Immune Health Balance
by Mark J Kaylor
There’s only so much you can say in 1,000 words (okay 1,641 – I cheated a little) especially with a subject as large as immune system health, even a 1,000 pages wouldn’t exhaust the topic. In fact we could spend 1,000 pages alone just describing the intricacies of our “so-‐called” immune system. I use the term “so-‐called” because I take a very broad and liberal view of what the immune system is. Most people think of their immune system as an army of cells that defend the body from disease and invaders. This is really only part of the picture.
To more accurately and fully understand and build a healthy immune system you need to look larger, much, much larger. We need to include virtually all and every aspect of who we are; including biology, physiology, emotions, lifestyle, and diet. All of these things interact and impact what most of us consider our immune system to be. And I don’t mean this figuratively. What we think, feel, eat, and do… impacts our immune system. This truly holistic approach is based upon over 30 years of working with people, as well as, a vast amount of cutting-‐edge research performed over the last couple of decades. This is what I have found to be the most effective approach for optimal immune health.
The Fab 5 to Thrive
Do you ever wonder why no one has created a drug to cure the common cold or flu? Or why there are no cures for cancer? And what about traditional remedies, why aren’t these the answer? The reason is that no drug, herb, or nutrient can impact all the variables, triggers, and contributors that lay the groundwork or cause these imbalances. This is not to say that there aren’t powerful healing allies to keep our immune systems running effectively, there are, and we will get to those in a moment. It is my opinion that only when we look at the body and disease from a holistic point of view, will we ever have the success and responses that we so desire. As it relates to our immune health these 5 areas absolutely have to be considered and incorporated in our health and healing protocols:
DIET – without a doubt poor nutrition decreases immune function and increases susceptibility to infections. Important deficiencies to consider include zinc, selenium, vitamins C and E, and trace minerals. Also tremendously impacting is the consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates that can down-regulate our immune system within minutes.
Diet Tip – eat a plant based whole food diet.
STRESS – the leading cause of visits to doctors it is probably not news to most of us that research has confirmed that depression and anxiety, along with stress, have been shown to weaken immune functions, increase inflammation and hamper our ability to fight infections.
Stress Relief – try adaptogenic herbs like Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, Reishi, and Ginseng.
SLEEP – the hours we spend sleeping are essential for immune processing and overall health. Figure out how much sleep your body needs and get it regularly and consistently.
Sleep tip – make your bedroom as dark as possible, even the littlest light can impact sleep quality and immune function. Melatonin can help with sleep and boost immunity.
TOXIC BURDEN – if toxins build up in your system faster than your body can deal with them it can tax all aspects of your health your immunity and possibly contribute to cell mutations.
Cleansing support – you can assist your body’s detoxification processes by supporting liver function with herbs like Milk thistle and by drinking teas made with herbal alternatives (a.k.a. blood cleansers) such as Burdock, Red clover, Nettle, and Dandelion.
INFLAMMATION – this refers to the systemic and a chronic kind, not the localized type such as a sprained ankle. It strains and taxes the immune system and can lead to malfunctioning and overreacting.
“An ounce of prevention…”
In 2005 the deadly and devastating hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans head on destroying much of the city and uprooting many of its residents. While shocking its inhabitants neither the hurricane nor damage was a surprise to the experts and government officials who knew an event like this was likely to happen someday. Yet even with this knowledge the necessary steps to prevent it were not taken. This is an excellent analogy for our health care system as well as for how the vast majority of us take care of our health and our immunity. We wait for something to break, for an issue to arise, before we start taking steps. Thankfully our herbal allies have a number of immune tonics to strengthen and help keep our immune system operating at peak performance.
If you’re looking for long-‐term, deep, and profound immune optimization you need look no further than, of all places, medicinal mushrooms. And for powerfully boosting our immune responses the mushroom extract of choice is the D-‐fraction from the Maitake mushroom. The D-‐fraction increases the number and activity of our immune cells so that we have more immune cells doing more of what they are supposed to be doing. Fundamental to the benefits of D-‐ fraction is that it works across a wide range of immune cells to provide very broad support. Intriguing recent research suggests that may also be an effective adjunct therapy in conjunction with chemotherapy by not only decreasing the negative side effects but also by potentiating the actions of the pharmaceuticals.
There are numerous other immune supporting mushrooms including a personal favorite, Reishi. This amazing healing ally balances both under– and over–activity of the immune system while supporting overall health and vitality. What makes Reishi special as an immune tonic is the gift of balance because the key to long-‐lasting and healthy immune functioning is balance. Other powerful medicinal mushrooms include the delicious Shiitake, a potent antiviral and antifungal, Coriolus, a woody mushroom widely used throughout Asia as an adjunct cancer treatment, and Chaga, from Siberia, with it’s promising research as a cancer treatment and whole body strengthener. In fact mushrooms are so effective that in one population study just eating mushrooms several times a week reduced women’s risk of breast cancer significantly.
Another favorite immune tonic of mine is the herb Astragalus, used in traditional Chinese medicine to build the “protective energies” of the body. It stimulates the immune system; increasing the “appetite” of the immune cells, and increases our natural interferon responses to viral infections. Exhibiting a built-‐in holistic nature, Astragalus, may also improve assimilation of nutrients thereby helping the body to more effectively nourish itself.
Cold and Flu Season
The battle to beat the common cold and flu is nothing new; cultures all over the world, for thousands of years have been looking for relief. But before I give you the cures for the common cold we should discuss a few herbal remedies that may provide us some relief. Most of you are already familiar with Echinacea and many of you may already be using this. Two “healing cousins” of Echinacea should be mentioned alongside it, Baptisia and Boneset. All 3 are wonderful additions to our cold and flu medicine bag sparking our immune system into action, especially for acute conditions.
Here is my take on how to use them:
1) Echinacea – use at earliest of onset as possible or it can be use prophylactically when risk is high, i.e. when flying or around sick family members. Take very frequently, up to every hour or so for the first two days, if it hasn’t showing the effectiveness by then you might want to move on to…
2) Baptisia – this has similar actions in many ways to Echinacea but is particularly effective for infections of the eyes, ears, nose, and throat. If this hasn’t provided relief in a couple of days then move on to…
3) Boneset – this traditional Native American herb may be used in conjunction with the previous herbs and is specific for the achy-‐bones kind of flu.
Now for the never before revealed cure for the common cold. Drum roll please. The cure for the common cold is…TLC. Yep, that’s what I said, TLC. If you don’t believe me try it and see for yourself. At the first sign, the first whiff, of a cold coming on, go home, get some rest, and pile on the TLC. This is a remedy I all but guarantee, the 2 keys are essential, it must be at the earliest hint and it must be followed up with rest and TLC. What do you have to lose? Worst-‐ case scenario, you get the cold anyway but this way you also get some wonderful lovin’ and care.
As individuals, and as a society, we need to reorient our focus, at least to some degree, away from the disease and symptomatic relief and more on health, vitality, and prevention. For, in general, it is much easier to prevent an imbalance or disease from rearing its nasty head than it is to treat and cure these imbalances and diseases. We can start this process, every one of us, from this day forward, by assuming responsibility for our own health and healing and by thinking of immune system from a more holistic perspective. And while there is no guarantee when it comes to disease, supporting our immune system with a few potent herbal allies can go along way in preventing or at least lessening the severity of the problem.