Do you want to take charge of your health, to feel great, heal faster and prevent sickness? If this sounds like you, then read on! There are many ways to boost your natural immunity, prevent health conditions and heal faster.
Before I share the multitude of things that you can do for your immunity, I want to share some of the exciting new research about how chiropractic helps immunity. For years, chiropractors have observed that patients often demonstrate improvements of immune problems such as reduced allergy symptoms and fewer and faster recovery from colds, other respiratory infections and other maladies. However, scientific research into this area has been relatively scarce until more recently.
An early study by Brennan et al (1992) showed that a single adjustment to the thoracic spine primes activity in immune cells including neutrophils and mononuclear cells. Research by Teodorczyk-Injeyan, et al (2006) describes neural immunoregulation – the communication between the nervous system and the immune system. Their study showed that a single adjustment to the thoracic spine reduces inflammatory cytokines (including TNF-alpha and IL-1beta) compared to both the sham and control group. Another study by the same group (2008) showed that T-lymphocyte activity (measured by IL-2 production) increases after spinal adjustment which was shown in their later study (2010) to increase antibody production.
Yikes! What does all that mean? The bottom line is that spinal adjustments reduce inflammation and increase antibody production which has great clinical relevance! Thus, it appears that the nervous system and immune system function together to create optimal responses for the body to adapt and heal. Beyond the well known physical and mechanical benefits of chiropractic care, adjustments boost immunity! How often should you see a chiropractor? For maintenance and wellness, once or twice per month is recommended. A higher frequency of care is recommended if you have a specific problem that needs to be corrected.
Here are some other ways to boost immunity naturally…
1) Stay Hydrated
All of your body’s biochemical processes take place in the fluid that makes up your body. 60% of the human body is composed of water. Every system in the body depends on water for flushing out toxin and carrying nutrients into cells. A moist environment is also necessary for ear, nose and throat tissues. Lack of hydration will hinder normal biological processes and drain your energy making you tired. How much is enough? It is often recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day but need will obviously increase depending on environmental conditions and how much you exercise and sweat.
2) Use a Humidifier
Using a humidifier especially during winter months can help prevent colds and flues by preventing excess dryness that can irritate mucous membranes making them more susceptible to infection. You can also add tea tree oil, eucalyptus and/or cinnamon for extra defence.
3) Sleep Well
Sleep is essential for health. During sleep, there is growth and rejuvenation of the immune system, nervous system and musculoskeletal system. Sleep is also important for memory formation. How much is enough? For an adult 7-8hrs per night should do the trick but being consistent with time of sleep and wakefulness is also crucial. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for fibromyalgia, diabetes, irritability, depression, memory loss, headaches, malaise, obesity and symptoms similar to ADHD.
4) Exercise Regularly
Get up and move it! Exercise is quite possibility the best thing you can do for your health. How exercise boosts immunity is not fully understood but it may be related to better circulation, enhanced sleep, temporary rise in body temperature or the reduced release of stress-related hormones. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily.
5) Reduce Stress
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. In some ways, stress is a good thing. Consider this: stress and life demands bring about accomplishment, ingenuity and change. It challenges us to get things done, to be our best, to leave a legacy and with this comes about achievement and pride. However, when most people talk about stress, it’s about the negative consequences of it. Certainly, too much stress is not good for you. People need a balance between life’s demands and doing things for the sole purpose of enjoyment. We need a balance between work and play. The good news is stress can be relieved by some of the other items on this list of tips, like exercising and sleeping well. Other ideas are going for walks, reading, socializing, meditation, yoga and chiropractic care.
6) Laugh Out Loud
We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and it’s true! Hearty laughter enhances immunity, reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, triggers endorphin release (which makes you feel good and reduces pain) and much more. Best of all, it’s fun and free! So, lighten up – it’s great for both your emotional and physical health. Need some ideas? You can watch a funny movie, share funny stories with friends, go to a comedy club, spend time with kids…
7) Cut Out Sugar
Why is sugar so bad? Sugar suppresses the immune system. Sugar also promotes inflammation which when excessive promotes ageing and disease. When sugar is in excess in the bloodstream, it binds to proteins preventing them from functioning normally. This process is known as glycation. Glycated proteins produce free radicals which damage surrounding tissues. Avoid simple sugars found in muffins, cakes, candies, white bread and junk foods. Instead, choose complex carbohydrates found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal and nuts. This will prevent spikes in your blood sugar level and the associated health consequences.
8) Have a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is important for optimal immune system function. Be sure to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats (such as omega-3 fats found in fish, flaxseeds and walnuts). Garlic and onion are great infection fighting foods and the spice, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.
9) Consume Probiotics & Prebiotics
An unhealthy colon is associated with various immunological problems including allergies, asthma, frequent infections, autoimmune conditions and inflammatory diseases of the colon (such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer a health benefit to the host, including the digestive tract. This is done by improving the digestive system’s microbial balance which helps digestion and overall immune system function. Studies show that probiotics down-regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines thus reducing overall inflammation in the body. Examples of probiotics include lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus. On the other hand, prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive system. These include soluble fibers. Some sources of prebiotics include soybeans, inulin sources (such as onions), raw oats, unrefined barley and wheat.
10) Be an Optimist
Optimists live longer than pessimists! Studies show that those who are negative, moody, nervous and easily stressed have a weaker immune response. A 2004 study published in Archives of General Psychiatry found that those with high levels of optimism had 45% lower risk of death from any cause and 77% lower risk of death from heart disease over the study period. Want an interesting book to read? Try Bruce Lipton’s “Biology of Belief.” It talks about how your thought processes can alter the expression of your DNA.
11) Spend Time Outside
In other words, get some natural light! Vitamin D is synthesized by the skin upon exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin D has a role in bone health as well as immune system function. Some exposure to sunshine is good. Keep in mind that sunscreen will reduce synthesis of vitamin D by 95%.
1) Brennan PC, et al. Enhanced Neutrophil Respiratory Burst as a Biological Marker for Manipulation Forces: Duration of the Effect and Association with Substance P and Tumor Necrosis Factor. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1992 (Feb); 15 (2): 83–89.
2) Teodorczyk-Injeyan JA, et al. Spinal Manipulative Therapy Reduces Inflammatory Cytokines but Not Substance P Production in Normal Subjects. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2006 (Jan); 29 (1): 14–21.
3) Teodorczyk-Injeyan JA, Injeyan HS, McGregor M, et al. Enhancement of in vitro interleukin-2 production in normal subjects following a single spinal manipulative treatment. Chiropr Osteopat, 2008;16:5.
4) Teodorczyk-Injeyan JA, et al. Interleukin-2 regulated in vitro antibody production following a single spinal manipulative treatment in normal subjects. Chiropr Osteopat, 2010;18:26.
5) Borchers, A, Selmi, C, Meyers, F, Keen, C & Gershwin, E. (2008). Probiotics and Immunity. Journal of Gastroenterology; 44:26-46.
6) Zitmam, FG et al. Dispositional optimism and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in a prospective cohort of elderly Dutch men and women. Archives of General Psychology, 2004;61:1126-35.
Dr. Elisabeth Miron