Natural Immune Health
The global pandemic has the world struggling to support immune health. It has been a fight to keep ourselves healthy not only from the COVID-19 virus but also from the mental strain. The stress of the financial toll, quarantine, isolation and the uncertainty of how the world will be when we get passed the acute phase of the virus, all influences our immune response.
A Simple Cleansing Cold, Seasonal Allergies, Flu?
Sneezing and coughing, along with a runny nose and watery eyes can be the body’s way of releasing toxins, including acidic waste build-up from a year or more of accumulation. Or at this time of year it could be a response to pollens and seasonal hay fever. This natural process plays an important role in releasing an overburdened body of toxic load; however, a vulnerable immune system has us at risk of contracting COVID-19 and continuing the spread of this pandemic virus.
Healthy Immunity & pH Balance are Key
A healthy immune system is the best protection against colds and flu. The factors that can contribute to a less than optimally functioning immune system include poor quality sleep, excessive exercise, stress, smoking, recurring or chronic illness, or an unhealthy diet – all of which contribute to creating an acidic environment within the body’s internal fluids. Since the body’s natural & health-giving state is alkaline, when an acid condition prevails, cellular oxygen is decreased. Bacteria and viruses thrive in an acidic, oxygen-deprived environment and the converse is also true – they cannot survive when the pH is properly balanced to an alkaline state.
The Natural Approach
Herbs and herbal extracts traditionally have been used for centuries to help strengthen the immune system and offer relief from the unpleasant symptoms associated with colds and flu viruses. Herbs, along with immune supporting nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc, may be helpful in reducing the severity and duration of illness. In combination with eating alkaline-forming foods these herbs and nutrients are most helpful.
Certain plant compounds have been shown in studies to have immuno-stimulating properties. They appear to help stimulate viral defense mechanisms by activating immune cells. Herbal tea mixtures or cooked decoctions have long been used in many cultures because of the synergistic effect of the herbs.
Science Supports Natural Remedies for Colds & Flu
Recent research suggests that the high molecular weight polysaccharides present in Echinacea purpurea have potent non-specific stimulatory actions on the immune system. (2). Echinacea is generally recommended to be used at the very beginning and throughout the course of an illness and then tapered off. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), has been traditionally used as an immune strengthening remedy with colds and flu. Several components (e.g., rosemarinic acid and caffeic acid) are reported to possess antibacterial and “viro-stopping” properties. (3) Lemon Balm is widely used as a mild sedative to calm the nerves and produce a relaxing sleep – ideal in times of stress and infection. Sleep deprivation is associated with disruptions of immune function. (4) Vitamin C, elderberry extract and zinc are a better choice than antihistamines at the start of a cold or flu. Elderberry binds to and prevents infection with influenza H1N1 virus. (5) Studies suggest that black elderberry can inhibit the growth of influenza viruses and shorten the duration of influenza symptoms while enhancing antibody levels against the virus. Vitamin C and zinc help to overcome an infection by strengthening mucous membranes of the nasal passages and throat from virus penetration. Vitamin D is an important immune regulator, stimulating innate immunity and moderating inflammation, in addition to its well-known effects on bone health. A suboptimal level of Vitamin D is associated with weaker production of anti- microbial proteins that work with immune system cells to kill pathogens. (7)
During a cold or flu, dehydration can dry the respiratory mucosal surfaces. Ensure adequate fluid intake while avoiding deficiencies of essential nutrients by sipping on several natural hot lemon, honey and ginger drinks during the day and before sleep. Natural remedies can be effective as preventative or therapeutic and their use is becoming increasingly supported by enlightened healthcare providers as a safer and healthier alternative to over-the-counter cold and flu medications.
Wash Your Hands Often and Use Antiseptic Hand Sanitizer.
The World Health Organization and health professionals have been clear that the number one thing to be done to reduce the spread of colds and influenza is regular and thorough hand washing with soap and to use antiseptic hand sanitizer as often as every 15 minutes. Stay home if you are sick and reduce exposure with appropriate social distancing. These safety protocols should be remembered long after the pandemic has passed.
By RoseMarie Pierce, BSc. Pharm