7 Tricks for Boosting the Immune System
Thursday, March 4, 2020
Written by: Cora Tomowich
Hello all… Welcome back to the Lumira Blog-O-Sphere!
Today, I have a special topic for you: natural strategies for boosting your immune system. In light of current events, it is extremely important to take proper care of yourself. Whether used alone or in conjunction with mainstream medical interventions, the following tips can be quite helpful!
Before I continue, please understand that these strategies are not meant to replace any necessary treatments for bacterial or viral infections. If you feel sick, please consult your primary care provider.
Now, this topic is a little outside of my scope of practice as a Physiotherapist. So I took the liberty of speaking with our resident Holistic Health Practitioner (Liana), my Nutritionist, and my Naturopath for advice on boosting the immune system.
1. Essential Oils
As a Certified Aromatherapist here at Lumira, Liana raves about the benefits of organic, therapeutic-grade essential oils and blends. For those of you who have not done so, please read our blogs: 5 Essential Oils You Should Always Have in Your Home and What You Need to Know about Aromatherapy for detailed information about these incredible healing agents.
There are many ways in which one may use essential oils and blends, all of which are fantastic! If you choose to apply the oils topically, the use of a carrier oil (i.e., castor, coconut, olive, etc.), can keep the skin from drying out. Some people like to diffuse the oils, which can be a great way to breathe healthy air all day. Another technique involves applying a single drop of oil (without a carrier) to the bottom of each foot. Liana says that since the entire body is represented in the foot (see Reflexology 101), one can receive a whole-body immune boost from this little trick… Plus your shoes will smell awesome!
The important thing to remember is that the essential oil and/or blend must always be organic, therapeutic-grade, and of the highest quality from seed to seal. These oils have been found to kill all kinds of bacteria and viruses. They may be more expensive, but are worth every dollar! A good quality oil will never include harmful chemicals or preservatives that negate their healing effect, and thus maximally benefit the user.
Among others, Liana’s favourite oils are Lavender, Rosemary, Frankincense, Thieves (blend), and Purification (blend) by Young Living.
2. Castor Oil Packs
In my practice, I often recommend the use of castor oil packs for pain, injuries, and swelling. Little did I know that castor oil packs can also be of great benefit to the immune system! You can choose to purchase a pre-made pack at a health store or make your own at home (see How to Make and Use Castor Oil Packs). Again, we recommend using organic castor oil, which can be found at health stores or in the health section of regular grocery stores.
Once prepared, place the pack over the lower abdomen between the naval and pubic bone. There are immune cells in this area that respond quite well to the presence of castor oil to help the body’s natural defences against infection. A pack can be used as often as 20-60 minutes, daily; and may be reused up to three times before being washed.
3. Epsom Salt Baths
A lesser-known immune booster is the fabulous Epsom Salt Bath. This is a wonderful way to support the body in the elimination of toxins, as well as, bacterial and viral agents. Epsom Salt Baths can also help to ease the muscular pain and discomfort that often accompanies an illness or injury.
My Naturopath recommends that an Epsom Salt Bath be performed for the whole body or just the feet. A full bath should include 2 cups of Epsom Salts and be performed for 20 minutes, daily. A small-basin foot bath should include 2 TSBP of Epsom Salts and be performed for as long as the water remains warm.
Baths are an excellent opportunity for essential oil application. Adding 6-8 drops of your favourite oil or blend to your bath can be quite soothing and healing for the whole body. Please note that the salts can be a bit drying to the skin, so rinse any excess off the skin and use a moisturizer after each bath.
4. Veggies, Veggies, Veggies!
As a human who requires food to survive, I am often reminded by my mother and my Nutritionist to eat plenty of vegetables. In fact, we all should! About 80% of what we eat in a day should be fruits and vegetables, mostly vegetables.
It is important to eat organic vegetables and refrain from those that have been sprayed with harmful pesticides during growth. The latter are characterized as the ‘Dirty Dozen’. This term was coined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to describe the list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest concentrations of pesticides in a calendar year. Be sure to read the 2019 Dirty Dozen List.
Even though they may not be a fan-favourite, vegetables are incredibly good for us. They help to provide the nutrients needed to sustain the health of the human body. Vegetables can be eaten raw, steamed, fried, souped, and salad-ified (yes, I made up those last two words).
The food we eat can be our best medicine or our worst poison. So give your body the nourishment it needs to protect against harmful invaders and promote optimal immune system functioning.
5. Supplements and Vitamins
Once upon a time, our food contained all the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that we required to be healthy. Unfortunately, over time this changed. No longer do our foods hold the only key to our wellness, and sometimes they need a little help. Enter supplements and vitamins.
Now, I think it is important to state that I am not advocating for one supplement over another. By definition a supplement is supposed to supply what our food may lack. It is not designed to replace food or prescribed medications, for that matter. So please continue to take your medications and eat a healthy diet as recommended by your doctor or Nutritionist.
It is also important to state that my Naturopath recommends taking only high-quality vitamins and supplements as everything else will be ineffective or harmful. He recommends ‘food-grade’ supplements that contain healthy food sources of a vitamin rather than just the active ingredient of that vitamin (i.e., a Complex Vitamin C rather than just Ascorbic Acid). Of course, don’t just take my word for it, speak with a Naturopath to learn what is best for you.
6. Avoid Junk
I mean this both literally and figuratively. My use of the word ‘junk’ refers to anything that does not serve you well. This may include heavily-processed foods, sugars, bad social relationships, and bad habits (i.e., smoking, skipping sleep, excessive alcohol intake, etc.).
Although we may not realize it, all of these things take a toll on the body, specifically its ability to maintain optimal health. We cannot expect all our ‘good habits’ (i.e, castor oil packs, baths) to effectively fight an infection if they are also busy fighting against our ‘bad habits’. For example, essential oil use will be far less effective in protecting us from illnesses, if we only eat junk food, never sleep, and smoke like chimneys.
So, go ahead and purge the junk from your life!
It is perfectly okay to distance yourself from people who bring you anger and grief; and it is perfectly okay to get to bed at a decent hour. Set a goal for yourself to quit smoking or reduce alcohol consumption. Changing these habits can have a profound effect on our physical and mental health, which will allow our ‘good habits’ to more effectively promote immune system functioning.
I wish I could tell you that I came up with this one all by myself; but I did not. Great Masters throughout our history have always told us to meditate. It is a wonderful practice, designed to bridge the gap between the mind and our physiology. This practice has the power to change the way we perceive our outside world, and let go of the anxieties of the unknown.
Being able to still the mind, even for a second, can significantly boost all of the body’s natural processes. It is well known that the body can do incredible things if the mind will let it!
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds of your breath, while you gently allow your thoughts and feelings to come into your awareness. Don’t change your breath or analyze your thoughts, let them flow. If your mind races or you fall asleep, that’s okay, let it happen. Avoid judging yourself or holding any expectations of how you think meditation should be. Just let it be…
Meditation is a lifelong practice that helps to bring the mind back the present moment; and there are a zillion different ways to do it. There are the practices of Mindfulness, Progressive Relaxation, or Body Scans, as well as, Transcendental Meditations or Chakra Balancing. Quieting the mind in any form will decrease the amount of stress-related neurotransmitters that are sent throughout the nervous system. This prevents the body from being overly exposed to hormones that can cause tissue injury and damage. It also helps to regulate natural body processes, such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, and circadian rhythm.
So pick your favourite guided meditation or music and go with the flow. I promise you, you can’t mess it up if you simply try!
All of these tools can have profound effects on your body’s health and wellness; but the list does not stop there. We would love to hear about your own ‘tricks of the immune boosting trade’. Throughout history, every culture has found unique ways to practice self-care and optimize wellness… So feel free to share your stories!
In the face of this extensive global change, we must be open to new ideas for health promotion, rather than just disease prevention. Remember that saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Well, whoever came up with that one is not wrong! It is time to come together and take care of each other…
Be well my friends! See you next time 🙂