As we approach winter, we naturally get exposed to sickness seemingly everywhere we go. In order to maintain good health and prevent getting sick, it’s important to create a bulletproof immune system. That is the point of today’s article.
Creating a bulletproof immune system is a whole body practice and is within everyone’s power, whether you are 18 or 88. It really should be a two-pronged approach, whereby you fortify your body’s defenses every day, while also limiting the invaders (germs, etc.) you come in contact with. Carcinogens from food and the environment compromise the immune system and may give birth to new pathogens that can make you sick at a later date. Not to mention, inflammation caused by eating an unhealthy diet, along with excess stress and poor sleep will also weaken your immune system.
First, let’s take a high level look at the immune system, which is made up of six components that fight off pathogens.
- The lymphatic system is a network of organs, nodes, vessels, and tissues that move lymph fluid through the body. This is important because lymph fluid contains white blood cells, which are the body’s natural fighters against pathogens. Organs and nodes are the places where toxins, waste, and other unwanted debris are filtered out of the body.
- The respiratory system are the organs that enable breathing, which means taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Airways have a layer of mucus that traps pathogens and other particles before they can reach the lungs.
- The Skin is the body’s largest organ system and serves as a barrier to the external environment. The skin contains an estimated 20 billion white blood cells (T cells) that control the body’s natural ability to attack and destroy pathogens.
- Lymphocytes are small white blood cells whose mission is to seek and destroy pathogens, thus triggering an immune response. There are two types of lymphocytes; B-cells make antibodies that attack bacteria and other toxins, and T-cells, which destroy infected or cancerous cells.
- The Spleen stores white blood cells, filters blood and recycles old red blood cells, with the purpose of assisting in fighting certain types of bacteria.
- The Gut is comprised of millions of different bacteria and is known as the gut microbiome. Scientists now know that the gut plays a huge role in a healthy immune system. Good bacteria help to control harmful colonies of bad bacteria, help fight pathogens by producing antimicrobial substances, and affect the pH of the gut environment to provide a chemical barrier against harmful microbes.
How to Maintain a Healthy Immune System
Maintaining a healthy immune system is not terribly difficult, as it really starts with your lifestyle and practicing basic, healthy habits.
- Don’t smoke
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water ONLY (do not use anti-bacterial agents)
- Get enough sleep
- Get sun exposure daily
- Keep stress to a minimum
- Eat a whole foods, nutrient dense diet
While these seem like simple things, how many of us still eat processed foods and too much sugar? Do you use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, because it is easy and because if seems like the right thing to do. However, these hand sanitizers also kill good bacteria, which doesn’t help matters and actually makes it tougher for your immune system to optimize. Do you get outside in the winter and expose yourself to some sun and cold temperatures? Too many people make excuses about the cold. Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself.
Avoid Getting Sick
At the start of cold and flu season, aim to strengthen your immune system and avoid sickness altogether, by using the following “next level” practices:
- Oregano oil: add a few drops to a glass of water. Oregano oil contains immune system-supporting phenols and antioxidants.
- Mushrooms: certain mushrooms contain strong immune-boosting antioxidants, particularly reishi, cordyceps, and chaga. See this article on chaga mushrooms Heath Benefits of Mushrooms.
If you Get a Cold, Shorten the Duration
Nip it in the bud as soon as possible using some or all of these supplements:
- Echinacea is known to relieve upper respiratory issues and reduce the duration of the common cold by up to one-and-a-half days.
- Zinc can reduce the duration of your cold by as much as 50%.
- Vitamin C has been proven to shorten the duration of cold and mitigate the severity of symptoms.
A nutrient-dense diet, comprised of real food with anti-inflammatory properties (see this article for more information Anti-Inflammatory Diet). These foods will keep your good bacteria happy and functioning well. Consider bone broth, which contains high amounts of bone marrow, collagen, and glycine. In addition, omega-3 fats are very helpful. The way to get these are by consuming fatty fish or taking fish oil capsules.
You’ll want to stay clear away from foods with processed sugars, trans fats, and highly inflammatory omega-6 fats present in vegetable oils. Also, you need to consider your own personal sensitivities with respect to gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and nightshades.
If you do get sick, try out some of these tips. Think twice about taking an anti-biotic. Most anti-biotics don’t work as well as they used to these days and they kill off good bacteria and harm the gut. In most cases, it’s probably best to just gut it out.
One final point about going outside in the winter. Cold weather does not make you sick. I still hear every year from certain folks “if you don’t wear a coat, you’ll get sick.” No you won’t. Scientists discovered germs in 1665. Germs make you sick. Not the weather. We’ve known this for over 350 years. Please stop believing this nonsense. Get outside – all you need is 10-15 minutes.