Health Watch

Support your immune system

EchinaceaDoes the thought of coming down with the flu make you feel vulnerable and anxious?  Do you want to protect yourself and your loved ones?  Good news!  By supporting your immune system as well as taking reasonable precautions, you can reduce your chances of getting flu, colds and other infections.
Do you have the impression that viruses, bacteria and other nasty germs are out there, waiting to jump on anybody at random and that it is just bad luck if you are the victim? An element of luck may be involved but if you take a few simple steps, you may just improve your resistance to infections.

Living sensibly
There is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle, good food and sufficient rest.  When you burn the candle at both ends, you deplete your immune system and become more open to infections of all types.  If you think you don’t have time to look after yourself properly, you could find that you DO have to make time to be sick! Nothing can take the place of healthy food,  regular rest and relaxation.  Supplements and herbal remedies will not necessarily prevent the consequences of unhealthy eating or lifestyle choices!

Nutrition
Every cell in your body, including your immune system in made of what you eat, drink and breathe. If you are short of a nutrient (and most people are), your body cannot function at peak efficiency.  Therefore, one of the most basic things you can do for your immune system, after eating healthy food, is to take a medium strength multivitamin once a day, extra vitamin C twice a day and extra Vitamin D.  The Vitamin D Council (www.vitamindcouncil.org) recommends the following intake of vitamin D per day:

  • 1000 iu for healthy children under 1 year of age
  • 1000 iu per 25 pounds body weight for children over 1
  • At least 5000 iu for healthy adults and adolescents
  • At least 6000 iu for pregnant and lactating women

Should you be fortunate enough to take a sunshine holiday, be sure to get twenty minutes per day of sun without sunscreen  on  as much of your body as possible before covering up or applying sunscreen.

Hygiene
Simply washing your hands regularly with ordinary soap and warm water is one of the most powerful things you can do to prevent the spread of infections. Afterwards you can follow up with aloe vera gel to which you have added some pure essential oils.  Good choices that are gentle on the skin are German Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, Tea Tree and Ravensara.  You can add a total of ten drops of essential oil to each teaspoon (5 ml) of aloe vera gel.
If someone in your household is ill, extra attention to hygiene is in order, and this is where Grapefruit Seed Extract (Citricidal) comes into its own. For wiping down hard surfaces, add ten drops of Citricidal to 250 ml water or spray cleaner.  You can also add a teaspoon (5 ml) to a load of laundry, particularly towels, sheets, pyjamas and anything from the sick room.

Herbal immune system support
Lots of people now think of Echinacea automatically for supporting the immune system, and indeed it is one of the most tried, tested and researched herbal remedies in the world. The most efficient way of taking Echinacea is as a tincture, but  tablets are also available.
Lots of other herbs can also support your immune system, so you could consider changing herbal remedies regularly, because different herbs benefit your immune system in different ways.  You could also choose herbs that also address other health problems to get double benefit.
For example, if you are managing your blood pressure and/or cholesterol without drugs, Garlic tablets or Olive Leaf Complex may help these problems while also supporting your immune system.
If you have a tendency to fungal problems such as thrush, athlete’s foot, dandruff or nail infections, then Grapefruit Seed Extract is a good choice, starting with a small amount, and gradually increasing the dosage.  Other alternatives would be Wild Oregano Oil or Garlic capsules.
If you also need to boost  your energy, particularly mental energy, then Siberian Ginseng or Astragalus would be good choices (but only provided you are eating properly and getting enough rest!)
Black Elderberry extract has antiviral properties that we have found helpful to people prone to viral infections such as cold sores, warts and shingles.

Help from the Bees
Honey and Propolis have a long history of use for the immune system. Propolis is made by bees from tree resins to seal the hive against diseases, and can have similar benefits for humans. It may be taken on its own or in combination with honey and herbs in an elixir.
Manuka honey from New Zealand has made news in recent times because of its unique antibacterial and other healing properties.  It is graded according to how much Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) it contains, starting at 5. The higher the number, the stronger its effect.  Look for the UMF symbol to make sure that you are buying the real thing with all its therapeutic properties.  The best way to use Manuka honey is to take it on its own, a half to one teaspoon one or more times per day.  Mixing it with food may interfere with its effects.

Aromatherapy
If you don’t fancy taking herbal remedies, (or even if you do) then essential oils have much to offer.  Many essential oils have anti-viral properties, so do choose ones you enjoy.  The “heavy artillery” in antiviral oils includes Cinnamon, Clove, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Lemongrass, Rosemary and Thyme.  You can use a vaporiser or put drops of oil on a tissue over a radiator or other heat source.  Another handy way to use immune-supporting essential oils on the body is to mix them with aloe vera gel and apply it to the feet, using up to a total of ten drops of essential oil for each teaspoon (5 ml) of aloe vera gel.  Since the skin on the feet is tougher than other parts of the body, they are less prone to irritation, but even so, start with smaller amounts of essential oil and increase gradually. You don’t have to have a full body massage to benefit from aromatherapy.

Probiotics
Antibiotics, sugar and stress, among other things interfere with the health of the gut bacteria, which is an essential part of the immune system, so minding them makes a lot of sense.  You can do this by using a probiotic tablet, capsule or powder, Molkosan or Molkosan Vitality.  These products contain higher amounts of probiotics than widely advertised probiotic drinks and also allow you to avoid the very high levels of sugar they contain.  Should you be unfortunate enough to take an antibiotic, you should always include a probiotic designed specifically for this purpose and follow it with a probiotic specifically for the immune system.

Travelling
The stress of travelling combined with being at close quarters with large numbers of people results in extra pressure on your immune system. In addition to your usual immune system support, regular use of Echinacea, Propolis or Elderberry Throat Spray makes sense as an extra preventative measure.

Last modified January 12, 2013