You may have noticed with this new invasion of the coronavirus (COVID-19) the immune compromised and elderly have been greatly affected. As we age, our immune system naturally weakens. This in turn contributes to more infections. As life expectancy in developed countries has increased, so too has the incidence of age-related conditions.
The elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases, which increases their risk of dying from them. Influenza, respiratory infections, and pneumonia are a leading cause of death worldwide in people over 65. Some scientists have theorized that this increased risk correlates with a decrease in T cells. This decrease could be due to the thymus atrophying with age and producing fewer T cells to fight off infection. Whether this decrease in thymus function explains the drop in T cells or whether other changes play a role is not fully understood. Others are interested in whether the bone marrow becomes less efficient at producing the stem cells that give rise to the cells of the immune system.
How can I boost my immune system using natural medicine?
Regardless of your age it is always best to revisit lifestyle choices and find tools that improve your immune system and decrease inflammation. Here is a list of seven things you can do to improve your naturally boost your immune system. I’m leaving out washing hands because I feel at this point that is a given.
1. Improve your digestion and gut health
In Chinese medicine sickness and diseases can easily wreak havoc when our digestion is weak. This might manifest as bloating after you eat, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, foggy headedness, and reoccurring illnesses.
How can I improve my digestion and gut health?
- Bone Broth: Bone broth helps repair your digestive tract. Almost everyone can benefit from a cup of day heated up and ingested on an empty stomach. My favorite brand is Bonafide Organic Beef Bone Broth. There is a reason why chicken noodle soup became a popular home remedy for colds and flus. It’s because of the chicken bones used to make to the stock! Nowadays you can just help yourself to a warm cup of bone broth and skip out on the other ingredients!
- Eat non-processed whole foods: Eating naturally and making healthy choices keeps your digestive tract strong. Scientists have long recognized that those of us who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. A healthy diet leads to a healthy digestive tract.
- Avoid Dairy: Most of us cannot properly break down dairy products, causing inflammation in most people. Over all, I recommend that people cut dairy out of their diets. Just be sure you are getting adequate B 12 levels in supplement form.
2. Make healthy dietary choices
What can I eat to boost my immune system?
If you prefer to eat your vitamins and minerals over taking a supplement consider these healthy choices:
- Vitamin C helps increase your white blood cell count. Did you know that red peppers have more vitamin C than citrus?
- Omega 3 fatty acids are amazing at suppressing inflammation and keeping the immune system in check. If you’d like to incorporate more omega 3 fatty acids add flax seed to your smoothies or walnuts to your snack list.
- Vitamin E is crucial for maintaining a health immune system and comes readily available in peanut butter or almonds. As if I needed another reason to eat peanut butter!
- Zinc is an essential mineral that is involved in the production of immune cells. You can find Zinc in cashews, baked beans, or chickpeas. YUM!
- Carotenoids are a powerful antioxidant and are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as carrots, mangos, apricots and papaya. Once ingested carotenoids convert to vitamin A, which is a nutrient that helps
- Get a great Probiotics with prebiotic A few recent studies support a significant role of probiotics for humans and animals as a barrier against microbial infection. In one study probiotics offered complete protection from a viral infection pathogen. You could also eat your probiotics in kimchi, kefir, and kombucha. Yogurt is a diary product; as such I don’t recommend it as a source of probiotics.
3. Stock up on herbal medicine and supplements
What natural medicine and supplements should I take to boost my immune system?
- Vitamin D – Sufficient levels of Vitamin D reduces your risk of infectious disease by strengthening your innate immune system. Vitamin D turns on key peptides in your immune system that trigger a strong anti-microbial response, allowing you to quickly and effectively fight off invaders before they can develop into an infection.
- Oil of Oregano– Oil of oregano comes in capsule forms. It is an essential oil made from oregano plant and has amazing healing properties. Research shoes oregano oil has antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. In addition compounds in oregano oil are also potent antioxidants. Traditionally it is used to fight respiratory infections, which is why it is so great to help prevent coronavirus.
- Elderberry Syrup– Elderberry syrup has a kick butt supply of antioxidants and is an age old cold and flu remedy loaded with antioxidants known as anthocyanin.
- In one randomized study of 60 adults with flu-like symptoms, those who took 15 mL of the elderberry syrup four times a day said symptoms cleared up on average four days earlier than those who took a placebo syrup.
- Another study tested its effectiveness in air travelers. Those who took the elderberry syrup had a shorter duration of cold symptoms that were less sever than the control group.
- Andrographis paniculata, also known as Indian Echinacea or Chuan Xin Lian, is an herb that is used in Chinese medicine. It is a great anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and has beneficial antioxidant properties. In addition to its ability to treat colds, flus, and easing upper respiratory infections, it also acts as a natural immune booster. Andrographis is credited for stopping the 1919 Indian flu epidemic. Due to its bitter taste you might prefer this herb in supplement form versus a tea.
- Multivitamin– Take a multivitamin although you may eat a healthy diet due to soil depletion you still might not be getting adequate vitamin and minerals in your diet. Also some necessary vitamins are water-soluble meaning you just pee them out after you your body absorbs what it needs. To aid your immune system make sure your multivitamin has vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folic acid, zinc, and selenium in it. *** If you take vitamin D separately don’t exceed 1000 IU a day.
- Vitamin C– Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It aids in the production of white blood cells, which help protect the body against infection. It also helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful free radicles. Vitamin C is actively transported to the skin, where it can act as an antioxidant and help strengthen the skin’s barriers. Recommended doses are 1000 mg every 1-2 hours or until you have loose stools.
- Omega 3 fatty acids– As mentioned before, Omega 3 fatty acids are amazing an decreasing inflammation. My favorite brand of Nordic Naturals can even be purchased at Whole Foods!
- Soil-Based Probiotics– One of my favorites is a brand called Prescript Assist.
4. Get adequate sleep
The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Teenagers need about nine to ten hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
Oddly enough, more sleep isn’t always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
While you are sleeping, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines increase in amount when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation decreases the production of these protective cytokines. Also, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are greatly reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
Your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. In fact, long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
5. Get regular exercise
Just like eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity contributes to overall good health and, therefore, a healthy immune system. Exercise promotes efficient blood flow and circulation. This keeps the cells of the immune system moving so that they can effectively do their job. In fact, research continues to support a link between moderate, regular exercise and a healthy immune system.
Moderate exercise has been linked to a significant increase in immune response and a temporary boost in the production of macrophages. Macrophages are cells that attack bacteria. It is believed that regular, consistent exercise can lead to substantial benefits in immune system health over the long-term.
More recent studies have shown that there are physiological changes in the immune system as a response to exercise. During exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. After exercise ends, the immune system generally returns to normal within a few hours, but consistent, regular exercise seems to make these changes a bit more long-lasting.
According to professor Dr. David Nieman, of Appalachian State University, when moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis there is a cumulative affect that leads to long-term immune response. His research shows people who walk 40 minutes per day at 70-75 percent of their VO2 Max experience half as many sick days.
6. Do not drink alcohol and avoid smoking cigarettes and marijuana
Alcohol severely disturbs your gut’s micro biome, significantly altering the balance of healthy and unhealthy gut bacteria. Alcohol affects the way healthy gut microbes interact with the immune system. Additionally, it disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. These rogue bacteria can cause inflammation in the liver and may lead to liver damage. Alcohol doesn’t just affect the function of the digestive tract. It also affects the respiratory system. Excessive drinking may impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, leading to increased risk for pneumonia, tuberculosis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. Because the immunity of the mucus is impaired in both the lungs and digestive tract, any disease can become more severe.
7. Get acupuncture
Can Acupuncture help boost my immune system?
Yes! Acupuncture naturally boosts the immune system. It regulates immune function by stimulating specific portions of the autonomic nervous system through selected acupuncture points. This in turn causes responses in the immune system. Acupuncture increases levels of interferon, one of the immune system’s messenger hormones. Regular acupuncture therapy can be effective in treating colds and infections. If you are in the Denver area and would like to schedule an appointment to ease stress and boost your immune system click here.