When we support the natural processes in the body with a healthy diet, a low stress level, and less exposure to toxins, we are rewarded with a strong immune system and a responsive healing power within. On the contrary, a poor diet, daily stress, and exposure to toxins in food, water and the environment, all cause a deficiency in immune system function, ultimately leading to degenerative health, illness, and premature aging.
A healthy immune system fights every invasion on the body from a scrape on the skin to deadly illnesses, such as HIV and cancer. It keeps us healthy. A weakened immune system is less effective and results in an increased susceptibility to every type of illness. Common signs of an impaired immune system include fatigue, frequent colds and infections, chronic inflammation, allergies, slow wound healing, listlessness, accelerated aging and cancer.
One way for invaders to enter the body and take hold is through the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. An imbalance in this area, of beneficial to harmful bacteria, can be caused by the use of antibiotics, eating food from animals treated with antibiotics, the birth control pill, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, cortisone), sugar, and chlorinated water. This colon microflora, often referred to as “the garden within,” is one of the major sites of immune function, and is necessary for health and disease prevention. Supplementation with probiotics can help to replenish beneficial intestinal flora and heal the intestine.
When immunity is low, organisms usually found in the body at normal levels, such as candida, or oral thrush, thrive and overgrow, wreaking havoc with the immune system. Candida overgrowth contributes to digestion problems, causing increased permeability in the gastrointestinal lining or “leaky gut” leading to food allergies and other maladies.
There is a link between food allergies and a weakened immune system. Because people with food allergies have compromised digestive tracts, undigested food enters the bloodstream causing an immune reaction, diverting attention away from the white blood cells (or phagocytes) usual job of defending invaders and cleaning up inflammatory debris. Over time, the immune function becomes increasingly impaired resulting in health problems.
The topic of free radicals must also be addressed when talking about immunity. Our immune system naturally releases “internal” free radicals to destroy viruses and infections and our body in its wisdom, releases antioxidants to keep these free radicals in check. It is, however, the “external” free radicals that overwhelm our immune system and are considered harmful. These free radicals are volatile, unstable, oxygen hungry molecules that attack and destroy the body’s cells. They are produced in the body when exposed to toxins, viruses, germs, or fungi. They are found in the air, water, in various forms of food and in all sources of radiation. They are known to accelerate the aging process and severely compromise the immune system leading to degeneration and disease.
We cannot always prevent exposure to “external” free radicals but we can neutralize these scavengers by including antioxidants in our diet. Antioxidant nutrients include vitamins A, C, E, B (complex), selenium, zinc, and bioflavonoids. These can all be supplied by the diet in a variety of foods, namely grains and organically grown fruits; such as blueberries and grapefruit, and vegetables; such as broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, green leafy vegetables, garlic, and onions. Whole food supplements, high in antioxidants, are also recommended and include Royal Jelly, chlorella, spirulina, and wheat grass concentrates.
Protecting your immune system is an important way to maintain or regain control of your health. Having an awareness of what affects your immune system; paying attention to how your food, surroundings, and level of stress make you feel; and taking action to prevent degeneration, are critical ways to begin building your immunity. Your body knows what it needs to be well. Are you listening?
~ by Nancy Hall, R.H.N., Level 10