How to build a strong immune system, naturally
It’s not all about gearing yourself up to evade any possible sneaky viruses or otherwise right now, as and when they happen, it’s about having a strong and dependable immune system, always. So in order of cost-effectiveness from low to as high as you want to take it, here follow some suggestions.
Whilst the content of this piece was whirling around in my head for a few days taking form, the one thing I knew I was going to address with some force was how we breathe. Suddenly nearly every other email popping into my inbox from various renowned holistic health practitioners was on this very topic. Synchronicity? Maybe so. The fact is I have known how breathing correctly can impact on our health for many a year, but like meditation, have found it frustratingly difficult to implement myself. I just seem to have some built-in resistance. I suspect I’m by no means alone otherwise there would be no need to draw this to anyone’s attention. So I predict, breathing is going to be the new black – watch this space.
Although breathing is something we take as natural and for granted until something compromises it, the vast majority of us are shallow breathers and may well be unconsciously holding our breath much of the time. We all breathe in but we tend not to breath out – at least not fully, so then when we take another in-breath, it is shallow as our lungs have not emptied. This is why we need to be learning some techniques in order to open up our airways and allow this life force to run freely through us. And it is indeed FREE. Would we cherish it more had we to pay for it?
So which breathing type to do? The one that you will stick with! Experiment with a few. I plunged myself into Wim Hof’s method and managed over a month before finding I was still resisting this yet loving the cold showers (much to my incredulity, as I hate cold and I hate rain). Yet the effects of the breathing control he teaches are transformative in the moment, and long-lasting, so although not for me personally, I happily recommend.
I was introduced to square breathing a few years ago and this entails breathing in for a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 4, breathing out to the count of 4, and resting for a count of 4. Hence the square. It is very calming.
Another simple but effective rescue for shallow breathing, and one I prefer because it is quick, is demonstrated by the remarkable teacher, Barefoot Doctor. I warn that you may tire of my mentioning him, but it is impossible not to as he was the greatest/wisest/humblest/cheekiest and the most recent to float into my life, so I’m still implementing and playing about with his great/wise/humble/cheeky epithets. Many of his books include deep breathing exercises to direct chi around the body, and although not a fan of audiobooks I make an exception for The Urban Warrior’s Way as it’s much easier to listen along to and follow the breathing exercises.
Yoga teacher Lucas Rockwood has some unique terms for his styles of breathing, namely water, whisky and coffee which he explains in his TedX talk. I find the whisky version wonderful for falling asleep (such is its purpose).
Finally, specifically addressing any possible respiratory issues Patrick McKeown takes you through a 40-minute session, explaining the part nitric oxide plays in immune health. Nitric oxide increases blood flow to our cells and thereby carries more oxygen to them. Oxygen boosts our immune system but also inhibits anaerobic organisms or bacteria from gaining purchase.
Arguably the hardest to alter in respect of anything, which is why so many of us invest so much time and effort in mastering positive thinking and creating our own realities. However, in order to have a strong, fully functioning immune system we need to consistently keep watch on the thoughts we think as these have a massive impact. Fear is a major stressor, and long term low-level fear (worry/anxiety) lowers the effectiveness of our immune system. Fear raises our levels of cortisol and this messes with so much more than just our immune system. The underlying fear for us, one and all, is the fear of death which is really odd when it is a given that this will happen to us at some point!
So, it is of utmost importance to be at the same time relaxed about what is unfolding unbidden at any time in our lives, yet alert to warding off those niggling neggy thoughts. You can’t stop thoughts rushing into your head but you can halt them and immediately replace them with different ones.
Keep affirming to yourself you are strong and healthy and have a super functioning immune system. Find (or compose) a short affirmation that suits you and repeat 6 times, several times a day. You don’t need to believe it – the point is to fix it into your subconscious. If you would like to have these playing in your ear all day long check out the Inner Talk audios by Eldon Taylor.
The right mindset will also prevent you from comfort eating and drinking – both of which will serve to inhibit your immune function.
Technically free from the tap but unless you are filtering it in some way shape or form it is not health-giving. I never drink it. However, even if you think you know your H2O it’s time to get your head around H3O2 AKA structured water. When you drink structured water you need less as it is far more hydrating, and this is beneficial why? To quote Roddy MacDonald whose website is devoted to all things watery :
“ H3O2 is denser and has more oxygen than regular H2O. Perhaps the most surprising difference is that while H2O has no charge, structured water has an electrical charge. This is how water forms a battery and begins producing and storing energy inside us. This is the very energy needed to move, think, heal and repair. H3O2 is our fuel for healing. We need it for our hydration, energy and vitality. H3O2 is nature’s water.“
All water is not equal and all water will not necessarily hydrate you. When I was eating a 100% raw diet, I didn’t drink any at all as my hydration came from fruit and vegetables.
Not to be forgotten in this section: water as a cold shower – as the body rushes to warm itself after the shock of a cold shower, the increased metabolic rate activates the immune system. Of course, the Scandi’s have been doing this for years after their saunas, but Wim has made it crazily attractive and on-trend. Hint – if you are going to cold shower make sure you have a strong pressure as cold dribbles are torture.
You need nutrient-dense foods to build health and immunity. If you have a juicer get it back out of the cupboard for the warm weather at least. I hear the argument for eating the whole food rather than juicing and chucking the rest away, so if you can’t get your head around that, then go the smoothie route but that green juice has all the goodness in it and packs power. I’ve tried chewing my way through 200gm of spinach leaves, it takes a while, whereas juiced it can be knocked back in no time. Fling in some cucumber, ginger root, celery, apple and fresh coriander and you have a thirst-quenching immune-boosting miracle.
Eat as many raw foods as you can. Cook from fresh ingredients, not cans and packets whenever possible. And use only coconut oil in cooking. All other oils should be used unheated. Raw garlic is fabulous for immune health but take with caution like you would a herb. Ideally, it should be eaten in a mix of oil and honey to prevent the burn or any digestive upset.
What you don’t eat has as much an effect as what you do – in other words, remove sugar from your diet, and preferably meat, fish and dairy – go plant-based. If this is a step too far for you right now, then at the very least make sure you buy organic and local.
I really baulk at singling out any vitamin or mineral, as nature puts them together in our foods for a reason, however, top of the class for immune building boosting supplements are:
- Vit A
- Vit C
- Vit D 3
You will need to add these to your diet on a daily basis. If you require an immediate boost check out 7 day immune support.
Herbs such as astragalus and elderberry are immunomodulators – which as the name suggests help regulate and normalise your immune system. All medicinal mushrooms are immunomodulators and many are antiviral – one of these being Shitake which is widely available and delicious raw.
Alongside adding these beneficial natural elements it is also advantageous to remove toxins and pollutants from the body by taking a mix of charcoal and zeolite.
Et voila, your healthy immune system blueprint to experiment with, but do remember we are built to resist infections of any kind, it’s part of our human makeup.
Helen is a nutritional therapist and freelance natural health writer, interested in metaphysics, Taoism, babies, cats and chocolate, though not necessarily in that order. Having searched over 2 decades for the best ways to eat to live long and strong, Helen switched 12 years ago to a highly raw, plant-based diet which she loves.” You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org