Super Immunity

Published 12/16/2013. Last updated 1/1/2014.

Catching whatever viral or bacterial thing is going around? Suffering from a skin condition, poor sleep, allergies, acid reflux, an autoimmune disease, chronic sinus congestion, frequent tooth decay, gum disease, constipation, diarrhea, frequent UTI’s, a mood disorder or nail fungus? Work on restoring the friendly bacteria in your gut flora and see if your health doesn’t improve. Depending on where you’re starting from, this may take a while.
The idea isn’t to avoid contact with all the bad bugs out there but to build up your gut immune system with good ones, our traditional ‘old friends’, so they can deal efficiently with the bad guys. Building super immunity means shifting the emphasis to PREVENTING illness rather trying to CURE it after we’ve become ill. This approach not only reduces suffering, it is an enormous money saver.
The next four sections talk about some fairly easy things that can help you get on your way to creating super immunity inside you. The fifth, improving the soil’s microbiome, is a larger project requiring some major policy changes worldwide:
SOME OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BUILD SUPER IMMUNITY:
  • Eat nutritious foods and beverages. Poor nutrition (fast food, fried foods, soft drinks, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, genetically engineered/modified (GE/GMO) foods) is known to impair immune function while foods high in nutrients (non-GE/GMO fruits, vegetables, nuts and protein from plants, animals, fish and eggs) all support the immune system. And for babies, breast milk provides the essential nutrients and immune system components developing children need to grow into healthy adults. If you’re eating poorly, perhaps deciding to make a very gradual shift toward eating better will make it feel more doable.
  • Avoid genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified (GMO) foods as much as possible. See THE SOIL’S MICROBIOME for more information on how GE and GMO foods are harmful.
  • Consider cutting back on your gluten intake – or giving up gluten all together: This will greatly reduce the amount of inflammation in your body. Inflammation is a precursor to disease.
  • Get enough good quality sleep. I know this is not always so easy to do. Starting a meditation and/or breath work practice – even a little – helps and will help a lot in the long run as they gradually become part of your daily life without much effort.
  • Reduce your stress level as much as possible. Also not so easy. Meditation and breath work help us manage stress too. Psychological stress increases your risk of catching a cold and other viruses and chronic stress can produce a hyper-reactive immune system, aggravating conditions such as allergies, asthma and other autoimmune disorders. And remember: Lowering your stress level doesn’t necessarily mean reducing the external stresses in your life as much as changing your internal reactions to them.
  • Get enough vitamin D3, which is important for healthy immune functioning. D3 deficiency is found in many conditions, including asthma, cancer, autoimmune diseases (eg, multiple sclerosis) and susceptibility to infection (including viral respiratory infections). Most of us are seriously D3 deficient. We can get some from sun exposure (without sunscreen) but we benefit greatly from adding a high quality D3 supplement to our daily diets.
  • Guidelines for the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D were updated in 2010 and are currently set by age: For those 1-70 years of age, 600 IU daily; for those 71 years and older, 800 IU daily; and for pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily.    This is thought by many to be too low. One of my alternative health care providers recommends 5,000 IU/day in the summer time and perhaps as high as 10,000 IU/day the rest of the year. (Miller, 2011) Vitamin D levels should be monitored with periodic blood tests.
  • Unfortunately,  one-third or more of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. Because few foods contain much vitamin D,  your best bet is to regularly spend short periods of time in the sun (without sunscreen), and also take supplements in northern climes, especially during the colder months.
  • Walk and exercise. Even moderate exercise like walking relieves stress and enhances immune function.
  • Keep your gums and teeth in good shape: Inflammation in the mouth greatly impacts health elsewhere in the body.  People with periodontal (gum) disease are more likely to have systemic inflammatory diseases – including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease and even certain forms of cancer. You can read more about the connection between inflammation of the gums and inflammatory diseases in the rest of the body here. See also  SYMBIOSIS VS DYSBIOSIS on this site.
  • Don’t smoke, use drugs or consume too much alcohol
  • Consume immune-enhancing medicinal plants, such as echinacea, eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), ginseng (Asian and American), astragalus, garlic, and shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms. All these plants contain chemicals that enhance immune system activity. Read more here.

 

REFERENCES

Miller, D. (2011). Personal communication.

Picow, M. (2012). Boost Your Natural Immune System With Medicinal Plants and Herbs. See: http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/04/boost-your-natural-immune-systems-with-medicinal-plants-and-herbs/#sthash.ahG1aSyn.dpufSee http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/04/boost-your-natural-immune-systems-with-medicinal-plants-and-herbs/

A version of this page content will appear in my forthcoming 2014 Oriental Medicine Journal article THE MICROBIOTA-GUT-BRAIN AXIS: The constant two-way communication between our guts and our brains.

© Copyright 2013-2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

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