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Immune system love – managing your wellbeing through every season

September 2018 Print
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Are you suffering from the effects of colds, flu or infection? Or are you just generally feeling sluggish and run down? These all impact your lifestyle in their own ways – and linked to how well your immune system is functioning.

The immune system requires balance and harmony to thrive

Your immune system is complex.It actually comprises your skin, bone marrow, the thymus (a gland in your upper chest), white blood cells and the lymph fluid that carries them, your lymphatic system and lymph nodes, the spleen, and the mucous membranes (i.e. the lining of the inside of your mouth). In fact, the first line of defence is your skin and mucous membranes[1].

Researchers are continually exploring the effects of diet, exercise, age and stress on the immune response but what is known is that looking after your health can certainly support your immune system. That means eating a fresh, clean diet high in vegetables and fruits, avoiding smoking and alcohol (or at least in moderation), keeping fit with regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting a good night’s sleep. Simple steps like hand washing and ensuring meats are cooked properly are also key to giving your body a better chance of avoiding infection[2].

Trying to reduce your stress levels is also important – although that's often easier said than done

35 per cent of Australians report experiencing a significant level of distress and anxiety symptoms [3]. That means over one-third of us are already putting pressure on our immune and adrenal health – so consider techniques that can help manage stress such as talking to friends, family or a professional, trying yoga, tai chi or meditation (there are plenty of great apps like Calm) and support your sleep habits with a creating a relaxed environment and helpful apps like Relax Melodies.

You can also make your immune system happier with these activities

1. Get cooking Italian style

Garlic mushroom pizza anyone? Mushrooms and garlic can have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing. Garlic has long been renowned for its health boosting properties, mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties, and researchers from the University of Florida have discovered that eating a cooked shiitake mushroom every day can boost immunity over significant periods of time [4]. So get creative in the kitchen.

2. Hang out with your dog

A study assessing the effects on your secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) levels of petting a dog found that the group petting a live dog yielded a significant increase in IgA. So take your dog for a walk or playtime in the park or visit the RSPCA – man’s best friend may actually be a great mate to your immune system too [5].

3. Supplement with the power of four

There are plenty of natural remedies you can try, but we love the combination of these four cold-busting and immune-boosting powerhouses to help support your adrenal health.

  • Astragalus – the Astragalus root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, largely as an immune booster but also to support heart healthIt is believed Astragalus stimulates the immune system with antioxidant effects and is a popular natural remedy to help people suffering from the common cold, upper respiratory infections and fibromyalgia [6].
  • Withania – one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine and also known as Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng and winter cherry.. The plant extract has many bioactive compounds supporting antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory activities [7].
  • Vitamin C – there is lots of discussion about the role of Vitamin C to help support your immune system and treat colds and flu, yet what’s crucial to understand is that our bodies don't make vitamin C – it comes from our diet. If you’re eating a great combination of citrus fruits, strawberries, green vegetables and tomatoes then you’re giving yourself a good boost to your immune function and bone structure. You’re also helping your body absorb iron and giving your skin some healthy nutrients[8].
  • Echinacea – it is thought that this popular cold-busting treatment may stimulate the immune system although scientists are still working to understand exactly how – but it has long been used for as a traditional treatment for infection, snakebite and wounds. Available as a supplement, the roots of Echinacea can also be dried to make teas,and tinctures [9].

Maintaining good health and wellbeing is so important to all aspects of your life. Taking care of your nutrition, exercise and sleep are all especially important, but supplementing your diet can help when you’re feeling sluggish. Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional to ensure the right combination for you.

References available on request

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