With all of the latest news on the Coronavirus, the flu, and other illnesses going around, it’s no surprise that people are seeking natural ways to boost their immune systems and ward off illness. I’m also a huge fan of using essential oils for immunity (our favorite brand is Rocky Mountain – they have an awesome blend called Immune Strength). Here’s a few tips on how to avoid getting sick…
1. Get enough sleep
Good quality sleep contributes to many aspects of physical as well as mental well-being. However, did you know that sleep also has a critical effect on the immune system? Studies have shown that the immune system replenishes itself during sleep and has even established close connections between autoimmune conditions and sleep quality. During sleep, the body is able to release T cells (a type of white blood cell that is the foundation for the body’s immune system), growth hormones, and epinephrine back into circulation to fight pathogens when needed. Yet perhaps most importantly, sleep deprivation increases the hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function when it becomes chronically elevated. In short, when your body sleeps, your cortisol levels decrease, and immune cells are able to get out of circulation, settle in lymph nodes, and start getting ready for the next day.
2. Practice the Wim-Hof technique
If you’ve never heard of Wim-Hof, I’m excited to be the first to share it with you. The Wim-Hof technique is a breathing technique that has been shown to improve immune system functioning. It was founded by Wim Hof, a Dutch extreme athlete who is noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. The first scientific evaluation of this technique came in 2014, when a team led by a Dutch researcher tested the immune systems of people who had followed Hof’s training regimen for 10 days. Kox injected participants with an inflammatory agent while they performed the techniques. Compared to a control group, they experienced lower levels of inflammation. Research suggests than the release of adrenaline was linked to increased levels of an anti-inflammatory protein. The method is also responsible for the buildup of brown adipose, a stronger immune response, and a positive influence on hormone levels. Interested in trying it? Check it out here.
3. Decrease the stress
It shouldn’t be a surprise that stress reduces the ability of your immune system to function properly – that’s why it’s so important to crush the cortisol. When we are under stress, we reduce our immune system’s ability to fight off antigens, which is why we’re more susceptible to infections. Stress triggers chemical reactions and floods the body with cortisol, which suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). A little stress here and there is fine, but chronic stress also opens the door for inflammation. What are some ways you can decrease your stress? Try meditating, practicing yoga, and deep breathing each day.
4. Watch the alcohol
Probably not what you want to hear, but cutting out alcohol is a smart choice if you’re serious about boosting your immune system. Alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex ways, and these disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend itself against infection. It also affects the way gut microbes interact with the immune system by disrupting the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. Drinking reduces the number of three critical cells in your immune system – macrophages, T, and C cells. It also interferes with the chemical signals from white blood cells called cytokines, which can cause an autoimmune response if produced in larger than normal quantities. Did you know that a single episode of binge drinking can result in an immune system failure against exposure to illness within the first 24 hours of initial consumption? Try replacing the alcohol with kombucha, or even booze-free beer.
5. Incorporate immune-boosting supplements into your diet
Adding supplements into your daily routine is a great way to boost immune function. Some notable ones include probiotics, vitamins, C, B & D, and zinc, and herbs such as astragalus, echinacea, and elderberry. Consider also adding mushroom complexes into your diet like lion’s mane or reishi mushrooms which have been proven to enhance immune function through their effects on white blood cells. While you should ideally be getting all of your nutrients from food, sometimes having nutritional deficiencies can lead to a compromised immune system – in which case, supplements might help.
6. Use essential oils
Essential oils have been proven to boost immune system functioning, notably through their abilities to decrease cortisol. Some essential oils—notably geranium, frankincense, clary sage, and lavender—have specifically been shown to help balance the body’s cortisol levels. Both lavender and frankincense have been proven effective in reducing inflammation through decreasing levels of cortisol, as well as serving to improve thyroid functioning and autoimmune diseases. Some essential oil companies even create immune-boosting blends that consist of clove bud, cinnamon bark, orange, oregano, thyme, nutmeg, ginger root, and frankincense. Our personal favorite brand is Rocky Mountain Oils.
7. Make oregano oil part of your daily routine
Oregano oil is a powerful but extremely underrated method of warding off sickness. It’s known for its antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and even antioxidant properties. It contains healing compounds, notably carvacrol, thymol, and terpinene. These compounds have been proven to have antimicrobial effects and can even help break through the outer cell membranes that help protect bacteria from your immune system. Research has shown that oregano essential oil can even inhibit both human and animal viruses in vitro. If you’re using oregano oil as an essential oil, you can add a few drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale, or even apply some directly to your skin (back of neck and inside of wrists) with a carrier oil, like coconut oil.
These are just a few ways to naturally strengthen your immune system. Try out a few tips to see how they help!