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Whether you have a simple cold, flu that makes you ache and sweat, or a long-term infection such as Ross River Fever, infection is a sign that your immune system has failed to defend you.
We are all exposed to viruses and bacteria every day. However, we only fall ill sometimes, and some of us more often than others. The reason for this difference in susceptibility has to do with how strong and effective your immune system is. If your immune system is robust, then even if you are in a crowd of sick people, you won’t develop symptoms of an infection. On the other hand, if your immune system is struggling then you will get sick more often, and take longer to recover.
Factors that can weaken the immune system include:
- Physiological, psychological and emotional stress
- Lack of exercise (or too much exercise if you are over-training)
- Lack of sleep, rest
- Diet low in fresh fruit, vegetables and lean protein sources
- Exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke and extremely cold weather
- Boosting Your Immune System Naturally
The secret to getting sick less often is to build a strong, healthy immune system. Vibrant Nutrition can assist you with advice on diet, exercise and natural supplements that are specifically designed to boost immune resistance and reduce the incidence of infection. If you already have an infection, there are natural medicines that you can use to reduce the time that you are sick and help to prevent it from recurring. Good natural medicines for the immune system include:
Vitamin C is perhaps the most recognised nutrient associated with immunity, and scientific studies have shown it has some very powerful effects. For example, vitamin C increases the activity of infection-fighting white blood cells; it also inhibits viral growth and reduces the incidence of the common cold. Vitamin C has been shown to be most effective when given with other nutrients such as nicotinamide, hesperidin and L-cysteine, which enhance its effectiveness.
Zinc is critical for immune function and the production of antibodies, which allow your body to remember previous infections and protect you against them in the future. It has been shown to reduce the severity and duration of colds and sore throats quite considerably. Vibrant Nutrition can test your body’s stores of zinc using a simple taste test. If your test shows you to be low in zinc, then we can give you access to a tableted zinc supplement, a powdered zinc or a special zinc drink, to improve your zinc levels quickly and effectively.
It is well known that low iron is a risk factor for poor immunity and Vibrant Nutrition may recommend you get a blood test to check your iron levels. People who have a low iron diet, such as vegetarians, elderly people and some children, may be at risk. Women who lose a lot of blood with their menses may also become deficient, as can athletes. Iron should be a chelated ‘highly absorbable’ form and must be combined with folate and B12 for the best results.
This herb has a long history of use for viral and bacterial infections. Andrographis is effective in the treatment of the symptoms of colds, including sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough, hoarseness, fever, chill, headache and fever. An important finding is that Andrographis, at a dose of 6g daily, compares favourably to pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment of fever and sore throat in upper respiratory tract infections.
The Japanese mushrooms Coriolus and Grifola also have a powerful effect on the immune system by enhancing the activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells. NK cells are the body’s main defence against viruses. Japanese mushrooms can be used daily as a remedy for chronic or severe immune weakness and also as a tonic to promote and maintain good health.
Astragalus has been traditionally used for centuries in China to support healthy immune function. It may reduce the severity and duration of colds and upper respiratory tract infections and is an excellent herbal medicine for supporting the immune system through winter. It is also very effective for boosting immunity in people who have had chronic, long-term infections.
Probiotics – Beneficial Bacteria for Healthy Immunity
You may have heard of the ‘friendly bacteria’ or ‘probiotics’ that live in your digestive system, but did you know that they help keep our digestive systems healthy, help us digest our food, make certain nutrients for us that we cannot make ourselves, and they even help maintain our immunity. Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM, Lactobacillus rhamnosis HN001, Lactobacillus rhamnosis GG and Bifidobacteriumlactis HN019 are all types of probiotics that have been shown to help support healthy immunity, helping to keep your whole body healthy.
Dietary & Lifestyle Suggestions for Building a Healthy Immune System
In addition to these natural medicines you can follow some basic nutrition and lifestyle advice to help strengthen and nourish your immune system:
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, as these have the best levels of immune protecting nutrients. Fresh is best, avoid produce that has been stored for long periods.
- Avoid sugars, white flour (bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, etc.) and excess alcohol as these foods are very low in nutrients and deplete your immune system.
- Avoid or minimise stress at work and home. Exercise is a great stress management tool, especially relaxing exercises like yoga or tai chi.
- Get enough sleep. Your immune system does its repair and rebuilding while you are asleep at night.
- See a nutritionist before you get sick to find out what the best immune building approach is for you.