Building Your Immune System During Cold Season

The immune system is a network of glands, nodes, and organs that work to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other harmful organisms. The immune system requires a constant supply of energy and nutrients to maintain optimum function and performance. Toxins in the environment and in our food, poor diet, lack of or excessive exercise, and stress can all adversely effect the function of the immune system and can cause a decline in its’ proper activity. Without the immune system functioning at optimum levels, the body becomes subject to illness, infections and health problems.

The immune system consists of the thymus gland, the spleen, lymph nodes (cervical, axillary, mammary), and other organs. These organs are involved in the process of generating and circulating immune cells and certain molecules (ie antibodies). Many factors play a role in strengthening and maintaining the immune system:

*Balanced Diet, Plentiful in Vitamins and Minerals
Antioxidants like vitamin C and E protect the body against free radicals. Free radicals can be produced or brought into the body through poor diet, alcohol, pollutants, smoking, and X-rays. Free radicals attack all cells in the body including the cells of the immune system. Antioxidants bind to free radicals and neutralize them, thus eliminating their damaging effects and help maintain the function of the immune system. Getting the recommended daily intake for these vitamins can be quit easy: 60 mg vitamin c (1 orange), 10 mg vitamin E (2 tbsp olive oil).

*Hatha Yoga – Practice of Yoga Poses 

Yoga poses that twist and compress organs help massage and rejuvenate immune organs and channels. The practice of Yoga also generates balanced energy – vital energy required by the immune system. Other key poses can create specific benefits to improving immune function:

-Kurmasana (Tortoise pose) supports the thymus gland
-Inversions and Forward Bends like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog pose) improve the flow of the sinuses and help flush mucous from the lungs
-chest and lung openers like Ustrasana (Camel pose), Yoga Mudra and Bhujangasana (Camel pose) also increase lung mobility and flush out the lungs
-restorative Yoga poses (supported and gravity based) can provide healing benefits during low periods of energy

*Stimulate the Thymus Gland
The thymus gland is located behind the chest bone (sternum) in the upper portion of the chest. Its’ primary function is the production of peptide hormones which appears to be essential for the normal development of T lymphocytes (T cells) and the immune system. The thymus gland is proportionally large in infants and children, but diminishes in size and effectiveness throughout adulthood.

One can stimulate the thymus gland and its’ function with a gentle exercise: daily, tap repeatedly on the center of the chest bone for a few minutes. The vibrations of the tapping reach through into the thymus tissues.

*Improve Circulation and Oxygen Flow with Regular Exercise
Moderate exercise (ie brisk walking for 30-60 minutes) daily will improve function and flow of the circulatory and lymphatic system, thus helping provide oxygen and nutrients for immune system organs and cells. Improving oxygen flow creates better transfer of energy (from nutrients) to cells. Take note: studies have shown that excessive amounts of exercise can decrease immune function as the overloading of tissues from exercise strips the immune system of energy. This energy is taken from the immune system to repair overloaded/strained tissues and to aid in post-exercise recovery.

Other Useful Tips:

*Rest When Symptoms of Colds or Flus Appear 
Avoid exercise and heavy workloads as well as make extra efforts to reduce stress. During the pre-stages of colds and flus, the immune system requires extra energy to produce immune agents to combat viruses. Exercise and stress take valuable energy away from the immune system.

*Stress Reduction
Stress has been shown to weaken the immune system. Yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques reduce and eliminate stress.

*Natural Antibacterials and Immune Boosters
Finely chopped or grated FRESH garlic produces a natural antibacterial agent. Garlic that has been pre-chopped will not have the same effect as this antibacterial agent has been shown to be present only when garlic is freshly cut.

Stimulate the immune system with various natural remedies: mistletoe extract, ginseng, Echinacea, wild indigo, thuja, oil of oregano, and chamomile. Consult a local naturopath/health food professional for recommendations on application and dosage.

*Wash Your Hands
The transmission of many bacteria and viruses are through touch. By washing your hands frequently, you significantly reduce your chances of having harmful organisms moving into the body. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth when outside of the home and when others in the home are dealing with a cold or flu.

Nourish your immune system with a balanced diet, regular exercise, proper rest, and stress reduction methods. Explore, with qualified guidance, additional natural remedies that can strengthen the immune system. Respect that your immune system requires a proper flow of oxygen and energy to maintain its’ ability to defend against unwanted external agents.


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