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How immune are you?

January 10, 2013

Multitudes are succumbing to the latest flu bug. So it feels a good time to talk some more about immunity, how a naturopath views it and what strategies can be helpful , Following on from an earlier blog extolling the virtues of chicken soup, here are some additional thoughts..

How is it that such large numbers get these bugs? Perceived wisdom looks at the ‘catching things theory’. We ‘catch’ a cold or flu from someone who has it, they sneeze on us or come in close contact, and before you know it, we go down with it. Perhaps this is true to a point, but what if this is the end of the story rather than the beginning. In other words, what happens before that contact or sneeze that can predispose us to being more susceptible?

Naturopaths look at the environment – considering it the biggest factor, the protector, with the internal environment the main defender of our health. We all know that environments in general can be healthy or not. So if our own environment is compromised, weakened, or depleted it will certainly impact our health.

Breaking that down if we’re

  • tired or run down
  • stressed
  • nutritionally in short supply (eating poorly)

our defences become overwhelmed and it makes sense that we’re more vulnerable. When we’re fatigued the body can’t repair itself properly, stress hormones interfere with immunity and of course bad eating habits deplete the nutrients important for good health.

In particular, our digestive environment is composed of lymph tissue and along with the good gut bacteria plays a huge role in protecting the immune system from being affected by the above.

What then can we do to help protect ourselves? In so many ways, it’s just common sense but common sense is always worth revisiting!

Some strategies to support the immune system

Eat wholesome, real foods as close to their natural state and as seasonally as possible

Plenty of vegetables esp. broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, shitake mushroom, onions, leeks, squash, sweet potatoes

Fruit such as satsumas, apples, pears, pomegranates

Whole grains: quinoa, barley, wild rice, oats

Lean protein esp. oily fish, organic chicken

Herbs and spices: garlic, ginger, cinnamon, thyme, oregano, parsley, rosemary

Try making ‘Not Just Chicken Soup’

Guard good gut bacteria

Practice above 80% of the time. Eating fermented foods help, such as live yogurt, cultured vegetables (more about these in a future blog), miso, tempeh as well as lentils, beans and pulses.

Drink adequate amounts of hydrating fluids

Warm water with lemon, herb teas, chai tea, ginger mulled juice

Get enough rest

Relax before bed to insure good quality sleep: read, listen to music or relaxation tracks, have a bath with an essential oil like lavender, have an herbal sleep tea or even a few spoonfuls of oatmeal

Manage stress

Exercise, meditate, walk, dance, listen to music, have a massage

Warming, satisfying and great for taking the chill away, this alcohol free beverage goes a long way to helping us feel comforted

iStock_000018167117XSmall (1)

Mulled pear and ginger 
1 litre of natural pear juice
2cm piece of ginger root, sliced
1 teaspoon (using muslin to hold loose spices will avoid need to strain later) or a teabag of mulling spices or a cinnamon stick
1/3 -1/2 litre pomegranate or cranberry juice (optional)
Slices orange or lemon (optional)

In a saucepan heat all ingredients over medium heat for a minimum of 15 minutes until flavours have infused. Serve in mugs or heat proof glasses. Top with a slice of orange or lemon.

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