Most people consider bugs to be the biggest threat to health in the winter. But a strong immune system can protect us from them. So lets look at how to keep our immune system strong.
What threatens immune health?
- Free Radicals
Not always avoidable, but there are supplements to support the body when stressed. Such as Nature’s Plus Mega Stress.
If you do come down with the ﬂu – rest should be the 1st thing to prescribe yourself!
Free Radicals can cause untold damage, and when we get sick many more are produced by our immune system as it ﬁghts infection. So making sure you have plenty of anti-oxidants in the diet during the winter is key and especially if over-indulging or do get unwell.
Anti-oxidants such as Vitamins A, B1, B2, Folic Acid, B6, B12, C, E, Selenium, Zinc, etc work together as a team so taking them in isolation to each other is not recommended. Taking an anti-oxidant formula through the winter is a great idea to support immune health. A good one is Higher Nature’s Super Anti-oxidant Protection.
If you want to take food based antioxidants ask in store which products have a high ORAC value, such as acai berries and milk thistle.
An exception to the rule about taking anti-oxidants together is Vitamin C – the king of all anti-oxidants can be taken alone. Most animals bodies can make vitamin C, human are one of the few exceptions as we can’t. Animals produce much more vitamin C when sick so it makes sense for us to take it in the same situation. Vitamin C is great just when you feel you might be getting poorly.2-3 grams a day (spread out) will help ﬁght off an initial infection. Higher Nature’s Immune + contains Vitamin C, Zinc & bioﬂavonoids. Great 1st aid!
Eating organic foods and getting exercise in the fresh air and taking a regular sauna will help reduce your toxic load, as will eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and detoxing regularly.
Keeping healthy in the ﬁrst place is the best way to avoid falling pray to the bugs! At Christmas when over indulgence is inevitable, bump up the anti-oxidant intake. Add in milk thistle to support the liver and make up for your indulgence with super healthy breakfasts.
Here in Cumbria we don’t get many hours of sunlight in the winter. Vitamin D deﬁciency is inevitable. It is estimated that 70% of the UK population is vitamin D deﬁcient.
Research in recent years has shown how important vitamin D is in immune function. Ask your doctor to test your levels. Supplement 1000iu a day.
The gut is the ﬁrst line of defense and keeping it healthy is essential for avoiding illness. If you have been on antibiotics recently then take a probiotic supplement to replenish gut ﬂora. Everyone can beneﬁt from eating probiotic foods such as kombucha, probiotic yogurt and sauerkraut.
If you have no underlying health conditions then immune boosters such as echinacea and astragalus are excellent to give the immune system extra bounce. If you do have underlying health issue read page 2 for guidelines on what is best for you to take.
Are you suffering from an immune imbalance or auto immune disease?
Many people are suffering with an immune imbalance and increasing numbers with more complex auto immune disease.
If you are suffering allergies, asthma, colitis, chronic fatigue, any inﬂammatory diseases, thyroid issues, diabetes, IBS and arthritis it is essential to know a little more about how the immune system works, especially when considering what supplements to take to help your condition, or when naturally treating other acute conditions you may get such as colds or ﬂu.
Immune System Function
Our innate immune system is responsible for producing anti-bodies and informing our adaptive immune system as to what invaders it is dealing with. The adaptive immune system then produces T cells to go and ﬁght off the problem.
There are 2 broad categories of T cells: Th1 and Th2. If the invasion is inside our cells a Th1 response is called for. If the invasion is blood born a Th2 response is called for.
T Cells are the Key
In a healthy immune system Th1 and Th2 will be in balance. They can be out of balance for a short period when combating an invasion, but then return to being in balance again.
Auto immune disease occurs when this imbalance does not correct itself and perpetuates, resulting in either Th1 or Th2 dominance or polarization. The immune system then ends up attacking the body. This is auto-immune disease.
Lets look at the conditions that occur with Th1 and Th2 dominance. You may ﬁnd you suffer from a number of things from one list and nothing off the other. Which gives a clear indication of what supplements to take and which to avoid.
When a viruses, bacteria, fungus or toxin is encountered in our cells or when the immune system ﬁnds cancer cells a Th1 response is invoked. One action of Th1 is to produce inﬂammation.
When Th1 becomes dominant the results are inﬂammatory disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis and systemic lupus erythemaosus.
If a pathogen is a threat to our blood stream, this is when Th2 is activated.
When Th2 becomes dominant the results are allergic conditions such as food allergies, respiratory allergies, sinusitis, asthma, eczema, colitis, viral infections, chronic fatigue and immuno-deﬁciency syndrome.
Immune Boosting Supplements
Immune boosters will either act to stimulate Th1 or Th2. So, the last thing you want to do if you are Th1 dominant is to take a supplement that will stimulate Th1. Like wise with Th2.
However if your immune system is displaying Th1 dominance, then supplements that stimulate Th2 can support your body to bring back balance within your immune system (this should always be done along side a programme to treat the underly causes of the imbalance).
Below are some of the Th1 and Th2 stimulants.
Echinacea, astragalus, licorice root, ashwaganda, panax ginseng, chlorella, grape seed extract, medicinal mushrooms extracts, beta glucans and olive leaf.
Antioxidants like resveratrol, pycnogenol, curcumin from tumeric, genistein, quercetin and green tea.
How to Supplement
If you suffer colds and ﬂu over winter but you have underlying conditions such as IBS or psoriasis (Th1 dominant conditions) then avoid Th1 stimulants. Use the general immune support talked about on page 1 and try some of the Th2 stimulants like turmeric to address the underlying imbalance.
If you suffer colds and ﬂu over the winter but have allergies and colitis (Th2 dominant conditions) as underlying conditions then again, use the general immune support talked about on page one but you can also use the Th1 stimulants like echinacea and astragalus.
Addressing underlying causes of auto-immune disease
If you have any of the conditions described in Th1 or Th2 dominance then you need a holistic approach to treatment. Supplementing is a start, but these conditions can be helped through more comprehensive dietary changes.
Th2 dominance for example will be particularly aggravated by caffeine and alcohol. Th1 dominance will be aggravated by dietary factor that contribute to inﬂammation.
Auto-immune problems have a strong relationship with gut health. Gut healing is really important as part of your treatment. This means eliminating foods that aggravate your digestive system, correcting gut ﬂora imbalances and making sure digestion is working efﬁciently.
Natural Nutrition Practitioner