With COVID-19 still a threat and the flu, common cold, and other bugs lurking, you want to make sure your immune system is ready to help fight and keep you from getting sick. Experts tell us the best strategy at this point is two-fold: both prevention of infection and strengthening the immune system.
Your immune system is your main line of defense against illness, so it only makes sense that you’d want to keep it in top shape. This system is actually made up of multiple layers of defense. It includes physical barriers like your skin, cilia, which are tiny, hair-like structures that line your airways, and specialized cells that recognize and attack foreign substances like viruses and bacteria.
There are a few science-backed approaches you can take to boost your immune system, most of which are recommended for overall wellness. All are simple and easy to incorporate into your day-to-day routine:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Drink lots of water
- Load up on Vitamin D
- Move your body and work up a sweat regularly
- Prioritize sleep
- Wash your hands often
- Reduce your stress levels
- Be nice to your liver: keep your alcohol intake in-check
- Look into essential oils
- Practice yoga
When I was a wellness director, I educated people about the first eight best practices listed above. Now that I am focusing my time teaching yoga and meditation, I would like to share how these practices can be incorporated into your plan to boost your immune system.
We are drawn to yoga for many reasons – spiritual, mental, physical, and energetic benefits. Perhaps you have not yet considered how yoga can strengthen your immune system. Yoga has the potential to influence almost every physiological process in the body – from muscle contraction to breathing, digestion, circulation, inflammation, and pain.
Yoga can even influence the function of the lymphatic system. Lymph transports a range of antibodies and specialized white blood cells designed to fight disease. It filters out bacteria, foreign matter, and dead tissue. The lymphatic system depends on gravity as well as tissues throughout the body contracting to squeeze fluid through its vessels. It does not have its own pump like the heart and is vulnerable to stagnation.
We can support the lymphatic system and strengthen our immune system with yoga asanas and pranayama. Yoga poses like twists, forward folds, side bends, and inversions are the perfect tools to boost lymph flow. Enjoy this free yoga class on Mary McCarthy’s Yoga YouTube channel.
Breathing practices like Kapalabhati pranayama can also help support our immune system. It stimulates the deep lymph nodes in our abdomen. This cleansing breath can help you not only release stress and toxins from the mind and body, but it can also help release negative emotions, shake off sluggishness, and energize you. This breathing practice is a series of forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. The breaths are quick and invigorating to the entire body.
Another effective breathing practice to help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and decrease our stress is diaphragmatic or belly breathing. Slowing down the breath and breathing deep into our bellies creates a relaxing response to our mind and body. Stress suppresses our immunity. When we incorporate “rest breaks” throughout our day we can help reset our mind and body while decreasing our stress response and the sympathetic nervous system. Author Donna Farhi helps us understand the importance of our own breath in her book, The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work. She states, “Breathing is one of the simplest things in the world. We breathe in, we breathe out. When we breathe with real freedom, we neither grasp for nor hold on to the breath… The process of breathing is the most accurate metaphor we have for the way that we personally approach life, how we live our lives and how we react to the inevitable changes that life brings us.” May our breath help us let go and relax.
Unchecked stress, anxiety, worry, and panic pack a lot of negative health effects, and suppressing the immune system is one of them. Prolonged stress also drives up levels of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, eventually inflicting damage on the body. Setting aside short segments of time in your day for mindful meditation can boost your immune system.
In meditation, you journey from activity to silence. You go beyond the noisy thoughts in the mind and enter a state of restful alertness. You’re in a state of deep rest, yet your mind is fully alert and awake. In this state of restful alertness, the body experiences many healing effects that are the opposite of the fight-or-flight response. Meditation restores the body to a calm state, helping the body repair itself and prevent new damage from the physical effects of stress. It can decrease our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and inflammation. Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress.
When you meditate on a regular basis, you are giving your body all of the benefits of deep rest, which gradually help to release the accumulated effects of chronic stress and restore your body to its natural state of balance and health. You can practice a variety of guided meditations with me on my “Resilience & Grace” podcast wherever you listen to podcasts or online at Buzzspout.com.
Oils taken from the essence of plants are called essential oils. They are extremely potent in incredibly small quantities and must be used with a carrier oil or added to distilled water before use.
Since we come from nature and essential oils also come from nature, it makes sense that their application could have medicinal purposes for mankind. Humans have used essential oils for thousands of years to relieve stress, treat depression, make sores heal quicker, improve digestion, and boost the immune system.
There are many ways to get the benefits of essential oils. You can inhale them directly from the bottle or your palm, make a purifying room mist spray, steam inhalation, add a few drops of oil to a warm bath, mix a few drops with a lotion or moisturizer, or mist essential oils into the air with a diffuser.
This fall, doTERRA launched a new targeted wellness program with three kits designed to target: 1) immunity 2) relief and 3) mind and mood. I will be offering classes to help educate others on the benefits of these oils and why they can help boost your immunity, decrease inflammation and pain, and reduce stress and anxiety while promoting better sleep and relaxation. You can learn more about the classes online. The first class will be taught on November 10, 2020. If you missed the class and would like to learn more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember even small steps make a difference when you begin a journey of wellness. Begin today with one of the recommendations listed above and you will notice a difference in your overall health and well-being living a life of “resilience and grace.”