the year it can feel like we’re all doomed to get sick.  While sometimes the odds can be stacked against us, we aren’t victims and we can take mindful steps to support our immunity.  The good news is that while things like the common cold are “common,” they aren’t “normal” for the body.  The body was designed for (and rocks at) being able to defend against disease and viruses.  There isn’t a cure-all for never getting sick again, by understanding inflammation, you can be empowered to work FOR your body instead of against it. 

Remember, your body is on your team and it wants to heal when given the support it needs.

Immune function is incredibly complex, but here's a simplified explanation of how it works: 

The body comes into contact with certain foods, toxins, and chemicals that can trigger leaky gut and compromise immune response to outside invaders.  These triggers might be the result of a food allergy or sensitivity, or it could be that the body has been permeated over time with low level irritants that eventually cause the good bacteria in the digestive tract to be outnumbered by bad bacteria.  This results in leaky gut which causes holes in the gut lining, creating a whole slew of issues (more on that later).  Leaky gut is estimated to effect approximately 80% of the U.S. population on some level.    

Leaky gut leads to inflammation in the body.  When portions of broken down food escape the lining of the digestive tract, the body identifies the particles as invaders, which triggers an inflammatory response as the body’s attempt to protect itself.  

You become sick.  Your immune system is so busy fighting the inflammation in your body that by the time a common cold comes around, your immune system doesn’t have the capacity to fight it because it’s so busy trying to defend against all the other low level every-day irritants.  It’s not that you have a “weak immune system,” (your immune system is actually a hard working hero!)  it’s just that it’s busy defending against other internal irritants.  

Imagine a bathtub.  If you pour water into the bathtub, it will slowly drain out and the tub won’t overflow.  But if the input of water is greater than the rate at which it can drain out, you’ll start to notice because the tub will overflow.  Likewise, your body is amazing at handling most low level irritants that surround you each day in the food you eat, air you breath, etc, which is why you might enjoy a cupcake or a doughnut and feel totally fine (thank you body for being awesome).  But if negative input becomes greater than the rate at which the body can defend and detoxify, the “tub” will start to overflow and you’ll begin to notice swelling, disease, slowing metabolism, frequent illness, etc.

Here are 4 ways to support your immune system:

1. Be mindful of how your body feels after eating certain foods and seek out guidance if needed.  The body is your greatest advocate and speaks through symptoms in order to warn you that it’s not happy.  You might have to stay away from certain foods for a little while to allow overall inflammation in your body to decrease, but it’s likely that you won’t have to avoid those foods forever!  Eventually your body will be back to the bathtub that drains properly and a slice of pizza once in a while won’t throw your body into a swollen frenzy or bouts of running to the bathroom.  

2. Consider taking small steps to remove toxins from your home that can be found in scented candles, perfumes, body products that contain harmful chemicals, etc.  You can refer to my Product Recommendation Page to get a few ideas.

3. Increase your good bacteria with probiotics and probiotic rich foods which will allow the cells of your gut to bind back together and heal from leaky gut.  L-glutamine can also be a helpful supplement for healing leaky gut.    

4. To help bolster your immune system, you can also increase your antioxidants by adding superfoods like raw cacao and more greens to your meals.  A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in water each day and an echinacea supplement can also be beneficial.  

These shifts will allow for a decrease in irritants, leaky gut to begin to heal, and inflammation to decrease.  Your body will be well on its way to shifting it's focus from defending against an overload of internal irritants to defending you against the viruses hovering around you!