As we transition into Autumn, adverts of flu shots and medications are everywhere with taglines like, “Breakthrough In Immunology”, and it got me thinking – should we really rely on biotechnology and allopathic medicine to do our body’s work?
Personally, I do believe that vaccinations have/can save lives in many cases, but I still have my reservations about them. Although there are specific illnesses that vaccines are helpful for, I believe colds and the flu can be dealt with without. But aside from my opinion, the key point is that the messages we are bombarded with today by several industries is that we should actually believe that they have this all figured out with the help of medication.
However, is it too soon to give up on our own bodies? Humans have an amazingly unique skill – to stay healthy. Just like nature, our bodies have a rhythm, and when that rhythm is disrupted and disease happens, then the body will find a way to heal itself slowly. To do so, it needs a strong immune system, and for the immune system to be strong, it needs support through diet, lifestyle and even spirituality.
Medically speaking, the immune system is our body’s defense mechanism that uses white blood cells as our own personal army; but in reality, the immune system is a combination of everything, from our gut’s health to stress control and even hormones balance.
1. Maintain a healthy diet
You must have heard this a million times, but what does it mean? The simplest way to explain what healthy means is to have a diet rich in plant-based foods, and from natural and fresh sources. Begin with seasonal vegetables and fruit as they contain much more nutrients if they are grown naturally in their optimal environment, and local! Local foods hold most nutritional value, as they do not travel for miles, away from fresh air and sunshine. Stay away from processed and sugary food and drinks. Sugar has been proven to create inflammation into the body and if your immune system is busy dealing with that how can it prevent the flu?
2. Keep a healthy gut
According to experts like Dr. Frank Lipman M.D., over 70% of our immune system is held in the Microbiome, or the eco system of healthy bacteria in our gut. Gut health impacts the way we fight diseases and even our mental health. So how do we keep it strong? Mainly by following step one above, and with a few little tricks such as eating probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, miso and kefir (Coconut Kefir is a great vegan option), drinking unpasteurized apple cider vinegar in warm water each morning and even using probiotic tablets, if you struggle with any digestive issues like IBS.
3. Keep your stress levels in check
Stress is the ultimate immune system deterrent! When we are stressed our hormones are all over the place – cortisol levels block the normal functions of our body and the immune system cannot cope well at all against germs and viruses. How do you 'Keep calm and carry on' then? Well, yoga and meditation are two amazing solutions! Those two practices are the 'holy grail' of health, there is no other physical and mental practice that allows you to connect with your inner-self and consciously calm down the entire parasympathetic system. Once you are calm, the body figures out that it needs to invest in these resources to keep you healthy.
4. Sleep tight
When we sleep, our body can repair itself completely – from stomach lining to muscles and cells regeneration. Sleep is a very powerful medicine, in fact most people with a weaker immune system have been found not to rest enough, which connected with stress creates a very messy sleep situation. Make sure you sleep between 6 and 8 hours each night. Some people undoubtedly need more sleep; but the average of 7 hours works for most. If you have been going on with 3 hours a night and think that you are superman (or woman), just remember that the body copes with everything.
You will feel capable to perform on little sleep, but your adrenal glands will be working overtime producing adrenalin to keep you sharp. Your cortisol levels will be high as well, as you will feel stressed and tired more easily, and this entire chain of events will impact your immune system negatively! Read a book, listen to relaxing music or guided meditation and enjoy a sound night sleep. For the lucky ones who can take a nap during the day, enjoy that too!
5. Be grateful
Positive thinking is also the key to a strong immune system. When we are happy, we enjoy our lives, the tasks we do and the moments we are in – it also impacts our hormones, making our immune system even stronger! All it takes is one kind word, thought or action a day towards yourself and others and you will feel healthier already.