This article on 10 natural ways to support a healthy immune system is the final part of a series on alternative medicines and remedies. These are 10 natural ways through diet, lifestyle or by complementary medicine to treat or prevent illness and to boost the immune system. As with any articles on BrightonYourHealth blog, please note my disclaimer: do not accept my health advice as a substitute for seeking conventional medical treatment. You can read other articles in the series in this concluding article here:
Tips to Support a Healthy Immune System are Based on a Healthy Lifestyle
As a write this we are in the midst of a cold and grey winter. January is a prime risk period for getting sick. It may just be a small sore throat, a cold or a stomach flu. Or it could be worse: Bronchitis, Influenza, Pneumonia.
When I meet someone who is sick or feeling unwell I tell them, “Your body is talking to you.”
And most of the time they understand and agree. “Yes, you are right, by body is yelling at me!”
Maybe your body is telling you to slow down and sleep more. Or to eat healthier. Or watch your stress level. Or maybe mentally, it has been a long track of feeling the blues. Our body can handle short periods of physical and/or mental stress. But then it can’t take it anymore and it screams at us. And it breaks down. And we get sick and feel exhausted. But like a car, we can tune up our body, pump up our immune system and have the most chance to avoid getting sick and even feel good.
Here is a summary and conclusion from this series of my favorite health tips that I use all year round both for me and my family:
Ways To Support a Healthy Immune System:
#1 Probiotics, Kefir and Real Yogurt
Our digestive track (otherwise known as our ‘gut’) is considered our body’s second brain. The intestinal system is the only organ in our body set up with its own nervous system and decision-making sensors that are independent of the brain. But it is the intestinal flora, the bacteria and home environment inside the gut, that control intestinal functions. When our flora is unbalanced or destroyed, this negatively affects our immune system. There is a delicate balance in the gut and many factors can thrown it off: antibiotics, a bad stomach flu (called gastroenteritis), allergies, a poor diet, or illness. To get our intestinal flora back in shape and/or to maintain good gut health I recommend a daily dose of real yogurt (what is real yogurt? see below) or kefir. In times of a gut ‘crisis’ (antibiotics or gastroenteritis) I add about a three-week healthy dose of probiotics to the diet, either in a powdered form or by taking a morning and evening cup of fermented yogurt, kefir or dose of Actimel or Actimel store brand substitute.
Real yogurt: look for natural yogurts (unsweetened with some fat in them) that are fermented with bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Sometimes these bacteria are listed on the label or just in the ingredients. The Greek yogurt I buy here in France uses these bacteria to ferment the yogurt, but it isn’t listed clearly. If you have doubt, check with manufacturer or buy a yogurt that you know is ‘real.’ Avoid buying the over-processed sugared flavored yogurts.
Kefir: This is a fermented milk like drink that isn’t classified as a yogurt, but has probiotic bacteria.
#2 Chicken Soup and other Old-Fashioned Recipes and Tricks from Grandma
I grew up with my Grandma making her chicken soup for us. And then my mom cooked Grandma’s recipe too, especially when we were sick. Now I do the same. During the winter I make my Grandma’s soup recipe and if one of my kids get sick, off to cook up another pot. It is our medicine. Chicken soup supposedly has medicinal properties, whether it comes from drinking the broth to stay hydrated, from the iron and protein in the chicken to fight infection, or the vitamins from the vegetables; all I know is that it works!
Here is my Grandmother’s chicken soup recipe, but I have added lemon juice, extra garlic and lots of parsley to it for an extra immune boost.
Immune Boosting Chicken Soup Recipe (from my Grammie)
Then there are the old-fashioned remedies that come from another liquid gold called honey and other bee products. I use honey as a cure-all for many things including sore throats and helping with wound healing (Manuka honey article), but also as a strong immune system booster. Here is an article from the series to read:
These are not the only old-fashioned remedies that work. Do you have one that you use passed down from generation to generation? Let us know what it is!
#3 Good Quality Sleep
How many of us truly get all the sleep we need? How about you? Getting enough sleep, and really good quality sleep is one of the most important ways to keep your immune system strong and ready to fight against illness. Don’t skip sleep on a regular basis, because you will be catching up on your sleep when you get sick. You will be forced to.
#4 Natural Light
The winter season has less daily sunlight hours than any other period of the year. We feel better in the summer months, moving around outside, getting natural light. It is challenging in a busy life trying to get a daily dose of natural light, but getting outside everyday, for a long half-hour (or even a short 10 minutes direct in the sunlight) will help to keep an immune system in good form. Getting natural light helps with depression too. Even when the sun doesn’t want to shine, it is still up there, so do not underestimate how a daily dose of natural light can add a dose of health.
Exercise and moving your body physically not only helps the organs stay healthy, but it makes you feel good about yourself. Regular exercise helps with controlling mental stress and sleeping better at night. Keeping stress at a limit is probably the biggest factor to support a healthy immune system. I include in this exercise category yoga and Pilates, which are two sports that help with breathing and connecting with our bodies.
#6 Massage and Aromatherapy
Deep massage using aromatherapy is another way to help keep our immune systems strong. A good massage therapist knows how to manipulate your body to get rid of tight areas and help release stress in our muscles. Even a mini-massage by a friend will help to feel better, but you will have to return the favor!
Here in France, massage and aromatherapy are well-used, either together or independently. Aromatherapy is a regulated field in France, so an aromatherapist must be trained to suggest treatments and use essential oils. You can get a massage with essential oils or just use them such as adding a few drops of lavender oil to a bath. Some essential oils will help with relaxation, others with boosting our immune health.
Here are some ideas from an article in the series:
Using Essential Oils to Boost Immune Health French Style
#7 Stress Relieving Activities
As I mentioned before, stress is probably one of the leading causes of a weak immune system. Small spurts of stress are normal (and important) to the body, but when we have accumulating life stress and worries over long periods, our health is bound to suffer. By targeting certain stress relieving activities that you enjoy and using them to stay balanced, you will find yourself feeling better and getting sick less often. I mentioned yoga and Pilates, but listening to calming music, reading, cooking, laughing, spending time with people that make you feel good, dancing can all help with stress. The list is endless. Now ask yourself, what makes me feel better and how am I going to do this more?
Sometimes when you need an extra boost, you may find using Bach Flower remedies help with short bouts of emotional stress. A famous one is Rescue Remedy, but here is an article that helps explain more.
#8 Vitamin C and other Vitamins and Minerals
There are certain vitamins and minerals whose nutritional benefits are directly linked to supporting our immune system. One celebrated vitamin is vitamin C. This vitamin is found in large quantities in citrus fruits and some vegetables. A healthy diet includes 5 a Day fruits and vegetables, and in the winter months, 2 fruits a day should contain a high dose of vitamin C. An easy way to do that is to eat raw citrus fruits, which contain vitamin C.
There are other alternative medicines available that have other nutritional benefits known to help immunity. These are called oligotherapy, or trace element remedies. Here is an article from the series on what they are and where you can find them.
#9 Hydration with Lemon Water, Teas
We think of hydration, or getting enough water, in the summer months when it is hot. But getting adequate hydration is something important to do year-round. Hydration helps with flushing out toxins and to with the body’s normal physiological processes. I drink lemon water for the taste and to add more fresh vitamin C to my diet. There are herbal teas that also help with sleep, stress and our immune system. Here are the reasons to stay hydrated and why to add lemon to your next water bottle:
#10 Treating the Body, not the Illness
Finally the last way to boost the immune system is probably the most delicate way. Why? Because this way, looking at the body and not the illness is something that requires thought and introspection. This natural way is something we cannot rely on doctors or other health professionals to answer for us. It means looking under the illness and asking ourselves, “Why am I sick? Why is my body yelling at me?” and “What can I do to get healthy and stay healthy?”
There are health professionals available who can guide our introspection to find the answers we need. These types of alternative health professionals, such as homeopathic practitioners, chiropractors, and naturopaths, treat the body as a whole. Homeopathic practitioners, in particular, believe in treating the body and not the illness, and homeopathic remedies are the basis of this therapy. Here are two articles from the series for more information:
Final thoughts on our health and immune system
These 10 natural ways to boost an immune system are really structured and supported around balance. The balance of mental and physical health, balance of reducing one’s stress through exercise, activity and sleep. The balance of eating healthy and fresh foods and keeping hydrated.
When we push our bodies a bit too far, a healthy immune system can handle this. But keep pushing and our health will break down. Luckily we have other ways to support our immunity with old-fashioned remedies, homeopathy, massage, aromatherapy, bee products, probiotics and grandma’s chicken soup!
Hope you enjoyed this series on alternative and natural ways to stay healthy. I would greatly appreciate you sharing any of the articles to those who may benefit from the information.
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