May 8, 2017; by Briana McDonald (Silver Bulletin e-News Magazine) Building a strong immune system is like building a house and that requires first a proper foundation. You have to know the basics to build a strong, sturdy structure that can withstand the forces of nature. Your house, aka your body, the house for your Spirit to navigate this world with, is no different. There are many things we can do to build a stronger immune system, there are a number of supplements out there that do in fact do this but no amount of supplementation will help if you fall short of these three core things.
The three factors to build a stronger immune system are:
- Proper nutrition and clean water free of fluoride and chlorine
- Regular Exercise
- Rest and Stress Management
While this sounds simple enough, most of us neglect our basic human needs because usually a. we are so busy serving others we forget to take care of ourselves b. our careers consume our lives and we fall into poor patterns of diet, sleep, and exercise or c. we just don’t understand what our bodies really need
Proper Nutrition + Clean Water
This is number one for a reason! Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut?! Which means diet is the number one most important thing you can do to keep your immune system boosted! Don’t read the “d” word and start having anxiety. I don’t mean fad diets, fasting, or counting carbs and calories, just eating wholesome food free of pesticides, steering clear of genetically modified food (no Frankenstein food please) and drinking at least 64 ounces of CLEAN water, free from fluoride and chlorine which really do a number on our endocrine system and pituitary gland (we don’t want to mess these guys up, they run the show!).
When people ask me what they are supposed to eat, I almost get overwhelmed with how many food possibilities come to my mind, generally people think of eating well as sacrificing so many things but it’s important to remember that you’re actually adding in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that bring you so much clean energy! (think ABUNDANCE!) When you’re about to eat, remember this: KISS. “keep it simple stupid” Nature has done all the hard work for us. If it was created by nature, ie. fruits, veggies, farm raised chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc. it’s a green light! If it was made in a lab with ingredients you can hardly pronounce, steer clear! These fake foods create a host of issues in the body which lead to disease and much more serious conditions.
One simple trick I’ve implemented over the years has been drinking smoothies in the morning. It doesn’t have to replace your breakfast but it can complement it with other healthy choices. Frozen berries and a handful of something bright and green is the greatest gift you can give your gut. Loaded with fiber and nutrients, it’s the best way to kick-start your day and it usually will help you to make healthier choices throughout your day. Give this process time, because as your micro-biome changes, (the bacteria in your gut that’s sending signals to your brain about what it’s hungry for) your cravings will change and making healthier choices won’t be a struggle because it will become what you instinctively want. Trust the process! One smoothie in the morning, one salad for lunch or dinner, and proper sleep is my guideline for the day (the three S’s).
This topic can also be a sore one. Most people have no idea what they really enjoy doing. They go by what their friends are into, or what celebrities are doing that they get caught up in an idea of who they should be or what they should look like that they don’t find the exercise program that’s right for their individual needs. Running isn’t for everyone, yoga isn’t for everyone, spin class, Pilates, Crossfit, you name them and I’ve tried them, and while they are all great, if you don’t LOVE what you’re doing then you aren’t going to stick with it. Try different things out and only stick to what you really and truly love, something that makes you look so forward to that 30-40 minutes every other day. If we aren’t happy with our routines we will not stay consistent and consistency is king! There is magic in repetition, so loving what you do is priority, your happiness is priority! First you will feel results, then you will see results, then you will hear about them from you family and friends. I usually give this process a good 3 months to take full effect.
So what does exercise have in relation to immune system function? Regular exercise helps the body to produce more white blood cells which are used to fight off infections. Remember as with all things, balance is key. You can over exert yourself and work backwards, creating stress on the immune system. Thirty to forty minutes, several times a week is the perfect amount. Not too much, not too little, enough to produce all those feel good hormones and help your muscles, heart, and lungs stay healthy (and also shedding off any extra pounds we may have picked up along the way!)
Rest + Stress Management
We all know what it feels like if we do not get adequate sleep, this is nothing I need to paint a detailed picture of. Overall mental acuity is out the window and we can feel like we’re walking around in a fog. Our immune system is a very complex system, and while poor sleep isn’t the only thing that can throw it off it is definitely one of the primary factors. Prolonged periods of poor sleep will result in more frequent colds and sick days. Many studies have proven that our T cells which fight off infections go way down when we do not get adequate sleep, and inflammatory cytokines go way up which could lead to a greater risk of developing a number of issues. Rest is like rebooting our brains, just like computers we can get extremely bogged down if we do not have our proper REM cycles.
Let’s talk a little bit about meditation. Another touchy subject because for some it is a “new age” concept that doesn’t produce any real results. Science says otherwise, and personal experience has shown me that it not only makes me feel better but it helps me throughout my day to remain calm, be aware of my breath and any sensations in my body and feel my way through situations that I could otherwise over analyze. Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of mediation is equivalent to 8 hours of deep sleep! 1. When practitioners begin in prayer and surrender their will to God (which is pretty darn relaxing to me) scans have shown that speech is being generated from a different area of the brain which decreases activity in the frontal lobes and increases in the thalamus, the tiny brains structure that regulates the flow of incoming sensory information to many parts of the brain. 2. This finding is significant because it finally shows a link between science and spirituality, ie; it’s not all in your head. It’s a physiological change that can be shown with scans as well as an emotional and spiritual one.
A Harvard study also found that an analysis of MR images which were taken from people who meditated every day for at least 30 minutes per day “found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.”3.
Whether you are a believer or not, a solid meditation practice has been proven to reduce stress, lower depression and anxiety and improve memory and concentration which means literally anyone can benefit from it regardless of religious background.
With more information on the basic components to a healthy immune system it’s time to put knowledge into action! Build a stronger immune system and feel the lasting benefits for yourself. Our well being is dependent on our immune systems so it is of the up most priority! Just remember, building a strong immune system is like building a house.
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