Cold’s and Flu You Got Nothin’ on Me! I’m Immuno Savvy (and you can be too!)

Getting Immuno Savvy Part One

An Alternative Point of View - Guest Post by Autumn Bear

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There is all sorts of information that we read on a consistent basis that talks about the best way to “Boost Your Immune System”.  There are labels on all sorts of our foods that claim their ability to be “Immune Boosting” or that they have antioxidants to keep the immune system healthy. The reality, however, is that most of us don’t really know too much about how the immune system works and what those labels really mean.  So lets get immuno savy and dive into all the groovy ways our body works to help keep us healthy.  The best boost to your immune system will be your boost of knowledge on how it all works!

On a cellular level there are certain little ninja’s that float around in our blood to help attack and kill various different viruses.  There are many kinds,  but our favorite little ninjas, in this case, are our T killer cells.  T killer cells are crucial in what we would consider the guards of the castle. These T-lymphocytes (T cells for short) govern cellular immunity, which means they help cells recognize and destroy invading bacteria, virus, abnormal cell growth such as cancer, and foreign tissue.  There are quite a few factors that can reduce these killers and allow us to be susceptible to invasion.  Here are some interesting tidbits about certain factors that deplete what we like to call “host resistance”:

Raising our cortisol levels is one major way to inhibit our T killer cells and reduce our immune ability to fight infection.  Sadly, the most common causes of too much cortisol production are mental stress and eating large amounts of sweets . Things such as endurance stress (which manifests as heightened cortisol levels) can reduce your immune system’s ability to fight by a significant amount.  We all know that stress has negative effects on the body and this is just one tangible way we can see that.

Malnutrition can play a very pivotal role in immune suppression, but not malnutrition in the way you think.  I am talking 1st world malnutrition!  This is about eating a poor diet with that favorite hot topic, SUGAR!!!!!  Eating sugar drops white blood cells, and it only takes 2oz (the average american eats 6oz a day) of sugar to drop your immune system for 5 hours after a meal!  2 oz!!!

As if the news I was delivering wasn’t challenging already I must also divulge that our other favorite addiction of choice, coffee, is a stimulant that can reek havoc on the immune system as well.  Coffee stimulates the release of adrenaline which also increases the release of cortisol.  Over time and many many cups later, this constant state of elevated cortisol causes the thymus to shrink which then is unable to produces the T cells that contribute to the very healthy and effervescent immune system that you need.

As most of us are looking for ways to boost the immune system in natural ways one of the common consensuses out there is that we should increase our amount of Echinacea.  Echinacea, however, is flawed for internal use and is not necessarily the BEST use for the immune system.  Echinacea it is not necessarily an immune stimulant on a large scale.  Echinacea is great for abscesses (topically),  it stimulates the immunity directly in the area that it is applied to (tablespoon of tincture every two hours).  If it is taken internally, it is a quick fix (like if it’s the day of your sister’s wedding) but then after all is over, get in bed and stay there for 3 days even if you don’t feel sick anymore.  Echinacea is not good to take on a regular basis and especially if you have an autoimmune disease. Echinacea is not a good choice for you if you are autoimmune because it could stimulate the parts of your immune system that is attacking itself.  Other than using for topical application, including it’s greatness as a mouth wash and for gums and teeth, it should be avoided taking internally.

The best thing to use to boost the immune system on a larger scale (besides lifestyle changes) and that does not provoke any sort of autoimmune response is Elderberry.  Elderberry is widely available, tastes quite good and can be taken in a variety of forms.  Elderberry is wonderful as a syrup, a tincture, in tea form, made into a juice, and elderberry honey is amazing as well! Elder itself has some lymphatic effects but we think more about the use of the berries which are more aerate.  The berries increase the immune surveillance and vigilance. The flower and berry share properties but the berries have more immune awareness and the flowers are more a diaphoretic which is great when there is a fever. The Elder berries are specifically antiviral for the flu in particular. Elder berries can break off the barb that is used on the virus to break into your cells.  Once the virus breaks into the cell it is able to multiply and proliferate leaving you in bed for a week with the fever and chills. No fun. Some literature says that 40% of people who took elderberry after the onset of a flue recovered after 2 days!

If you are looking to keep your immune system well and yielding those helper T cells then make sure you are reducing your stress, getting plenty of sleep and of course limiting your intake of caffeine and sugar.  In addition, you can add a little Elderberry tea to your daily regime.  In the case that you feel the flu coming on you can make yourself a little concoction of the following:

3/4 elderberry syrup (Honey Garden Apitherapy Organic Elderberry Syrup Extract with Propolis – 8 oz)

1/4 squeeze of boneset tincture with frequency of every hour  (You can get a boneset tincture here: Alternative Health & Herbs Remedies Boneset, 4-Ounce Bottle)

spend some time in bed!!!

Additionally, make some tea with elderberry,  rosehips,  ginger with lobelia and blue verbane (Find additional herbs here: Mountain Rose Herbs)

You can also make a mix of the elderberry, rosehips, ginger, lobelia, blue verbane, with ground ivy and red clover to work at the first sign that a coworker has the flu or a cold. Pass it around to share the wealth of a good functioning immune system!

Autumn Bear
About Autumn Bear, M.S., L.Ac, Dipl Ac

Autumn Bear has a Master's of Acupuncture Degree focused on Classical Chinese Medicine. She has a successful acupuncture practice in New York City and believes in empowering her patients to lead healthier lives through wholesome food and alternative therapies. She can be contacted through her website.

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