Not to be dramatic or anything, but waking up sick with a cold or flu is possibly one of the few things I genuinely hate about being alive. As if winter didn’t suck enough already.
So naturally, I care a lot about my immune system, because I prefer not to be full of hate.
Now, when it comes to “boosting your immune system”, it’s a phrase that has been misused for years in crappy ass marketing campaigns from sketchy companies trying to sell plastic capsules with cheap tea powder, claiming it’ll cure anything.
But when we’re talking about actually ensuring your immune system is performing at its optimal efficiency, thereby decreasing the chance of ending up sick, the natural route is always best.
First of all, when we’re talking about the immune system, we’re generally referring to your “immune response”. It’s basically the process where your body’s defense mechanisms actively recognize bacteria that is invading your body and privacy, and responds with a protective process by releasing antibodies.
Basically, no pill or ancient tea is going to make much of a difference to this process, it’s just a whole lot bigger than that. It’s literally – and I know we all hate hearing this – about maintaining the right lifestyle for a prolonged amount of time.
Harsh, I know.
Honestly, I wish there was a pill.
Here are the main steps to ensuring an efficient immune response, so that you can actually get through the rest of the season without hating your life.
Despite what marketing companies say, nothing will ever measure up to the value of phytonutrients. Basically it’s chemicals produced by plants that are so complex that they cannot be replicated in pills.
The whole point of phytonutrients is that they fuel your body to repair DNA damage from toxin exposure, detoxify carcinogens, strengthen your immune system, and generally keep your body at a health level where it can deal with most issues that come up.
Getting an adequate amount of phytonutrients really isn’t that complicated either, as it’s in pretty much any natural plant based food you can think of.
Anything from simple bananas, to medicinal mushrooms and Asian ginseng – it’s all going to strengthen your immune system and keep your body free of infections.
I recommend reading this book called Eat To Live, which is absolutely amazing, where the author breaks the whole situation down into a simple formula you can use.
The more nutrients and less calories, the healthier.
#2 Stress: Cortisol, Adrenaline and Stimulants
Some experts have even said that stress can be responsible for up to 90% of all illnesses and diseases out there, and honestly, I don’t find that hard to believe at all.
Let’s short run through of why stress is bad for you.
Basically, the definition of stress is when the body produces more chemicals than normal, and this often relates to Cortisol (stress hormone).
So when your body is put into a stress reaction, it will release high levels of Cortisol and Adrenaline, putting you into a state of extreme alertness while you prepare to either fight or flight. In this state, naturally, your body will prioritize the danger over everything else, and therefore shut down your digestion, immune system, healing, toxin removal, etc.
Now, the huge problem with this, is that we rarely have a specific situation to fight off anymore. So instead of fighting off deers or gekkos or whatever we did back in the day, we’re now put into a constant, long term state of stress due to student loans, rent, and unfulfilling jobs.
So now we’re spending days, weeks, months at a time with our immune system and digestion put on “pause” and without any chance of getting away from this perceived danger, which obviously makes us even more stressed and vulnerable.
Obviously maintaining low levels of stress is not something we seem to have control over, but certain things are known to increase cortisol levels, like alcohol, caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and basically any other stimulant you can think of.
On the other hand, exercise, meditation and creative projects are known to reduce cortisol levels, and giving your body a chance to restart its immune system again.
This may come as a surprise, but a huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract. So maintaining a healthy digestion is pretty crucial to stay healthy.
This goes beyond just maintaining low stress levels, as it’s also important to maintain a healthy amount of bacteria as well as PH balance, as this allows your body to absorb the phytonutrients you’re consuming.
Oh, and “good” bacteria also fights infections, so let’s be a bit more appreciative here.
When it comes to digestion it’s extremely individual, as everyone seems to have some kind of intolerance these days, but generally try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, acidic foods (no not citrus, the other “acidic”), and honestly, just anything in excess.
Even avocados can fuck you up if you have too many.
#4 Refresh Once In A While
There are many ways of giving your immune system some much needed time to restore itself, one of my favorite ways being Juice Cleansing.
If you want to take it one step further there’s also the Celery Juice Challenge that has been going on for the past year, which will definitely get the job done.