By Shane Griffin, CEO of Whole Life Balance – an international nutritional coaching and wellness firm.
The Ebola virus is ravaging areas in West Africa more quickly than we are able to control it, according to the World Health Organization. The pathogen is so deadly that all doctors can do to treat the victims is to ensure they are properly hydrated, manage their pain, and use medication to boost their immune system function – then simply hope for the best.
Consider this: In the not-so-distant past, prior to the development of penicillin, even a small cut could be life-threatening. And, according to a recent article from the BBC, the “Golden Age” of antibiotics is “set to end” due to an overuse of antibiotics creating drug-resistant infectious agents.
It’s very unlikely that Ebola crisis will spread to America, but it serves as an important reminder that we must be vigilant in keeping our immune systems healthy and high-functioning.
Here are 5 Natural Ways to Protect Your Immune System
1. Avoid “Anti-Bacterial” at all costs: While it may seem counterintuitive, germs are vital to strengthening our immune system. An ultra-clean, germ-free environment can cause your immune system to attack innocuous things, even your own cells. In fact, according to research published by John’s Hopkins, children exposed to more germs have a lower risk of infection and other health issues, such as asthma. Overuse of antibacterial products has also resulted in drug-resistant “superbugs,” which if left unchecked, could significantly set back our ability to treat even common infections.
2. Include immune-enhancing foods and herbs in your diet: There are many natural immune-boosting foods which we should regularly include in our diets. Garlic is one of the healthiest options out there, as it has incredible antimicrobial properties. Mushrooms, such as shiitake, reishi, and maitake, contain beta-glucans that enhance immune activity against infections. Other options include live-cultured products, such as yogurt or kimchi as they contain microorganisms that colonize in our bodies to out-compete the “bad bugs” and revitalize our immune systems. Camu camu, a superfruit out of the Amazon Rainforest, has 30X the Vitamin C content of an orange. Naturally occurring Vitamin C is one of the most powerful immune-boosting vitamins in the world.
3. Keep stress to a minimum: When you get stressed, your adrenal glands release epinephrine and cortisol which can take a toll on your immune system over time. Chronic stress can also result in a hyper-reactive immune system which may result in inappropriate biological responses to benign foreign substances in the body. De-stressing through deep breathing exercises, yoga, spiritual endeavors or psychotherapy can have an immensely positive impact on the health of your immune system.
4. Get plenty of sunshine: In addition to a host of other problems, a Vitamin D deficiency has a direct correlation with a high susceptibility to infection. Vitamin D is produced naturally when the body is exposed to sunlight, and sunscreen can actually block this affect. It’s important to protect yourself from UV rays, but consider spending some time outdoors unprotected to protect your immune system. Very few foods contain sufficient levels of Vitamin D, so if sunshine is not an option, consider supplementation.
5. Exercise regularly, but moderately: Regular exercise is vital to sustaining a high-functioning immune system. However, long periods of cardiovascular exercise can have an adverse effect on the body and weaken the immune system as much as a sedentary lifestyle can. As with anything, moderation is the key. Research has also shown that sex can also boost your immune system, as intimate contact releases oxytocin – a natural stress reliever.
If you are struggling with immune system function and find yourself regularly getting sick, consider speaking with both a doctor and holistic nutritionist. They’ll be able to assess whether medication may be required or if natural solutions are best for you.