We’ve had many people ask us lately about improving their immune system. You can probably guess that hand washing and hand sanitizer will do only so much to prevent illness. The next line of defense is your immune system. So what’s it all about?
The immune system is the body’s natural guardian against disease. It defends the body against “attacks” by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. You may not know it, but there is a continuous battle going on inside your body between these attackers and your immune system. A war of one kind or another is fought every single day!
Your immune system is remarkably intelligent because it “remembers” experiences and reacts accordingly. An example is the chicken pox…if you already had them, you won’t ever have them again. The immune system makes that possible. It is a sensitive system of checks and balances that produces a prompt, appropriate and effective response to ongoing attacks.
I read an interesting analogy recently…to understand how amazing the immune system is, all you have to do is look at what happens when something dies. Everything shuts down including the immune system. Within hours, it is attacked by bacteria, parasites, etc. The minutesomething dies, it’s body is dismantled over a very short period of time and a skeleton is left over. To put this rather morbid analogy into perspective…your immune system is doing amazing things to keep THAT from happening while you are alive!
The immune system protects you in three different ways:
1. It creates a barrier that prevents bacteria and viruses from entering your body in the first place.
2. If a bacteria or virus does enter, it tries to detect and eliminate it before it can make itself at home and reproduce.
3. If the bacteria or virus IS able to settle in and reproduce, your immune system is in charge of eliminating it.
What you may not know is that things you take for granted every day are either strengthening orweakening your immune system…things that come naturally to you like sleeping, eating and exercising. No doubt you’ve noticed the significant rise in people’s use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. I have good news…you needn’t walk that path. Ever. Keep reading.
In the last newsletter, I talked about that magical hormone called cortisol, otherwise known as “the stress response” hormone. Guess what decreases the immune response? Yep – cortisol. I might sound like a broken record at this point, but stress tops the list when it comes to your body’s ability to function – including your immune system. Here are 5 things you can do TODAY to get your body on the right track.
1. Handle Your Sleep
Do you fall asleep in less than 15 minutes from the time you lay down? Do you stay asleep until morning (without waking up)? Do you wake up easily…and can you think clearly? If you answered no to any of these questions, make an appointment with us. We quickly assess things like this all the time. You won’t believe how differently you function during the day with a good night’s sleep. Total clarity, renewed energy and a general feeling of well being are just a few of the benefits. It’s very possible that you’ve never had a good night’s sleep…and you don’t even know it! Contact us and find out.
2. Take The 7-Day Challenge
If you don’t already, you should know that Merritt Wellness Center is the foremost clinic in Austin for the management of blood sugar and the diseases caused by it. We are on the cutting edge of treating this ever increasing problem in America. Low blood sugar triggers cortisol and comes from skipping breakfast and waiting too long to eat between meals. Here’s a hint…if you ever experience hunger, it is a 911 emergency. Yes, I said EMERGENCY. Fluctuating blood sugar – whether it’s too low or too high – severely damages the immune response. That’s why we invented the 7-Day Challenge. If you haven’t tried it, call us. We’re talking guaranteed results in 7 days. Call us and come pick one up!
3. Eat “Booster Foods”
I say booster foods because they’re fantastic for the immune system. Foods rich in vitamin C arm your white blood cells. Parsley and peppers are the richest in vitamin C. Most fruits and many organ meats also have it. Soup stock protects the gastrointestinal tract (where 80-90% of the immune system is located). Yogurt and dark leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium which is used by white blood cells. You need essential fatty acids to use the calcium – fish, grass-fed beef and ground flax seeds are good sources. Eggs and nuts also have these precious fats. Keep in mind that overcooking any of these foods breaks them down.
4. Move It
Exercise is unbelievably great for the immune system. Even a 30-minute brisk walk does the trick. Getting three to four 30-minute periods of exercise a week is super powerful for your mood, your stress level AND your blood sugar. And in case you don’t already know…getting 3 or 4 hours of exercise all at once – once a week – is NOT effective. What keeps your immune system strong is regular exercise.
5. Hook Yourself Up With Some “D”
You can get vitamin D from the sun or from food – your choice. Clear, sunny days can give you vitamin D. If the sun is too weak to give you a sunburn, it’s too weak to give you vitamin D. Hazy days CAN give you sunburn but CANNOT give you vitamin D. As far as foods go, cold water fish (salmon, sardines and tuna) have a small amount of vitamin D. Milk has a little bit but not much. Organ meats are the traditional food source for vitamin D, especially cod liver. That’s where cod liver oil comes from. These days, we use cod liver oil to improve immune function because it contains both vitamin D and vitamin A. Both strengthen the immune system. 85% of Americans are clinically deficient in vitamin D and nearly as many are low on essential fatty acids. We can do a very simple blood test to see how much vitamin D you have. If you’ve never had a test, make an appointment with us.
I’m going to give you something to worry about for a minute. It’s called antibiotic resistance and it’s a serious threat to your immune system. People who insist on taking something (anything) when they see the doctor – regardless of whether they have a viral or bacterial infection – are at risk. Especially at risk are those who don’t take an entire prescription and “save” the remainder (i.e. a 10-day amoxicillin prescription to fight off an infection).
Please hear this! MANY people stop taking prescriptions too soon. You’ve probably done it. Most of the time, you do it because you feel much better or because you want to save it (in case you need it again).
Have you noticed that no one prescribes penicillin anymore? That one-time miracle drug is now mostly ineffective. When you don’t finish your prescription, the bacteria get used to the antibiotics and they don’t work ever again. This is a very serious problem.
At this very moment, we have a family member on four antibiotics for an infection she got from surgery. She nearly died because her body was antibiotic resistant. Remember MRSA?Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is enormously difficult to treat. One of the biggest concerns of going into the hospital today is hospital-acquired infections which attack already weakened systems. It is one of the chief causes of death in hospitals.