At a time when we are receiving the coronavirus death toll on the daily, I thought I’d chime in with some of what I know about strengthening the immune system. If you are interested in epidemics and the current coronavirus situation, here is a blog by a widely respected and well-seasoned naturopathic doctor, homeopath, author, and epidemiologist – Dr. Paul Herscu.
What I want to focus on here are:
- some tips for supporting a resilient and balanced immune system
- how to best take care of yourself in the early stages of infection in order to minimize symptoms
- the connection between our immune system and our (energetic/interpersonal) boundaries
Supporting a resilient immune boundary
The first place to begin with building a healthy immune response is making sure you are getting quality rest. This cannot be sacrificed – our bodies do very important repair work while we are asleep. Did you know that every hour before midnight is worth 2 hours? We produce twice a much melatonin before midnight, so getting to bed even just a half and hour earlier will be replenishing for your immune system.
Stress management is next – stress depletes the immune system like no other. You may be able to power through busy work periods but have you noticed that when you you have time and space, ‘bam’ you catch a cold. Time to consider some helpful stress easing routines – a ‘go to’ fave of mine is legs up the wall for 15-20 min before bed time – it is really great for discharging tension and restoring the adrenals after a busy day. I fall into a deeper sleep much more easily when I take the time to do this.
Last but certainly not least is nutrition. Get off that sugar, as it dramatically lowers your white blood cell count…dairy is next, it is inflammatory and congests the mucous membranes – which are our first line of defense. Make sure you are eating abundant vegetables and smattering of fruit daily. Consider a whole foods nutritional product to make up for what you don’t get in your diet. We are ‘supposed’ to get up to 13 servings daily.
How to take care in the early stages of an infection
Are you very aware of when you are run down? Are you familiar with your body’s signs that you are fighting off an infection? Becoming clued into your physical sensations and respecting your body’s limits – i.e. not ‘overriding’ your body, will go a very long way in keeping you well during the winter. It is commonly the type A individual that works very hard and burns the candle at both that ‘misses’ the early signs.
The first 48 hrs are the critical window of any illness, so it’s a huge benefit to be able to recognize your body’s early warning signs – no matter how subtle they are. I had an extremely busy and stressful January working my butt off on some legislation for the licensing of NDs in VA – and I got extremely run down as a result. I took a long epsom salt bath and allowed myself to just sleep as long as I needed and it turned into an 11 hr night, I also took oscillococcinum and elderberry syrup. I still needed to rest from all the work, but the virus was not longer a threat.
The more tapped into your body, the better chance you have at minimizing the severity of an infection. These early signs can include: feeling heavy and lethargic, tight neck, sneezing, inner ear itch, difficulty with temperature regulation, dry or scratchy throat. Begin to take note of these first signs as these are the time to implement my favorite cold and flu- busting strategies: oscillococcinum, v-clear (or umcka cold care), warming sock treatment and elderberries. Other powerful tips – hydrogen peroxide drops in the ears (viruses often transmit via ear canal), staying warm and using essential oils for steam showers and inhalations.
Our immune system’s connection to our (energetic/interpersonal) boundaries
Did you know that your immune system – like your gut and your skin, is a type of boundary. What is the purpose of a boundary? To keep what is nourishing and supportive inside and to protect against what is noxious or potentially harmful from entering. This function requires a certain degree of clarity, resilience and balance. An over-active immune system can lead to allergies, auto-immune issues, increased sensitivities to foods as well as environmental toxicity.
Our bodies are 90% energy and 10% physical substance – and thus there is a link between the balance of our energetic boundaries and the health of our immune, GI and skin boundaries ( a key hermetic principle is: ‘As above, so below’). The question then begs to be asked – how are your energetic (or interpersonal) boundaries in general? Are you ok with saying ‘NO’ to people or setting limits? Or do you over-give and then regret/resent it in the end? How good are you at a) recognizing and b) honoring your body’s cries for rest and downtime?
In my practice it is common that I see an unresolved lung infection has its energetic underpinnings in an unresolved interaction where something went unsaid and something was ‘swallowed’ or unprocessed. This gives the body the message ‘my needs don’t matter’ and it actually weakens our immune response – a virus that our immune system had been fighting successfully just got the opening to enter.
In addition honoring your body’s clues for rest and when it may need some immune boosting supplements, begin to pay attention to where your personal/energetic boundaries lie and speak up to defend them – this will translate to a more resilient immune response!