1. LYMPHATIC SYSTEM SUPPORT
Your lymphatic system is the detoxification super-highway in your body.
Our bodies contain between 400 and 600 bean-shaped lymph nodes, primarily concentrated in the neck, chest and breasts, armpits and groin. For most of us, these organs are the most familiar parts of the lymphatic system—colds, flu and other infections or diseases can lead to swollen and sometimes painful lymph nodes that are easily felt under the skin. While these symptoms aren’t enjoyable, they’re a signal that the immune system is hard at work protecting us from illness.
All lymph fluid passes through at least one lymph node, with the node acting as an essential immune checkpoint. Any harmful viruses, bacteria or other antigens present in the lymph are dutifully addressed by concentrated amounts of white blood cells.
So how can you keep your lymphatic system in optimal condition?
One of the most critical lifestyle choices we can make for the health of our lymphatic system is to keep moving. When we move, our lymphatic fluid moves too. Amazingly, during sustained, lower-intensity exercise, lymph flow is two- to three-fold higher than when we are at rest!
Breathing exercises aid the flow of lymph into the chest cavity and away from sites of lymphedema, commonly the arms and legs. Think of diaphragmatic breaths as an internal massage that gently urges lymph through lymphatic vessels.
Dry brushing is the gentle brushing of completely dry skin with a dry, natural-bristle brush made from fibers such as sisal or boar bristles. Theoretically, the direction of brushing should be from the ends of the limbs towards the trunk and up to the heart. These brushing motions mimic lymphatic flow through vessels and trunks to the thoracic and right lymphatic ducts that empty the lymphatic fluid into the bloodstream. These ducts are located toward the middle of the body near the clavicle on both sides of the body. For more detail on dry skin brushing click here
FOR FURTHER SUPPORT WITH LYMPAHICS, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME!
2. IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP
Sleep is an important regulator of the immune system and can modify the immune system function by inducing changes in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system. Put simply, lack of sleep increases inflammation in the body, which reduces the ability of your immune system to work optimally.
So how can you improve your sleep?
Routine is an ideal way to improve sleep. Going to bed at around the same time every night and waking up the same time each morning can help improve sleep patterns.
Digital detox for at least 1 hour prior to going to bed. Watching things on our phones can unknowingly trigger our sympathetic nervous system to make us feel more awake when trying to wind down. Phone and tablet light also stops the hormone melatonin from being released, which is required for sleep onset.
Clean up your diet / drinking habits for fantastic improvement in sleep. I see this time and time again when clients do a detox program with me. Removing alcohol and other sugars is a great place to start. You will notice a difference within days!
FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE WITH SLEEP, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME!
3. TAKE TIME OUT FROM STRESS
Chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or exacerbate pathological immune responses. Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease. The way it does this is by triggering chemical reactions and flooding the body with cortisol that, among other things, decreases inflammation, decreases white blood cells and NK cells (special cells that kill cancer), increases tumor development and growth, and increases the rate of infection and tissue damage.
Unfortunately we live in a society where chronic stress is a part of life, and to some extent this out of our control, as we can’t all pack up, quit our jobs and have no worries!
What we can control is the way we REACT to stress. So how can you take time out from stress?
Hobbies are a great way to become immersed in something you love and forget about the day to day stresses of life. It’s so important to find something you love doing, and even more important to schedule the time in to enjoy it! Whether it’s a short daily routine, once a week or once a month, make a commitment to yourself to take this time out.
Social connection outside of work is proven to reduce stress by reducing our cortisol response. You certainly may have noticed the importance of connection during COVID lockdown, and perhaps how this influenced your mental health and stress levels. A coffee break with a friend at work, a quick chat with a neighbour, a phone call to your sibling, a visit to a house of worship or volunteer work are all ways to connect with others and take time out.
Mindfulness practice is proven to reduce stress levels and increase our life span! There are some fabulous apps you can listen to such as Calm or Headspace, to learn how to become effective at being mindful. You may also want to begin with an instructor, to be really guided through an effective practice. Like anything, this takes some practise, but trust me, it is life changing.
As mentioned under Lymphatics, breathing techniques are also a wonderful quick time out from stress.
FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE WITH STRESS REDUCTION, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME!
The immune system is highly responsive to exercise, as it mobilizes white blood cells and can also reduce dysfunctional immune cells. Intense exercise, for example running a marathon, can dampen your immune system temporarily and additionally, may not be advisable if you are already stressed and depleted, as the stress and depletion will have already compromised your immunity.
Sometimes the motivation can be lacking for exercise, so how can you improve your exercise regime?
Find something you enjoy! Exercise shouldn’t be a burden, it should be something you look forward to doing regularly. This ties in with “time out from stress” AND assists your lymphatic flow, which are other important factors to boost your immune system.
Exercising with other people – this might be a small class, a personal trainer, friend or family member, and can be a great motivator if you are one to have a lot of excuses about starting. For one, it keeps you accountable to turn up, and secondly, you have the added benefit of social interaction, which is also great for mental health.
Set realistic goals and build your amount of exercise from that. The idea is to make exercise a habit, like brushing your teeth, and this takes time, especially if exercise isn’t a strong point for you. Start with what is realistic and manageable for you – even if it’s 20 minutes, or twice a week, it’s something you can say you have achieved, which will motivate you to keep building on.
NOTE: If you have an injury or something stopping you from exercise, it’s best to see an exercise physiologist to create a personalised plan, to avoid further injury.
FOR HELP WITH GRADED PLANNING AND MOTIVATION, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME.
5. PRIORITISE SEASONAL WHOLEFOODS
Food is medicine, and so what you eat will have a direct impact on your immunity. Processed foods increase inflammation in the body, dampening the immune system response when you need it most!
Always buy organic or from local farmers’ markets where possible.
Vitamin A, C, E and zinc rich foods
For Winter, I would recommend including the following foods into your daily and weekly meal plan to boost your immune system:
Vitamin A rich foods – Think yellowish pigments – carrots, egg yolk, fish liver oils like salmon and cod, sweet potatoes, butter, and cheese. Green leafy veg, mint and liver are also great sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin E rich foods – Almonds, apricot oil, beef, corn, egg yolk, hazel nuts, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds and wheat germ.
Vitamin C rich foods – Aloe vera juice, blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruit, guava, parsley, paw paw, capsicum, pineapple, potato, raw cabbage, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Zinc rich foods – Beef, brewer’s yeast, capsicum, egg yolk, ginger, herring, liver, milk, lamb, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, seafood and whole grains.
FOR ASSISTANCE WITH MEAL PLANNING OR ENSURING OPTIMAL NUTRIENT DIGESTION AND ABSORPTION, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME!
6. SUPPLEMENT WITH THE RIGHT HERBS/VITAMINS/MINERALS AT THE RIGHT DOSE AT THE RIGHT TIME
Whilst taking herbs and supplements can be a great way to boost your immune system, it’s important to know what supplement to take, what dose, and when, for best results in boosting your immune system.
More is not always better, plus it can be a very expensive exercise, right?!
I have created a guide of Vitamins, Minerals & Herbs for Viral Immunity, including when to dose, how much to take, and some additional safety notes to assist you through Winter. Please click here to access. I hope you find this a useful tool to share with friends and family.
NOTE: if you are on any prescription medications, it’s always best to check with a natural health practitioner to ensure no interactions are happening.
Additionally, if you suffer with a chronic disease, or auto immune condition, always be guided by a natural health practitioner for special dosing and to not overstimulate the immune system.
THERE ARE MANY OTHER HERBS TO ASSIST WITH VIRAL, BACTERIAL AND FUNGAL INFECTIONS. FOR A PERSONALISED HERBAL TONIC OR MORE SPECIFIC GUIDANCE IN RELATION TO YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM, PLEASE BOOK AN APPOINTMENT WITH ME!
I hope that you have found these fundamentals for immune system health useful. It’s always important to approach your health in an holistic way for maximum benefit. Remember many small changes create big results!
I look forward to seeing you in clinic some time soon 🙂