We have discussed the importance of avoiding GMOs and eating organic foods on many of our shows. This week, I have invited David Armstrong, M.Ac. (Acupuncturist), of Listening Heart Medicines to co-author this article with me on the importance of building a healthy immune system. This is an extremely broad topic and we will be discussing some of the key points we feel are most important in building or maintaining a strong immune system.
It is important to have a healthy immune system because we are continuously challenged with and an onslaught of viruses, carcinogens, toxins, bacteria, and microbes, not only in our food, but in our air, water and environment. These pollutants lower our resistance to disease and make us more susceptible to creating or continuing disease. Right now is an excellent time to increase your immune system and increase your immunity against the many viruses that you may be exposed to during the fall and winter months.
A good place to start in creating a strong immune system is in eating a diet that is free of GMOs, chemicals and dangerous pesticides. It is beneficial to avoid or eliminate all processed foods and buy organic fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats. Be cautious when buying dairy products as many have added hormones and antibiotics. Further, if the product is from a conventionally raised animal, it more than likely contains GMOs because of what it is fed. Look for organic dairy products, raw milk and/or raw milk cheeses if your body can tolerate dairy. It’s important to eat local as much as possible and to know your food source. We recommend calling companies and asking questions about their products. We live in a world where you need to be your own food advocate and ask questions.
Hydration is essential in creating a healthy immune system. That being said, the quality of your drinking water is of utmost importance. A few options for quality water include well water (which you can have tested), distilled water and water filtered by reverse osmosis. You may need to add trace minerals to reverse osmosis and distilled water. Trace mineral drops can be purchased at many health food stores. Hydration supports your cells in utilizing nutrients and clearing waste products. In order to have your organs function properly, they need adequate hydration. The primary job of the large intestine is to absorb water and minerals. If you do not drink enough water you will have stress in your large intestine and likely have constipation and difficulty with elimination; this will decrease your immunity.
Stress is one of the factors that lowers your immune system. Deep breathing and relaxation, along with meditation, are wonderful for stress reduction. One way of breathing that we find beneficial is called balanced breathing or equalized breathing–inhaling and exhaling for the same amount of time. For example, breathe in to the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 4. Deep breathing also increases the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids. The increase in circulation of the blood helps get oxygen to all of the tissues, including the brain. The increase in circulation of the lymphatic fluid helps the lymphatic system more thoroughly filter toxins out of the blood.
The lymphatic system is composed of vessels, capillaries, lymph nodes and lymphatic fluid. The lymph system draws fluid in from the blood to filter out toxins, viruses, and bacteria. The lymph nodes act as processing stations that break down these toxins, viruses, and bacteria, which are then eliminated from the body. The lymphatic system also has specialized structures in the intestines called lacteals that absorb fat. Since the lymphatic system filters the blood, it is important that it has clear fluid that flows easily through its vessels. Therefore, to have the lymphatic system work well, we need to eat fats that are easily digestible and easily absorbed through the lymphatic lacteals.
Fats that are in their natural state such as in olive oil, grape seed oil and flax oil are a few that work well with the lymphatic system. We suggest that you research your olive oil, as much of the olive oil sold in mainstream grocery stores is not truly 100% extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is not regulated by the FDA and therefore there is much fraud in the making of olive oil. To find out more about true extra virgin olive oil, listen to Food Integrity Now’s interview with Tom Mueller, author of “Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.” To learn more about your olive oil, listen here. Coconut oil also has many health benefits. Coconut oil promotes your heart health, supports your immune system, and supports the proper functioning of your thyroid gland. There are other benefits to using coconut oil that you can research on the internet. Some people cannot tolerate coconut oil–so you have to decide which oil works for you.
Another way to assist your lymphatic system is through exercise. One of the best exercises to move lymphatic fluid is bouncing on an exercise ball or on a miniature or full size trampoline. Another way to assist the lymphatic system is to brush your skin with a dry, soft bristle body brush. Use the brush on your dry skin and brush every part of your skin toward your intestines.
Speaking of exercise–moving your body and having an exercise routine is another key factor in building your immune system. Find a way to exercise that works for you, whether it be walking, jogging, lifting weights, swimming, yoga, or Tai Chi to name just a few. We are all individuals and what works for one may not work for another. It could be that just taking a daily walk in nature is all you need. Start out slowly and make sure you do something you enjoy!
There are many vitamins and food supplements on the market. Taking supplements can be beneficial in creating and maintaining a healthy immune system. We recommend that you find someone who is knowledgeable about vitamins and see what works best for you. One product that we feel has much value is spirulina. Spirulina is actually a whole food supplement. We like BioLumina Spirulina. It has been scientifically proven that you can live on this product alone. It has much nutritional value and can assist in strengthening the immune system. To find out more about this product and whether it is right for you, click here.
In addition to your physical immune system, you have a mental immune system and an emotional immune system. Even if you are eating a nutrient-dense diet, your immune system can be compromised by unhealthy thoughts and emotions. It is important to be aware of your thought processes. It is beneficial to focus on what you want rather than focusing on what you do not want. Your thoughts influence your immune system, and positive thoughts can have a beneficial effect on your immune system. While the mental immune system is very important, equally important is the emotional immune system. Understanding your emotions and expressing them in a respectful way can assist your immune system–whereas unexpressed emotions can adversely affect your immune system. It’s important to “clean out the closet” of toxic thoughts and emotions. For example, if you have unresolved anger issues that you are not willing to look at, it’s almost a guarantee that this anger will eventually turn into disease if it is not dealt with and released. It is valuable to have people in your life that support you in expressing your emotions in healthy ways. If you need assistance, find someone you trust to talk with or seek assistance from a professional.
Another key factor to having a healthy immune system is to do what you love to do. If you have a job that you dislike or a life that doesn’t make you feel joyful, you will have problems sooner or later with a depleted immune system. Understand what it is you love to do and do it. Enjoy your life and celebrate it by doing something new and different every day.
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Carol Grieve’ is a Certified Life Coach and Health and Wellness Coach and the host of Food Integrity Now. For more information on emotional or health-related issues or for food and wellness coaching, contact Carol at email@example.com or call 415-302-7100.
David Armstrong is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, licensed massage therapist, and Tai Yi Practitioner. For more information about David, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Listening Heart Medicines at 719-684-3909.