The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that protects your body from pathogens. This time of year, you'll hear a lot about it! Think of it as a personal shield. Its job is to protect you from harmful organisms and toxins that can have a negative effect on your health.
Your immune system is made up of two parts. One is your innate immune system, which protects you against infections and helps wounds heal, like cuts and bruises. The other is your adaptive immune system, which adapts to protect you from viruses like the flu.
When your immune system is supported, its two components work together in harmony to protect you from illness. But, like any system, it can be compromised. Some people are born with weak immune systems. Some are also born with unregulated or overactive immune systems. Even if you start out with a perfectly healthy immune system, factors such as disease, allergies, and poor nutrition can weaken or damage your immune system. This can cause your immune system to actually attack the body it is supposed to protect — leading to undesired health conditions.
How the Immune System Works
White blood cells, aka leukocytes, are the foot soldiers of your immune system. They’re the ones that fight viruses, bacteria, and other harmful organisms. These white blood cells, along with red blood cells, form in your bone marrow. Once formed, they enter the lymphatic system, one of the major components of the immune system and part of your circulatory system, to help it deter disease.
Along the way, these cells receive help from lymphatic organs like the tonsils and thymus. These organs supply antibodies, the special forces of your immune system that target viruses. Your immune system works constantly to prevent a host of invaders from doing damage. It does this by capturing these organisms and isolating them before they are able to infect other parts of your body. The spleen, located in the upper left region of the abdomen, helps filter unwelcome organisms from the blood for removal from your body, as well as dead or damaged red and white blood cells.
Immune System Disorders
Sometimes the body's immune system develops issues that prevent it from working properly. There are three types of major immune system disorders:
In autoimmune conditions, the immune system attacks the healthy tissue it’s supposed to protect. Currently, there are more than 80 known types of autoimmune diseases. The most well known examples are type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. For anyone with these diseases, the best approach today is to work with your natural physician and nutritionist to formulate a plan of action. The connection between nutrition and immune health is still being researched, but we do know that vitamins like A, B2, B6, C, and D play an integral role in how your immune system works. Minerals like selenium and zinc are also important.
Immunodeficiencies occur when the immune system’s ability to fight harmful organisms or diseases is weakened. Your body may not produce enough white blood cells and white blood cell levels may be low or not functioning normally. If you’re not careful and don’t protect yourself, you can develop this condition. Exposure to cigarette smoke, pesticides, toxic metals like arsenic, PCBs, and other common pollutants like toluene from nail polish can slow or weaken your immune system.
Environmental toxins are especially dangerous because they easily attach themselves to hormones and other important molecules in your cells and require a lot of energy to remove. On top of that, they prevent vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from doing their job. When this happens, your cells don’t get the nutrition they need and they may slow down or die.
A weak immune system is a real concern for people as they get older. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and the natural changes associated with aging can disrupt how well the immune system works. All these factors increase the risk of developing a weakened immune system and infections.
3. Hypersensitive or Over-Reactive Immune System
Researchers continue to study the triggers for an overly aggressive immune system. In this condition, when immune cells encounter a harmless allergen or a substance that needs to be removed, they attach an immune cell called a mast cell to the invader, causing an unnecessary immune response. A response like this damages tissue and organs and can lead to serious diseases. In some cases, it could be pet dander, residual pesticide on an apple, or exposure to chemicals in latex or plastic. Sensitivity to gluten is another example.
4 Ways to Naturally Support Your Immune System
The immune system fights an abundance of harmful organisms and toxic chemicals found in food, water, and air. And, it needs proper support in order to function its best. Here are four ways to support and boost your immune system.
1. Follow a Healthy Diet
Some foods steal energy and destroy your immune system. Foods to avoid include processed foods and those with unnatural chemicals like added flavorings, refined sugars, and neurotoxins like MSG. Avoid soda, which is one of the top five foods that destroy your immune system.
Instead, look for organic fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, B vitamins and vitamins A, C, and D. Some excellent choices are blueberries, garlic, kale, broccoli, spinach, lemons, eggplant, pomegranate, and avocado. For fruits and vegetables, it’s important to buy organic. If organic isn’t feasible or available, give your fruits and veggies a good scrub to eliminate removable residue. Raw, vegan foods are ideal, but if you do choose a vegan lifestyle, make sure to include extra B12 in your diet.
Like it or not, exercise is one of the best methods to boost immune system vitality. It improves your overall health, increases oxygen intake and lung capacity, and gets your metabolism going. On top of that, it promotes a healthy heart and good circulation. Find the best exercise routine for your lifestyle; keep in mind that consistency is a must.
3. Manage Your Stress
Stress does more than make you anxious or angry. It also aggravates your immune system and increases inflammation, redness, and swelling in your body. Look for ways to reduce stress at home and at work. One way to avoid stress is by not holding onto concerns. Get it out, talk to someone who will listen. Meditation is another great way to manage stress and can help you reach mind and body harmony and mental discipline.
4. Nutritional Support
Today, even natural foods do not provide all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we need. Overfarming, herbicides, and pesticides have drained much of the nutrient content from the land. As organic farming picks up, nutrients will return, but it will take time. Even before the soil was depleted of nutrients, alternative health practitioners recognized that specific herbs and tonics can supplement the diet and support the immune system, especially as you grow older. Here are a few of the best.
Traditional medicines have used Echinacea for centuries and research indicates it supports a healthy immune response and helps fight off colds and flu.
Oregano oil has super-powers for resisting harmful organisms of multiple kinds. Not only that, oregano oil reduces systemic redness and swelling in the body and acts as a strong antioxidant, among other health benefits.
Several types of ginseng support the immune system and provide energy. Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) can powerfully deter proliferating cells and protect against harmful diseases. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Indian ginseng or Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) are adaptogens that protect the body against stress. GinsengFuzion® combines these three, plus additional herbs, for superior immune system support.
High in vitamin C, lemon is one of the most potent fruits you can consume to counteract illness. Try the juice of one-half lemon in a cup of warm water every morning to encourage good health.
People who eat garlic regularly have fewer colds than those who don’t.
Friendly bacteria, aka probiotics, help keep harmful organisms from taking hold. Two of the best strains are Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Other Ways to Support Your Immune System
These six aren’t the only natural substances that help with immune support. In recent years, researchers have taken special interest in aloe vera. Some aloe species contain two powerful substances that help the immune system — acemannan and aloctin A. The active components in aloe vera fight harmful organisms and have antioxidant effects that protect cells from damage.[2, 4]
Global Healing's Aloe Vera contains the highest quality, most bio-available, most immunomodulatory, and simply the most acemannan of any aloe vera product available. An immunomodulator is a substance that helps regulate the immune system. It’s useful in situations where the immune system is "overactive" and inconsistent.
Protect Yourself - 5 Natural Ways to Boost Immunity TODAY!
Length: 9 minutes
Embrace Healthy Living
At Global Healing, we believe in a complete approach to health. This includes making good dietary choices, regular exercise, regular cleansing, and nutritional supplementation where needed to help your body function normally.
When it comes to diet, choose raw, organic fruits and vegetables, and avoid saturated fats. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep, at least seven hours a night — eight is better.
If you choose to drink, do so moderately. Don’t smoke. Having said that, here’s what you absolutely must do…spend time with friends, laugh, take time to relax and do activities you enjoy, and make your home a clean, calming place to live.
- MedinePlus. Autoimmune Diseases.
- Winans B, Humble MC, Lawrence BP. Environmental toxicants and the developing immune system: a missing link in the global battle against infectious disease? Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, NY). 2011;31(3):327-336.
- MedlinePlus. Aging changes in immunity.
- Bany J1, Siwicki AK, Zdanowska D, Sokolnicka I, Skopińska-Rózewska E, Kowalczyk M. Echinacea purpurea stimulates cellular immunity and anti-bacterial defence independently of the strain of mice. Pol J Vet Sci. 2003;6(3 Suppl):3-5.
- Nayely Leyva-López, et al. Essential oils of oregano: biological activity beyond their antimicrobial properties. Molecules. 2017 Jun;22(6):989.
- Wee JJ, et al. Biological activities of ginseng and its application to human health. Ch. 8 In Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton, FL:CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.
- Elizabeth Lissiman, Alice L Bhasale, Marc Cohen. Garlic for the common cold.
- Valentina Taverniti, Simone Guglielmetti. Health-Promoting Properties of Lactobacillus helveticus.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.