Our immune system is essential for our survival. Its job of protecting us from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens is vital to our overall health and well-being. Of course, there are certain times when this system is challenged more than others. This is why it is important for us to learn ways to support it and do our part of keeping our bodies healthy. In this post we will mention 2 major immune system challengers, as well as give you 7 ways to naturally boost immunity.
There are several reasons that we get sick while traveling. First, travel can be stressful, and stress depresses the immune system. Plus, we are exposed to germs to which our bodies may not be accustomed. Whether sitting next to a sick person on a plane, eating from a street vendor, or riding public transit, travel can bring a lot of germs. Airplanes can be the worst: the low humidity air can dry out nasal passages and make it harder to fight off airborne bacteria.
While hand washing is typically a quick and simple way to fight off disease, airplane water is among the dirtiest in the world. Some studies have shown that washing your hands on planes can actually add more bacteria instead of flushing it away. Ick, carry some hand purifier or a natural baby wipe instead.
On vaca, we tend to make different choices that what we normally would: from sleeping less, drinking more or less alcohol, to forgetting our regular supplement routine, all of this can contribute to feeling sick on the road.
Seasonal Immune Stressors
Seems like everyone is sick at the onset of winter. There are a few reasons for this. First, kids and teachers all across the globe return to school in the fall and share their germs with one another. Our culture seems to reward toughness when it comes to illness. So we push through the illness and go to work instead of staying home and resting – and keeping our germs to ourselves.
Another reason for seasonal sickness is that certain pathogens, including rhinovirus and influenza, peak during spring and winter months. Additionally, dry, cold air conditions that are typical of winter months tend to encourage the spread of these viruses. So what can we do? Natural immunity booster time!
7 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immunity
1. Get Adequate Sleep
Studies show that sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes. Our bodies not only heal as we sleep, but complex communication among our cells takes place. As we snooze away, our bodies are busy making connections that strengthen our immune systems and help us fight off infection. On the short term, sleep can help our bodies fight inflammation and increase production of antibodies. And in the long term, adequate sleep can improve immunological memory and actually help our bodies learn how to combat future invaders.
2. Manage Stress
Research shows that almost every system in the body is influenced by stress. When chronic stress goes unreleased, it suppresses the immune system. Stress affects our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, muscle tension, digestion, and metabolism, as well as the immune system. During times of prolonged stress, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (the part that helps us handle stress) declines. As a result, adrenaline secretion is lessened, while corticosteroid secretion increases. (Corticosteroids inhibit immune cells.) Finally, if stress continues and the body is unable to cope, there is likely to be a breakdown of bodily resources.
As if you need more reasons not to stress, here’s one of my blog posts that’s all about what stress does to the immune system.
3. Wash Your Hands Frequently
Your mama used to say it, and she knew what she was talking about. According to the CDC, hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illness.
But what are you using to wash your hands? It’s time to ditch the antibacterial soap that carries all kinds of potential health risks. Antibacterial soaps contain a slew of potentially dangerous ingredients, including triclosan and hexachlorophene. These and other chemicals can harm the environment as well as strip the healthy flora that help fight the bad guys from your hands. But the worst part is that they are being cited as culprits for encouraging drug-resistant bacteria.
Instead, switch to a natural hand soap that minimizes germs without dangerous chemicals.
4. Keep Your Gut Healthy
The gut microbiota that resides in your gastrointestinal tract provides essential health benefits, particularly by regulating immune homeostasis. This is why a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system. One way we can help the natural flora of healthy bacteria that reside in our digestive tract is by taking a probiotic. Here are some probiotic supplements by Young Living: Life 9 and KidScents MightyPro.
In India, they often serve an after dinner digestif called Mukwas. This remedy is made of various seeds such as fennel, anise, sesame, ginger, and/or coconut. These seeds and their extracts have been shown to help improve digestion and maintain a healthy flora.
5. Get Regular Exercise
You don’t have to overdo it here. A gentle workout routine is enough to give your body some great benefits. In addition to providing stress relief, exercise helps increase blood circulation, breathing, and heart rate, which in turn can help the production of healthy red and white blood cells. It also raises body temperature, thus inhibiting bacterial growth. So try to keep up with a good routine while traveling and be sure to head back to the gym with a moderate routine once you return home to boost your immunity in one of the most natural ways possible.
6. Watch Your Diet
Just like every other system in your body, the immune system runs on vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are ideal because of their concentrations of vitamins – especially vitamins C and A – minerals and electrolytes, and phytochemicals, such as antioxidants. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are a recommended source of dietary fiber. The more fruits & veggies you can get into your diet, the better.
Conversely, red meat is linked to a host of other health problems, including increased bodily inflammation. Limit your red meat intake and opt for more nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
7. Add Some Supplements
Sometimes you can only do so much when it comes to diet, exercise, sleep, and stress. Nutritional supplements are a great way to fill in some nutritional gaps, as well as provide your body some basic building blocks. Look for pure, organic, therapeutic grade essential oils and supplements that build your immune system.
For even more education about essential oils, supplements, and wellness, check out my book, Essentials: 75 Answers to Common Questions About Essential Oils and Supplements!