*Disclaimer- for Covid-19 information please visit https://covid19.govt.nz/
The immune system is a network of biological processes that protects us from diseases. It will detect and respond to a wide variety of pathogens, from tiny viruses to larger objects such as splinters, distinguishing them from our own healthy tissue. We have two major subsystems of the immune system. The innate immune system, which provides a standard response to a range of ‘invaders’ and the adaptive immune system, which provides a targeted response to each pathogen by learning to recognise molecules it has previously come across. Adaptive (or acquired) immunity creates a memory in the immune system leading to a better response in subsequent exposures to pathogens.
A number of parts of the body are critical to the immune system. Some provide an initial barrier to foreign substances such as the skin, digestive system and tonsils. Other parts of the body produce and store the immune cells and blood cells involved in fighting pathogens (e.g. lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland and bone marrow).
Whilst our best protection against novel and serious pathogens continues to be vaccination. There are many daily practices we can adopt to support healthy immune function against common pathogens and these practices may aid us in recovering more quickly from any sickness.
Ensuring that we are looking after the main ‘pillars’ of our health will ensure that we are doing our best to support ourselves and our families. These are; sleep, nutrition, reducing stress, hydration and getting adequate exercise. I will also touch on some essential oils that are beneficial in supporting each of these.
Sleep and stress
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. We need certain cytokines when we have an infection or inflammation, or when we're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective proteins. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.
How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep. Not only do essential oils help you get to sleep and stay asleep they can also help modulate cytokines.
Stress has been shown to decrease our immune response by lowering the number of immune cells. Stress can have other factors that affect our immune system such as increased heart-rate, blood pressure and digestive activity. So trying to reduce our stress response by deep breathing, meditation and exercise (read on for more details) is hugely supportive to our immune system.
Lavender essential oil has been shown to support sleep in a number of studies. Lavender oil contains mainly linalyl acetate and linalool, chemicals that are both rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and have a sedative and pain-relieving effect. In humans, lavender also lowers the heart rate and reduces anxiety, therefore useful in supporting our sleep and stress. There are a number of other oils that can be helpful for sleep and stress. Book a free 1-on-1 chat with me to find out which oils may be helpful for you.
Our immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in our blood stream, and our blood stream is made mostly of water! If we don’t have enough water, we cannot properly transport nutrients to each organ system. Staying well hydrated is also important for detoxification pathways, increasing lymphatic draining and making sure we are clearing out any foreign invaders and other waste materials.
It is important to drink the right amount of water for you according to your weight. To work this out the formula is: 0.033 litres per kg of body weight, which roughly equates to the following amounts:
60 kg = 2 litres
75 kg = 2.5 litres
90 kg= 3 litres
105 kg = 3.5 litres
Only water and caffeine free herbal teas count towards your water intake. Tea and coffee does not count and can actually increase dehydration. If you drink one coffee it takes two glasses of water to break even as far as hydration goes.
Adding Doterra essential oils can be a great way to increase your water consumption and can assist the immune system at the same time. Doterra lemon oil is a great option as the chemical constituent D-limonene and has been shown in pre-clinical trials to increase the immune response in the lungs of rats.
Our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins, both from the outside environment and from within our own tissues. Fortunately, the body has built-in ways to remove toxins, but problems occur when these pathways become overwhelmed. Accumulating toxins within the body can lead to endocrine (hormone) disruption and inflammatory issues which can then alter proper immune function.
From the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink–almost everything we come into contact with deposits a small number of unwanted substances which our body must metabolise and excrete, so as not to allow build up. Your body’s toxic burden is the accumulation of all toxins and unwanted substances at any given time. Research now shows that maternal exposure to these toxins can harm the baby’s immune system and that this injury can be passed on to following generations. Confirming how important it is to avoid toxins as much as we can.
So how do we know what is considered “harmful” or “safe”? A resource that I find helpful is the app called “Think Dirty.” It is available on both iPhone and Android devices and is such a handy tool. This app was created by the Environmental Working Group to show what common household items can be hazardous to our health. Once you download the app, type in a product name or scan the barcode of something underneath your sink. The app will rate the product giving it a number and will also break down the ingredients in the product giving you an overall idea if that is something that you want to keep in your house or not.
If you would like help in reducing your toxin exposure and utilising more natural products for cleaning, personal care etc. I offer free 30 min consultations to get you started.
Let’s talk exercise…
Physical activity is one of the main components of healthy living. In addition to the prevention of excess body weight and inflammation, not to mention mental health, recent research has shown the potential benefit of physical exercise in reducing communicable diseases, including viruses.
The practice of physical exercise significantly alters the immune system. Studies indicate that the modulation of the immune response related to exercise depends on factors such as regularity, intensity, duration and type of effort applied. This is an interesting read if you’re into 'sciencey' stuff. Basically the study recommends regular exercise to a moderate intensity. Interestingly, it also recommends AVOIDING strenuous or prolonged high intensity exercise which may impair the immune system and recommends taking a break from exercise altogether if you feel you may have come down with an illness. Letting your body divert energy to the immune system when needed.
Physical exercise is also important for strengthening the lungs, it oxygenates the cells throughout the body and has been shown to improve the health of the brain. However, be aware of where you are exercising! One study I came across showed that the air quality on a busy road meant levels of nitrogen oxide inhaled by pedestrians and motorists was the equivalent of smoking 4 cigarettes per minute!! In this case, going for a run in the central city at rush hour would be more detrimental to your lungs, immune system and overall health than any benefits the exercise might have. So never exercise on busy roads or near traffic if you can help it. If you’re starting out with exercise make sure you take it easy and if you need any help or recommendations get in touch. I’m available for 1- 1 yoga sessions both in person and via zoom if you’d like to set some goals and see some improvement and I specialise in making routines work for clients with injuries.
A healthy immune system begins with a healthy diet containing optimal levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Poor nutrition, stress, inadequate rest, and exposure to other environmental stressors can all lead to weakened defenses and other factors that can compromise health. Unfortunately, processed foods are a common go to for busy families which can be detrimental. The dōTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack® is formulated to provide nutritional support for healthy immune function. Alpha CRS+® provides powerful antioxidant and immune support through a potent blend of polyphenols and the carotenoids lutein and lycopene. xEO Mega® and vEO Mega® are formulated with immune supporting essential fatty acids, astaxanthin, PLUS they include and a proprietary blend of essential oils including Clove Bud, Frankincense, and Thyme (some of which we’ve already talked about). Microplex VMz® is a balanced formula of essential vitamins and chelated minerals that include immune-supporting nutrients; vitamins A, C, E, and B6; and the mineral Zinc. I also offer 12 nutrition programmes through Taste Success if you would like support in starting a wholefood diet that is family friendly and easy to prepare.
Lastly, my favourite essential oil blend for supporting our immunity is Doterra’s On Guard blend. It is very similar to Thieves oil. Historically the story goes that during the bubonic plague in 14th century Europe. Four thieves went from house to house robbing those who had succumbed to the illness. Once captured, the judge asked the four thieves how they were able to rob the dead and dying and not be afflicted with this terrible disease. The thieves claimed that they wore masks containing this blend that kept them from contracting the plague. Research has supported that the diffusion of this blend can significantly reduce the number of aerosol borne (in air droplets) bacteria. Other research has found that this blend has significantly modulated immune response and the cell cycle in human cells. This is why I choose to use On Guard daily to support my family’s immune response and would not be without this blend!
However you choose to support your family’s immune health, I hope this article has highlighted a few areas that you can focus on. Choosing to support your health in a holistic way alongside traditional medical practices is a great way to start. Focussing on sleep, stress, hydration, nutrition and exercise are amazing all-round health boosters an can provide a strong base for future longevity. Of course, please consult your doctor or health practitioner if you are sick and need more targeted support. Also feel free to contact me for further information