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7 Easy Ways To Naturally Boost Your Immune System
If you are wondering how to naturally boost your immune system, you’ve come to the right place. Our tips are of course centered around the powerful medicinal properties of some amazing plants, so you can be assured these natural options are safe for you and your family. But first, what is your immune system and why is it so important?
What Is The Immune System
- To fight disease-causing things like bacteria, viruses, parasites and to then also remove them from the body
- To recognise and get rid of harmful substances from the environment
- To fight disease-causing changes in the body (e.g. cancer cells)
You have two systems of immunity; innate (non-specific) and adaptive (specific). Both of these systems work together when activated by an outside force.
The Innate Immune System
The Adaptive Immune System
Your adaptive immune system actually makes antibodies to specifically fight what is going on. For example; if you have had chicken pox your body would have made antibodies to fight that virus. The adaptive immune system has learned what that virus was and how to fight it in case you come up against it again. Clever! Your adaptive immune system is always learning and adapting (hence its name) because you come up against new things all the time.
Your immune system is always on! This is why you need to look after it, so we've come up with some easy and natural ways you can help boost your immune system.
Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System
Drink More Water
You are made up of nearly 60% water! You need water to concentrate, digest and also function. So keeping hydrated is one of the best natural ways to boost your immune system. Water helps to distribute oxygen and nutrients around the body, as well as helping to flush out waste materials. When you are sick you produce mucus. This is your bodies way of removing waste materials as well as bacteria, and water is essential for helping this process.
In winter we know it is harder to drink cold water on freezing days, so we suggest swapping it out for warm water, herbal teas or our hot tonics. Hydration is a big deal when you are sick as more often than not you don’t feel like eating, by drinking herbal tonics you are helping to support our body as well as keeping up your fluids to reduce dehydration (which can lead to headaches etc).
Boost Your Immune System With Vitamin D
In the summer months catching some rays is an easy way to replenish your vitamin D stores. In winter however, the sun is less visible and its strength means that it is unlikely you will produce vitamin D from being outside. Vitamin D can help with immune support, mood, muscles and bone health. You can find vitamin D in foods like mushrooms, oily fish and egg yolks. As well as consuming more vitamin D rich food, in winter considering a therapeutic dose is a great way to naturally boost your immune system.
Elderberry Is Great For Immunity
Your nose and throat are part of your first line of defence. Often if you ingest or breathe in a germ your body can try and get rid of it via coughing, when you blow your nose or in your saliva. If it does settle in or get further into your body that is when the bigger immune system response happens. Research has shown that taking elderberry preventatively helps prevent viruses from attaching to the cells of the nose and throat, which stops it settling in and allows your body to digest or expel the virus without our bodies becoming infected. Smart huh!
Central Otago Wild Thyme
You have probably used thyme in your cooking before but did you know its one of the best natural ways you can boost your immune system? Thyme is antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal and works likes nature’s antibiotic. It has a high antioxidant property as well and is very effective at helping to clear coughs and excess phlegm.
We use central Otago thyme is which is incredibly potent. Central Otago thyme grows in tough conditions; super hot and dry in summer and super cold in the winter. This physical environmental stress makes the plant incredibly strong in order for it to survive its surroundings. This extra stress placed on the plant translates in higher active constituent activity which is then passed on to you when you consume it.
Thyme is the predominant herb in our Chest Tonic, we use it to help support healthy breathing, as it helps with bringing up excess mucus and clearing the chest. Thyme’s main actions are due to its volatile oil thymol which also helps to support digestion.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is not really the first thing you think of when boosting your immune system. But having sufficient sleep is essential to keeping well. When you sleep you give your body time to rest and also repair. So if you have been over exerting yourself physically or mentally you need that time to actually repair your body.
When you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines which are proteins. We need cytokines to increase when we are sick or if we have underlying inflammation (such as when we are under stress). And some cytokines are actually released by our immune system to help promote sleep.
If you have less sleep than you need then then you can’t produce the protective cytokines you need to support healthy immunity and healthy sleep levels. With chronic sleep deprivation our antibodies that fight infection are reduced, and our risk factors for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease increases.
So sleep is essential, we know that but getting sleep is not that easy. You may have small people to look after, you may work shift work, you may have stress and/or anxiety that makes getting to sleep harder.
Things that can help healthier sleep are:
- Have a regular bedtime
- Try and not scroll on your phone in bed
- Turn on blue light functions on your device to prepare for bed
- Magnesium, chamomile and Californian poppy can help support relaxing your nervous and musculoskeletal systems
- Try and not eat too much before bed
- Sadly alcohol is not great for a full nights sleep. It can lead to broken sleep which can make you feel even worse the next day
- Stretching can help relax the muscles and the body in preparation for sleep
- A warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender have been used for years to promote relaxation and sleep
Monitor Your Stress Levels
Stress has a major impact on your health. It can affect your sleep patterns, your immunity and your energy and vitality levels. Mostly we all can cope with short term stressors, our body responds by releasing stress hormones produced by our adrenal glands and we react to the situation, then our body returns back to ‘normal’.
Where stress becomes an issue is when the stress is chronic and long term. Your body still responds and releases the stress hormones but the feedback system which tells the body to stop producing and releasing the stress hormones does not flick off. This leads to what some call adrenal fatigue or a dysfunction in the HPA (Hypothalamus pituitary adrenal) axis - basically the body is permanently stuck fighting stress.
When are constantly fighting ‘stress’ our bodies struggle to do much else, so then we see issues arising in:
- Emotional responses
This is why so many of us get sick when we go on holiday, our reserves are low and the minute we stop, we get sick. Or we catch everything that goes around because our body is not resting and repairing at night and our immune system is not healthy.
One way of supporting your stress levels and naturally boosting your immunity is eating regularly. In particular good quality proteins and healthy fats like tofu and nuts because protein provides the building blocks to our hormones and also helps with mood and brain function.
Supplement With Zinc
Zinc is important to help support repair of our skin and immune system but is also required for neurotransmitter function and our ability to maintain a healthy nervous system. A good quality zinc powder taken once a day after a meal can be incredibly helpful for those struggling with stress and can help you boost your immune system naturally. But just be aware that long term zinc supplementation can affect other minerals so it is recommended to have regular breaks in supplementation.
Get Enough Vitamin C
Rosehips were used on mass in the war era to supplement soldiers and civilians diets to help support a healthy diet and immune system. Rosehips were, and still are in certain parts of New Zealand, prolific. They are high in antioxidants, have a high tannin content (like black tea) which makes them helpful for stopping diarrhea and their high vitamin C content also supports collagen production within the body, which we need for healthy skin, tendons and ligaments.