What is immunity? The ‘first line’ or ‘front line’ of the immune system is actually our tissues themselves. An obvious example is skin- it separates our insides from our outsides and stops the bugs getting in! Some of the other membranes in the body are inside our noses and sinuses, inside our mouths and throats and right throughout our gut. Having strong intact robust tissues and membranes is the foundation of good immunity.
The second line of defence in our system of immune response includes the white blood cells which mobilise to attack invaders and stop them spreading throughout the body. Some of these cells ‘eat’ the bad guys, such as macrophages, while others destroy them by other means, such as Natural Killer Cells (yes that’s really their name!). After these two lines of defence, the third line is the ‘specific’ forces, those cells that have been trained to identify and attack specific targets (this is where antibodies come in).
One of the main principles of Naturopathy is that “prevention is better than cure”. A good immune system is not only constantly fighting off potential invaders (bacteria, viruses etc), it also identifies and neutralises rogue cells that aren’t developing properly, such as cancerous cells. One of most wonderful things about natural medicine is that it gives us tools to improve our immunity, not just offering an ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ for when infection gets the better of us.
Echinacea. The root of the echinacea plant has been shown to enhance immunity in several ways:
That is a phenomenal list of achievements for one single medicine! Echinacea root can be taken preventatively at one dose daily, or increased to four doses daily as treatment for infection. Remember that only a high-quality extract will have these effects; make sure you get the ‘tingle’ on your tongue when you take your echinacea which shows it is high in the active constituent, the alkylamides.
Other herbal medicines are also beneficial for the immune system, such as Astragalus & Ganoderma. There are others herbs that help to support specific tissues and functions. For example, herbs such as Mullein and Thyme have an affinity with the lungs, helping to provide immune support for those who are prone to respiratory infections in winter. Herbs such as Marshmallow and Licorice support the health of all ‘mucus membranes’, those membranes we discussed right back at the beginning, inside our noses and throats and guts!
Diet, Nutrition and Nutrients
Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Poor Sleep Affects Your Immunity.
An increasing body of research proves that the better quality our sleep and the more positive and relaxed we are, the better our immune system is. Anxiety, grief, stress and depression all significantly impact our ability to fight infections and provide good immune response.