Keep Your Immune System in Peak ConditionThe Great Defender: that's our immune system, uniquely designed to keep us healthy and defend against illness and infection. Made up of organs, including the skin, lungs, and gut, as well as specialized cells, the immune system's job is to remain on alert for disease-causing invaders and to protect our body against them.
Our immune system's first responders are white blood cells (WBC) that are alerted to the presence of an invader. Some WBCs seek and destroy invaders while others have a cellular memory that enables the body to remember and recognize previous invaders and help destroy them. For example, if you get chickenpox, your body develops immunity to the bacteria; if you're exposed to chickenpox again, you won't contract it.
Sometimes the cellular communication goes haywire and the immune system starts attacking healthy cells in the body. This is called an autoimmune response; it can lead to autoimmune disease of which there are many types, such as Hashimoto's. There are also conditions, such as Selective IgA Deficiency, in which some part of the immune response is lacking or not functioning properly.
Each of our immune systems is as unique as our individual family health history, our lifestyles, and the environmental conditions with which we live. Some folks seem to never get sick, while others catch every bug going around. The strength of the immune system also changes as we age. Because the immune system is our greatest defender against disease, it's critical that we keep it strong, healthy and balanced.
Holistic Ways to Boost ImmunityGet Your Zz's. Sleep regenerates the entire body. Research shows that restful and regular sleep generates the hormones that help fight infection, whereas insufficient / poor quality sleep makes us prone to infection and prolongs recovery from illness.
De-stress. Persistent stress raises the level of a hormone called cortisol in the bloodstream. Over time, this creates a cascade of physiological events that result in weakened immunity. Take time out with meditation, yoga, exercise, or some good nature therapy-a walk in nature.
Say No to Sugar. A diet high in sugar interferes with optimal immune system function. Limit your intake of all sweets. Choose organic, dark chocolate if you need to satisfy the sweet tooth.
Crazy 'bout Shrooms. With 38,000 varieties, you're bound to find a mushroom you like! They're versatile in cooking, full of nutrients, and contain compounds that research shows are important to building a strong immune system. Make mushrooms a part of your whole foods diet
For centuries, Astragalus root has been used to strengthen the blood and spleen and - over time - help maintain the strength of the immune system, building resistance to illness and disease.
While clinical research on Astragalus is in the early stages, researchers are currently examining how it may help prevent the common cold and also be useful as a complementary treatment during chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immune deficiency syndromes. Meanwhile, laboratory studies and a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine and botanical medicine indicate how Astragalus may help fortify the immune system:
Astragalus contains polysaccharides, which enhance the ability of white blood cells (instrumental in immune function) to eliminate foreign substances from the body.
Saponins found in Astragalus are known to protect the liver and stimulate the release of cytokines, chemical messengers in the immune system.
With its antioxidant properties, Astragalus facilitates the breakdown of free radicals, thus reducing free radical damage in the blood system.
Astragalus supports the liver, which plays an important role in detoxification.
Astragalus is native to the temperate areas of the Northern hemisphere. It takes a full two years of growth before the plant develops roots sufficient for harvesting their medicinal properties. Supplements are available in capsule, liquid, tincture, injectable, and extract. This herb is commonly used in combination with other botanicals. It may also interact with other medicines, including herbal medicines. Your holistic health practitioner can determine the best way to take Astragalus to support your health and well being.