Autumn is upon us, and with the season change comes a host of new threats to our immune system. The stressors of school, work, holidays, and more all seem to conspire this time of year, sending even the strongest of us straight to the tissue box.
A strong immune system not only protects you from a myriad of stressors but also keeps energy levels at their peak. This system is extremely complex and no matter how well you take care of yourself, your body often requires additional support.
The immune system might be thought of as the border patrol for our protective network and is essential to maintaining a balanced body. This does not mean our immune system should be constantly stimulated, of course. Rather, the goal is to ensure that it is fully functional, conserving its resources and ready to do battle when necessary.
Infections from injury and invasion trigger short-term immune responses, which are temporary, and typically handled efficiently in normal, healthy beings. Chronic, long-term immune responses often result from imbalances. The latter can suppress the immune system for a long time. Most of our clients fall into this second category: they struggle with chronic health conditions for years, their immune systems become compromised on many fronts, and without knowing how to bring the body back into balance their health continues to fail.
Multiple body systems must be in balance and operating a full potential to effectively defend the body against the stressors surrounding us and repair from environmental and toxic assaults. These systems include:
Our first line of internal defense comprised of a vast network of drainage ducts and glands designed to remove wastes, toxins and pathogens from the blood via a plasma-like fluid called lymph. The lymphatic network is also critical to supporting the cardiovascular system by returning fluids to the bloodstream.
Sites of concentrated lymph tissue for trapping and destroying bacteria entering the body through ingestion or inhalation.
The primary site for the enzymatic breakdown of toxins and their subsequent removal via the kidneys and intestines.
Provides the best defense against invading harmful bacteria in the gut.
A major lymphoid organ, ideally situated for processing the bacteria of the large intestine.
Our first line of external defense and the largest detoxifying organ of the body, the skin is capable of excreting as many toxins as the kidneys through its oil glands and sweat pores.
Receives immature lymphocytes from the bone marrow and stimulates them to recognize and attack viruses, bacteria and abnormal cell growths.
The site of red blood cell and lymphocyte (white cell) production. The many types of lymphocytes make up the highway patrol of the body, actively seeking out and destroying or engulfing toxins and pathogens, and producing antibodies to fight against specific antigens. In a sense, the bone marrow and thymus together form the police academy.
Our thought processes have direct impacts on the chemicals released by the brain, which in turn stimulate the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system to respond to incoming and perceived stressors.
The most abundant and widespread tissue in the body. Home to the meridian system, it is the primary communication network of the body in terms of the bioenergetic information that serves to maintain homeostasis and health. Its channels link the police force and fire departments of the organism. On the downside, it also becomes a depository for many of the toxins that are not completely metabolized or eliminated through the normal processes of detoxification.
Clearly, there’s much to do to keep people healthy and strong, and as they say, the best defense is a good offense!
We must protect this house
As practitioners, you know the importance of having proven immune boosting strategies on hand. Though some think that this approach is looking at health from the standpoint of the glass being half-full, no matter how well prepared we are heading into winter, there’s always an unanticipated immune issue that no one ever expects to happen. Until it does!
What can we do to strengthen our immune system this winter?
The top three things that can help include:
- Manage Stress: With the holiday season just kicking off, most of us are in the very early stages of stress-building. Add to this getting back into the swing of things with work, kids going back to school, and life in general. Keeping stress in check is the number one factor in keeping our immune system strong. The very first step in managing stress is to become aware of it and its control over you. Something as simple as taking 3 deep breaths the minute a stressor creeps into your consciousness can interrupt the stress pattern and refocus your attention and kick that stressor to the curb.
- Exercise: Keep active and moving, as this is key to keeping our body’s systems – most importantly the lymphatic system – in line. An open lymphatic system keeps toxins out of the body and your immune system strong. It’s not crucial to spend hours each day to keep things moving, either. A couple of 10-minute walks around the block throughout the day, a 20 minute-yoga class on YouTube (Yoga with Adriene might be a good choice), or regular functional body weight exercises like chair seats, step-ups, lunges, and wall push-ups is all you need.
- Intestinal Integrity: Your digestive tract and gut flora are the foundation for immune integrity and nutrient absorption. Stay away from processed foods, refined sugars and flours, and focus on consuming nutrient-dense, organic, and seasonal whole foods to start. Include some gut-enhancing fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut with your meals, and add a high-quality probiotic as part of your daily ritual, too.