Learning to support the immune system as a preventative measure can help us to avoid the need for immune suppressing over-the-counter medicines during periods of illness. Our lifestyles effect the immune system by 80%, so forming healthy habits is key to a healthier life. Preventing illness begins with our daily regimen beginning in early childhood when exposure to infectious agents is beneficial in developing our immune systems adaptability to allergens and disease. Sleep is critical in making antibodies, laughter and forest therapy boost natural killer cell activity, exercise increases delivery of nutrients to our cells and helps eliminate metabolic waste, and diet and hydration are determining factors in our overall immune health.
Studies have shown that healthy individuals carry about five types of viruses on their bodies. These viruses only make us ill when our body is already 'sick' or imbalanced. Specific nutrients are great benefactors in immune health, and learning to aid the body in their provision can be of great benefit to our overall well being;
1.The 'watch dog' for our immune system is Vitamin D3. This is a hormone that is produced in our skin after exposure to sunlight, Vitamin D3 helps to reduce inflammation caused by the Influenza virus and increases the number of virus fighting proteins available for our protection. Frequent washing with soap inhibits Vitamin D3 absorption, and for supplementation expose a lot of skin to the Sun for 20 minutes when the Sun is higher than 45 degrees. The daily adult dosage for Vitamin D3 is 5,000-10,000 IU'S.
2. Zinc is a powerful ally that prevents an excessive inflammatory response by the immune system and assists our bodies production of infection fighting antibodies. It supports lymphocytes which are an important part of the immune system, and can be found in organ meats and shellfish.
3. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and necessary to the overall health and maintenance of our bodies. Rose hips are an excellent source but Vitamin C can be found in fresh vegetables and fruits, especially those freshly harvested. Keep in mind that Vitamin C is susceptible to high temps when cooked. During times of illness or allergy adults may begin with 1000-2000 IU'S of Vitamin C 3x/day, increasing the dosage daily for several days. Vitamin C can create loose bowels, so adjust your dosage accordingly.
4. Vitamin A is incredibly important for skin health, and as our largest organ the skin is our barrier to the outside world. Hence healthy skin leads to a healthy system. Deficiencies in Vitamin A can lead to dry skin, decreased mucus production and acne. Good healthy sources for Vitamin A are grass fed liver and organ meats, butter and cream from pasteurized cows, and cod liver oil.
Other measures we can utilize for a healthy active and strong immune system are ingesting herbs and spices. Herbs can be very effective and SAFE in acute situations like cold and flu prevention and remedy despite common myth. Immunomodulating herbs support overall health, strengthen the immune system, and can be taken for long periods of time and in larger dosages;
1. Astragalus is a Chinese root medicine that is traditionally used as a long term immune restorative. It is helpful in eliminating seasonal allergies and frequent colds, and protects the heart and liver. Astragalus can be cooked into foods and is wonderful in Chai tea (see recipe below). Astragalus enhances natural killer cells, increases stem cell in the bone marrow and lymph, wards off infection and increases overall endurance.
2. Reishi mushroom may be the most powerful immunity ally we have. Reishi supports the immune system, protects all organ systems and is especially restorative for the liver. If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatments take Reishi! Reishi is an excellent source for fighting any life threatening illness. The standard adult dosage is 3-15 grams daily. Buy your Reishi sliced as it is extremely hard. It cooks well into any type of soup or stew, and can be prepared as a decoction or tincture.
3. Ashwagandha or Indian Ginseng is another useful plant root for bolstering the immune system. Useful for exhaustion and insomnia, this plant promotes energy without stimulating effects. It is known for its abilities to fight infection, reduce stress and inflammation, and the adult dosage is 5-30 grams daily.
4. Elderberry is powerful for preventing and eliminating upper respiratory viruses. This beautiful herb builds our antibodies and inhibits the influenza virus. Especially useful for flu, sinus and rheumatism due to the power of flavonoids, it is an anti-inflammatory and blood purifier. Elderberry is widely popular as a sweet syrup, wine or jam. For prevention adults use 1-2 Tbsp/day.
5. Codonopsis or poor mans ginseng is another root medicine helpful in overall health. It is not as heating as Ginseng, and is also more appropriate for young people with a lot of vitality. Codonopsis root is sweet and restores moisture, purifies the blood and boosts the immune system. It can simply be used as a tea or tincture or cooked into foods, adult dosage 15-30 grams/day.
6. Spices improve digestion, are anti-microbial which means that they can kill viruses, bacteria and fungi, and increase circulation. Using a lot of spices or eating spicy food is a super easy and fun way to increase our immunity year round. Learn to be generous with your spices and seek out fresh sources for these culinary allies.
7. Fermented foods are also excellent for gut health. Since more than 60% of our immune system 'lives' in our gut, good healthy gut flora is key to good immunity. Avoid large meals and processed foods. When digestion is occurring our immune system is distracted from its job of protecting us from illness. Remember, fresh, feely, raw food sources are always ideal.
We can source your herb and spice requests at less than retail prices but you can also search your local market or online resources for good vendor sources. Look for vibrancy and quality in the color, smell and appearance of your herb and spice sources. Nutritive and medicinal values are directly related to the quality of the plant stock used.
Sourced from Rosalee de la Foret, Registered Herbalist and Educator
1 TBSP Astragalus root, 2 TBSP Ginger root, 2 TBSP Dried Orange peel, 1 TBSP Cinnamon chips, 1 tsp Peppercorns, 1/2 tsp Cardamom, 1/4 tsp Clove
Add the above ingredients to 11/2 quarts of water, bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Strain and add milk and honey as desired.