We live in a world that is full of mutant viruses, airborne allergies, and potent pollutants. One thing they all have in common is a strong dislike for a healthy immune system. Coming in contact with one is like Kryptonite; they just can’t take it. So, what can we do to have the best immune system possible?
There are many proactive and practical things we can do to help ourselves in the battle for good health. These include exercise, proper nutrition, moderate amounts of sunshine, fresh air and clean water, getting enough rest and sleep, and above all a PMA (positive mental attitude). In addition, there are a multitude of herbal or botanical remedies that are time-proven to boost immune function. Each of these natural “doctors” (from the Latin doceo – to teach) can teach us a great deal about how to take care of our health. We can use the Internet to research the benefits of each in depth, but in this article we’ll only take a brief look.
If you can exercise on a sunny day in a relatively pollution-free zone, you can avail yourself of three or four of the remedies listed above at once. Twenty minutes a day of sunshine is still the best source of Vitamin D and it’s free! Sunlight on the skin works by converting cholesterol to Vitamin D. This has long been known to help calcium absorption, but the benefits on blood sugar, mood, and immune function are also documented.
While you are out there “walking on sunshine,” be sure to take in deep inspirations of fresh air. Oxygen-rich blood is another booster of the immune system. As for the positive mental attitude, well . . . “don’t it feel good?!” Seriously, exercise, sunlight, and increased oxygen flow to the brain all work harmoniously to create a feeling of well being which in turn contributes to an improved production of the cells, structures, and chemicals that the body uses to build the immune system.
Staying hydrated is important, and not just while exercising, but all the time. Drink plenty of the purest water you can find. It’s another way of taking oxygen to the brain and removing toxins from the system. Eating lots of luscious, juicy fruit and fresh salads will also help to keep the body hydrated.
We’ve all heard about proper nutrition; it’s even on the evening news, but it seems there are as many different viewpoints as there are food choices! There are several streams of consistency that run through all the opinions. They are plant-based diet, less meat, healthy fats, limit sugar and processed foods. If human beings would truly follow this plan, there would be much less disease with its high wages of monetary and physical ills. A plant-based diet (fruits, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables) is good for the planet (think green!) and good for us.
You may have noticed that rest and sleep were mentioned in the list of nature’s doctors. Both are very important. There are specific activities involving hormone production that go on in the brain during certain phases of sleep. These are very important to a healthy immune system. We all know how much easier it is to catch the latest bug going around when we are tired and rundown. In addition to sleep, rest is also important; that is, “play time.”
For a person that works in a physical job all day, this could be relaxing with a fishing pole by the river, but for a sedentary person who sits in a cubicle all day, rest could mean getting out and batting a tennis ball around the court or hiking the nearest nature trail. In other words, re-creation is relative to what type of work you do, but refreshment is vital for a healthy immune system.
Thousands of articles have been written by herbalists and naturopaths supporting the virtues of their favorite immune-boosting herbs and formulas. There are many good ones out there and I also have my favorites. A few which have stood the test of time and still perform well are Echinacea, Olive Leaf, Beta Glucan, garlic, Goldenseal, and the healing mushrooms (Maitake, Reishi, and Shiitake).
Be sure to include foods and supplements that are high in the anti-oxidants, Vitamins A, C, E, and Selenium. Occasionally we try our best at keeping ahead of the alien invaders, but still are overwhelmed by an unfriendly pathogen and may have to resort to antibiotics. When this occurs, it is important to rebuild the line of defense in the gut by taking a pro-biotic that contains the “friendly flora.” When fighting the “bad guys,” antibiotics don’t know when to stop and will knock out the good bacteria, too.
Having said all that, herbs and supplements should not be used to replace a healthy lifestyle. (Also, a knowledgeable health professional should be consulted about possible interactions with medications.) After all, having a strong immune system is all about having a healthy lifestyle. It can all be summed up by misquoting a famous adage, “The best offense is a good defense.” Keep that immune system working well and the alien, mutant pathogens won’t dare to climb on board.