Immune System Boot Camp
You wouldn’t jump off the couch and go run a marathon without having done any training to prepare yourself for the long distance run would you? If you did you would feel an incredible amount of pain, breathing would be hard, your legs would hurt, you would get blisters on your feet, and most likely you would pass out from exhaustion before you reached the finish line if you don’t have a heart attack first. It’s a scary picture to think of, but if you start slow and train appropriately it becomes very achievable to finish running 26.2 miles all at once. Life is a marathon; it’s not a sprint. Just like a marathon it has a beginning, and an end, and their can be many different courses that we must travel from the straight and narrow to the ups and downs and everything in between.
Our immune system plays a vital role in protecting our bodies from the creepy crawlies of life’s dark alleys. We are constantly under bombardment from foreign invaders trying to use our bodies for their own purposes. Our immune system is our security system to keep us healthy, and it plays a vital role in many aspects of our overall wellbeing and even our brain and mental health as well.
Every living organism has an immune system associated with it. It is part of the survival of the fittest and the evolution of species. If an organism cannot protect itself then it perishes and will be extinct. We as humans have evolved and developed 2 aspects to our immune system like many other mammals. We have first what is called the innate immune system, and every animal that is at least as complex as a worm has this kind of immune system. The innate immune system uses the white blood cells of your body to seek out foreign invaders and destroy them. They are akin to Texas Rangers riding around the countryside killing the bad guys. If you cut yourself the innate immune system is what responds to clean up the foreign material that have entered your body.
The second part of your immune system is called acquired immunity. Acquired immunity works by being exposed to different foreign organisms or material and having your body develop antibodies against them. Those antibodies then continue to circulate in the body and look for any similar foreign invaders and if found the body can respond more quickly. Both aspects of the immune system work together to keep the body healthy, but just like training for a marathon, the immune system can be trained as well and the more you use it the stronger it gets.
When training the immune system it is important to know what it takes to keep the immune system strong, and give it the endurance to last throughout the winter and also your lifetime. The strength of the immune system comes from its ability to respond to different foreign material the body comes in contact with. The speed of the response is determined by how many immune cells are present in the body and how many different things the body has to fight off at the same time. In order to enhance the speed of the body’s response there are some important things to keep in mind.
The strength of your white blood cells correlates directly to the amount of stress your body is under. Stress releases hormones from the adrenal glands that will make the white blood cells less efficient at killing the foreign invaders. I’m sure you have seen it yourself, pushing yourself through a stressful time like the exams at school, only to get sick a week after they are all done. That’s because your immune system was compromised during that stressful period and now you have to pay the consequences. To limit stress, you must keep your body in good rhythms, sleeping well, eating well, and getting good exercise all enhance the immune system. Sugar will also decrease the effectiveness of the white blood cell substantially. Sugar causes the white blood cell to become inefficient at being able to destroy the foreign material, which will ultimately increase the amount of infection in the body. If you want to stay healthy you must keep sugar to a minimum in your diet.
There are a few things that really help to keep the immune system strong as well. Vitamin D is very important to help keep your body and immune system healthy. A study done in Alberta Canada a few years ago showed that every person who was not supplementing with Vitamin D was deficient in it. The study went further to show that everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line is deficient in Vitamin D because we do not get enough direct exposure to the rays of the sun to make sufficient amounts of the Vitamin D ourselves. This also becomes controversial in the use of sunscreen because it will decrease the production of Vitamin D, but you do not want to put yourself at risk of skin cancer either. The best thing to do is take 2000-4000 IU’s of Vitamin D every day during the winter months. Use an emulsified form or take your Vitamin D close to your meals because it is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Echinacea is also an important herb that has adaptogenic properties that will enhance the function of the immune system. Being adaptogenic Echinacea can be used long term and is very safe, increasing the strength of the immune system and keeping you healthy during those long winter months. The root of the Echinacea is the medicinal part of the plant and it should make your tongue tingle. If your tongue doesn’t tingle when you try it you do not have the proper part of the Echinacea plant to increase your immune system.
Your immune system needs time to adapt and train to fight off those foreign nasty’s that are outside our body’s. We should have been working to enhance our immune system since the day we were born, but there are many things around us that can wear it down too. Take back control of your immune system and get it in fighting shape. Cut down your sugar consumption; eat well, sleep well, and get some good exercise. Take your Vitamin D, and Echinacea during the winter months and in no time your immune system will be ready to go run the marathon of life and keep you feeling great the whole time.