Supporting a Healthy Immune Response: Some Fundamentals

Our previous article touched on the importance of balance for stress/inflammation…
I’ll reiterate some here, and then also throw in some top choices in immune supportive lifestyle habits and supplements you can consider incorporating into your self-protection plan.

So again, what is NOT being talked about enough, even by governing/medical authorities, with regards to immune health? …The BIG three – Stress, Inflammation, and Sugar! All three of those things can overlap and trigger one another, and all three of those things depress your immune system’s functioning!

Stress contributes to more stress – the sympathetic nervous system is there to protect us in the extreme “fight or flight” scenarios… it releases a hormone chemical cocktail into your system to trigger necessary survival reactions. Those chemicals temporarily tamp down the immune system and other “less immediately essential to survival” systems. Trouble is, in our modern culture, we tend to be perpetually stressed, so we just have the chemicals in our system almost constantly, without much chance to rest and recover and let the parasympathetic nervous system come in on the back end and do its job to help the body re-balance.

The more the stress response happens, the more on edge our bodies are essentially “trained” to be. Meaning you have to ACTIVELY take conscientious measures to nurture and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system response to kick in the “Calm down” chemicals, so to speak (and thus let your immune system get back to functioning more optimally again, as well as everything else).

Things that have been proven to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous response include: A good, long, uninterrupted sleep – i.e. “a proper nights sleep”. Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercise practices. Meditation. Spending time in nature. Doing creative/artistic things/projects. Playing with your pets and/or children (assuming they aren’t the main source of your stress).

Inflammation – many people are chronically inflamed and they may not even know it, because inflammation isn’t always just chronic pain (though that’s usually a good giveaway)… Some foods (sugar being one of the worst) trigger inflammatory response in the body, seasonal or chronic allergies are a form of a chronic inflammatory state, food allergies as well, auto-immune diseases, latent tooth and/or gum issues etc… Inflammation is a stress on the body, at least especially when it goes on for long periods of time. Keeping it under control, not just out right suppressing it, but trying to help encourage it back to a normal/healthy balance, is essential for Immune function as well as over all health.

Lifestyle practices that help reduce inflammation include: A diet high in (as in predominantly featuring) fruits and vegetables – most of them contain compounds which support healthy inflammation response. Reduce or consume NO sugars, or at least no “added” sugars. Get a proper nights sleep. Do gentle exercises regularly (if you work a desk job be sure to get up and walk around periodically throughout the day).
Herbs that help a lot with systemic inflammation modulation are Turmeric, Ginger, and Boswellia as the top three… though there are a whole host of others.

For general, baseline immune support

You can consider supporting your body from just the nutritional foundation angle, and/or you can choose to add herbs in to the mix, or go strictly herbal. The choice is mostly due to personal preference, though some health conditions may warrant leaning just one way or the other – for instance, herbs may be more likely to interact with prescription medications you might be on where as nutrients would be less likely. If there are any questions or concerns you should talk with your doctor, or I often suggested people speak with a compounding pharmacy as they will have more knowledge, and books on hand to consult, regarding your prescriptions, yet they also tend to be more familiar with and open minded to natural health supplements as well compared to your more basic chain pharmacies.



Nutritional Approach

1. Vitamin C – Timed release, or liposomal (i.e. fat soluble) forms will stay circulating in the body longer, and thus may increase absorption, while also reducing the likelihood of stomach cramps and diarrhea that can be caused from high doses of C.
While there is no proof it or anything else will prevent or treat Coronavirus, the Chinese have an ongoing study, started in February, where they are administering up to 12g intravenously to patients as a possible measure to reduce severity of illness and speed recovery time – but test results are not expected to be published until September.
That being said, Vitamin C it is a key nutrient in connective tissues in our organs (such as our lungs) and may help protect them from invading pathogens. Vitamin C also helps the body properly alert the white blood cells to protect the site of infection. Many animal studies over the years have demonstrated how vitamin C could help protect against bacteria and virus. Our bodies cannot produce vitamin C so it must be consumed from outside sources such as our foods and supplementation.

2. Vitamin D3 – This vitamin is often understated in its important roles of immune modulation. It works in the innate immune system and helping the body fight infectious agents. People with low Vitamin D3 levels are more susceptible to getting respiratory illnesses. At our latitude/longitude here in WNC approximately 20-30 minutes of full sun exposure on at least our face and arms (with no sunscreen on!) can give us a heaping dose of vitamin D3 through our skin – (Note: A bit longer exposure time is needed for people with darker skin tone as melanin blocks some of the sun rays). Otherwise consider supplementation.

3. Selenium and Iodine go hand in hand working in the body for thyroid health, but it has also been found that they help the body prevent and stop infections. People can be prone to deficiency in both of these minerals due to the fact that our soils don’t contain them as much as they once did, so even our produce grown in said soil is less nutritious. The thought is essentially that low Selenium contributes to more inflammation and oxidative stress, which makes hosts more susceptible to damage from virus and their mutations, which can contribute to the formation of new viral strains.
– This intriguing research paper from 2011 explores further links to viral epidemics and origins in populations of selenium deficiency:  https://link.springer.com/art…/10.1007%2Fs12011-011-8977-1 )

4. Zinc – Has been demonstrated to help the body combat upper respiratory illness. It is possible to get “too much” zinc, so people need to be careful how much and how often they are administering this mineral, especially in children who need smaller doses than adults. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Zinc for an adult is 15mg. Taking 30 or even up to 50 milligrams for further immune benefits can be tolerated by some people in times of immune need – provided it is done for short duration – a week or two max before taking a break. Zinc in supplement forms, especially at higher dose levels, often upset people’s stomachs so it is best taken with food, or divided doses throughout the day instead of a large amount all at once.

Herbal Approach

1. Thyme – This herb is a personal favorite of mine for lung and respiratory support. It is also worth mentioning because it is cheap, easily grown, easily found in the grocery store, and is very strong in its support of healthy respiratory function. Normalizing mucous secretions and helping kill pathogens. Thyme Essential Oil – the highest concentration of the herb’s compounds, can be used to make all natural hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial cleaners. Thyme tinctures and other supplements taken internally help ease congestion and boost immune functions. You can even steep fresh or dried thyme leaves and drink it as a tea, or make a strong thyme broth, breathe in the vapors deeply while you sip.

2. Elderberry (As well as Elder Flower) – Of course we can’t get around mentioning this potent plant. Compounds in the fruit have been shown to help stop some flu viruses from replicating, shortening severity and duration. Elder flower are generally understated and not as easily come by in supplements, but possess compounds particularly beneficial to sinus and respiratory ailments. If you grow your own, or get any whole berries to make your own syrup just be careful to remove stems and seeds as they contain some mildly toxic compounds that give some people diarrhea. Also, people with auto-immune conditions need to be careful with this plant as it could potentially exacerbate an already hyper-active immune state causing them to feel worse instead of better.
Note: For any questions or concerns regarding sudden and currently circulating info about Elderberry contributing to “Cytokine Storm” reactions please see this educational video clip I made addressing the subject as it stands currently: https://www.facebook.com/MiddlePathWellness/videos/1080596908984913/

3. Oregano – This herb, used as a supplement, is most often found as “Oregano oil”, which is oregano extract concentrated into an oil base (typically an olive oil base is most common), this is different from Oregano Essential Oil.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and caustic substances which can be dangerous and even toxic if used in high and/or very frequent doses.
Oregano oil extracts (the kind using another carrier oil as a base) are meant to be taken internally for some duration as needed for the immune system. Compounds in this plant are known to assist in fighting bacteria, virus, and fungi. While the supplements are more concentrated for effect, it still is not a bad idea to consider cooking more with oregano at this time to get more into your system. You can try steeping it or making broths with it as recommended with the Thyme leaf.

This all just scratches the surface of possibilities out there of course.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been in practice for over 2,000 years and it hits on further complex herbal blend formulas of which I have admittedly less direct familiarity with in regards to some of their herbs, but my personal experience with Chinese formulas is they are frequently reliable to work, and they can work fast, so I recommend them as well, assuming they were formulated by a practitioner and/or company that knew what they were doing creating the formula.

So that is some of the top most reliable things I’ve found over these 20+ years of study and experience. I certainly hope it serves you well in your wellness journey.

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