Tips to Support Immunity
How to boost your immune system with holistic health!
By Tamara Welsh, Happy Herbalist
The world has been a different place since the pandemic began in 2020 and immunity has been a hot topic ever since. It’s never been more evident that our immune system is one of our greatest assets! We need it to be functioning optimally to prevent infections, fight infections and even for vaccinations to be their most effective. Like all systems in the body, to optimise the immune system we need to take a holistic view of our health. The following guidelines are a great place to start if you’re looking to improve your immune system function.
Increase the nutrient density of your diet
It’s important to avoid nutrient deficiencies in order to avoid a compromised immune system. If you focus your diet around a variety of nutrient dense foods you will give your immune system the fuel it needs to function optimally. Eat lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and depending on your preferences; seafood (especially oysters, muscles and wild caught fish), grass fed and finished meats and offal, eggs and full fat organic dairy (if tolerated). Additionally, you can add in some condiments to up the nutrients in a meal such as fermented vegetables, medicinal mushrooms, sprouts, olives, capers, chillis, cold pressed olive oil, avocado, apple cider vinegar, seaweeds and sea salt. Don’t forget antimicrobial and antioxidant rich culinary herbs such as cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, cloves, ginger and garlic. And of course, hydration is key so drink plenty of fresh, filtered water.
Nourish your gut
A huge amount of your immune cells are located in your gut. As we learn more about the gut microbiome we see the links between gut disturbances and poor immunity, autoimmunity and allergies. Aim to increase both prebiotic and probiotic rich foods in the diet. Slippery Elm powder is a wonderful herbal prebiotic that nourishes the mucous membranes of the gut and feeds our microbiome. You could also consider adding in gut healing foods such as bone broths as well as fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and natto.
Refine and hack your lifestyle
If you spend the majority of your time in a stressed state, your immune system will be dampened. The first step is becoming aware of when we are stressed, then you’ll have the power to change it using whatever tool you prefer (breathing exercises, meditation, exercise, laughing, resting etc).
Regular exercise will help to both manage stress and induce sleep and even better if you can do it outside in the sunshine to boost Vitamin D production and help your brain to unwind. If sleep does not come easy for you, look into some herbal help to aid in unwinding at the end of the day.
Reduce toxicants and harmful chemicals in your home
Harmful chemicals are such a constant onslaught to our bodies and immune systems. It’s about minimising your exposure where you can. Could you grow some of your own greens, herbs or vegetables to ensure they are pesticide free? Could you add a few indoor plants to your office to help air quality? Could you install a water filter in your home? Could you reduce your alcohol consumption? Every little bit counts. Look at all the products you use in your house and on your skin. Are they full of chemicals you can’t pronounce? A fabulous resource is the Environmental Working Groups’ site Skin Deep where you can look up specific products and ingredients to get an idea of their toxicity and safety.
Herbal medicine for immunity
I mentioned upping our intake of culinary herbs earlier. Most of the culinary herbs are strong antimicrobials and antivirals so try adding one or more fresh herbs to your meals each day for maximum benefit.
When it comes to optimising the immune system with herbal medicine, we look to herbs with immune enhancing or immune modulating effects. These herbs include Astragalus, Echinacea, Cat’s Claw, Siberian ginseng and the mushrooms Reishi and Shiitake. When looking at disease prevention and immune enhancement however, most naturopaths and herbalists will consider the function of all body systems not just the immune system itself. For example, a herbal formulation that aids sleep, improves the integrity of the gut lining and relieves constipation will also help to strengthen the immune system.
As you can see, there is so much we can do to help our immune system function at its best. Implementing some of the above ideas could make all the difference in keeping you well and helping to prevent severe infection. Our immune system is our greatest asset!