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Be honest: how often did you think about your immune system before the coronavirus pandemic? Chances are if you’ve been stressing out about COVID-19 and social distancing but haven’t been focused on living a balanced, healthy lifestyle with regular self-care, mindful eating, movement, and sleep, then the answer is probably not much.
The good news: now is an opportune moment to redefine your relationship with yourself and your health. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the topic of attaining optimal health and wellness from the inside out is at the forefront of global consciousness. And seemingly, humanity is collectively beginning to understand the vital importance of keeping our immune system healthy.
What Exactly Is The Immune System? And What Does It Do?
Your body is a temple, and your immune system is the gatekeeper of all that is sacred within you. It’s an intricate network of cells, organs, and tissues designed to collaborate together to shield and protect your body from illness. But when your immune system is compromised, it can’t do its job to the fullest. Contrary to popular belief, there’s actually no one-size-fits-all approach to boosting your immune system. That’s because the immune system is just that: a complex system—with many dimensions and moving parts that require harmony and balance (homeostasis) to operate properly. And while genetics do play a role, a 2016 study on twins and variations in the human immune system suggests that our immune response is primarily driven by non-inheritable factors. The germs you’ve been exposed to throughout your lifetime plus major lifestyle components like diet, stress, exercise, and sleep, may all contribute to how the immune system reacts.
Still, there are a number of proactive measures you can take that may enhance and optimize your immune system to give it a fighting chance.
4 Strategies for Natural Immune System Support
1. Eat Healthy, Nourishing Foods & Stay Hydrated
While it’s technically true that no single food, substance, vitamin or supplement has been scientifically proven to address immune function on its own, our immune systems need the right combination of fuel to fight on our behalf in the face of illness. So many experts have recommended taking a multi-faceted approach to boosting the immune system. Starting with a healthy, well-balanced diet that’s ripe with colorful, nutrient-rich foods to nourish and feed the body with essential vitamins, minerals, and compounds that are easy to digest.
Foods high in vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, probiotics, antioxidants, and electrolytes are your friends. Experts also suggest avoiding foods with processed sugars and trans fats, which are less nutrient-dense and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and other health conditions that may compromise immune system health.
Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water to keep your body in homeostasis (balance), and so it can successfully flush out toxins and waste. Most health and wellness experts will advise you to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces per day. So for example: if you weighed 175 pounds, you would drink 87.5 ounces or about 11 cups of water per day.
You can also add herbs and teas into your daily wellness regimen to complement the collective benefits of the healthy food you eat and the lifestyle you lead.
The traditional practice of herbal medicine dates back thousands of years, and in many ways is the foundation from which all modern conventional medicine was built—until the 19th century when it deviated from herbalism as the advancement of new theories and methodologies shifted the practice of medicine considerably. Nowadays, herbalism’s influence is still strong, as more and more people are in search of natural alternatives to pharmacology and western medicine.
As trained herbalists, we’re passionate about exploring new ways to bring what we love into our quest to awaken the healer in every household. And in the process of learning more about how we can protect our own immunity during these chaotic times, we discovered some interesting recent medical studies and clinical trials that were conducted on certain herbs in viral outbreak prevention programs from the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine. Which inspired us to formulate our first-ever herbal tea DIY kit to promote immunity support.
In it, we used three ingredients from the famous 800-year old Jade Windscreen formula and added sweet Licorice, a chi (life force) booster. While astragalus provides a second charge to our energy reserve, atractylodes defends the immune system from external pathogens and siler root gently repels them like a personal security guard. Together, we believe these herbs are a veritable team of protection officers specially curated to keep the light shining bright during the challenging times when those around us rely on our strength and care the most.
Learn more about the medical research studies and clinical trials conducted on these herbs in viral outbreak prevention programs, published by the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine.
2. Reduce Stress & Rest
Did you know that high-stress levels are like kryptonite for your immune system? When you get stressed your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) spike—which experts say can cause the cells in your immune system to shut down thus weakening its ability to function properly.
To minimize your stress try doing something you enjoy. It could be a hobby like writing, painting, singing, dancing, cooking, designing, teaching, crafting or even tending to plants. Or perhaps an act of self-care like practicing a regular skincare routine or simply spending a quiet evening at home curled up with a good book, a cup of tea and a calming hemp-infused herbal tonic like our 6-in-1 serenity tonic made with a harmonizing symphony of whole-plant ingredients known for their sedating effects. Laughter is also an essential tool for reducing stress. As is meditation and mindfulness—which studies suggest may help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Getting adequate sleep is also immensely important too. Lack of sleep depletes the body of the energy it needs to function. For most adults, 7-8 hours of sleep each night is optimal. While younger and elderly people may require more sleep depending on their age and individual body chemistry. The New York Times reports “People who sleep seven hours a night are healthier and live longer. Sleeping less than seven hours is associated with a range of health problems including obesity, heart disease, depression, and impaired immune function.”
3. Make Time For Exercise & Movement
Regular physical activity is another great way to reduce stress and improve overall health. Because even low to moderate exercise naturally lowers cortisol levels and can support immune function.
But if you’re opposed to going to the gym to prevent the spread of germs, try going outside for a walk, jog or run if you can. Or, pop on a fitness video and work out at home for 30-60 minutes a day. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Doing too much exercise may actually weaken the immune system and leave you susceptible to getting sick.
4. Maintain Consistent & Careful Hygiene
To protect yourself from a viral illness, keeping yourself clean and practicing solid hygiene is paramount. That includes washing your hands regularly and avoiding open coughing and sneezing, face touching, eye touching and sharing food or drinks.
These common-sense preventative measures are an integral part of fortifying your wellness regimen so you can keep yourself and others around you healthy and safe. That’s why it’s important to take them as seriously as you plan on taking your diet, exercise, sleep, and stress levels because when combined, these factors all work together to naturally boost and protect the immune system so it can come to our body’s defense when we need it most.
Ultimately the key to making these strategies work for you is to take a comprehensive and balanced approach when trying to implement them in your life. That means making adequate time for each as much as you can, and listening to your body when it tells you what it needs from you to feel well. Is it better nutrition? More movement? Rest? Relaxation? Slow down, listen up and recalibrate your connection to your health. It’s also just as important to consult with your doctor, physician or licensed medical professional before making any major changes to your health and wellness regimen. Since everyone has a unique body chemistry and health profile, your doctor may have some advice or pointers that can help you best incorporate these strategies depending on your health history and any current conditions.
Remember, significant and monumental change happens over time. So be patient with yourself throughout the process. Real wellness takes real work.