Boost your immune system all year round
3 ways to maintain immunity
By Dr. Elke
As the temperatures drop we seem to always be reminded to make an effort to stay healthy – but why not make the effort all the time? Here are three tips that don’t take much, and you can keep them in mind throughout the year so your next cold is fought before you even feel it.
Kids, say no to sugar.
It may come as a surprise but not everything Mary Poppins encouraged is actually ideal. Turns out that spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down is actually reducing your body’s ability to fight off infection.
One very important component of fighting infection is enveloping and destroying microbes that the body deems dangerous to our health. This is called phagocytosis. And as it turns out, phagocytosis is inhibited by sugar consumption. Research shows that this mechanism is most effective before ingestion of sugar (glucose/sucrose/fructose) and is the least effective 1-2 hours after ingesting sugar with a 50% reduction in phagocytosis! This reduction is still significant even after five hours1. So our bodies are half as good at being awesome after ingesting sugar. Turns out these results do not only occur after ingesting sugar but also while maintaining high levels of blood sugar, as is the case for those with diabetes. So by limiting sugar intake and even after limited fasting (12hr), we allow our cells to function the way they are meant to and even enhance our body’s defences against infection!
Another reason to check the labels, have a good understanding of what is going through our bodies and to not eat junk while we fight off our next cold.
Brushing your nervous system
We brush our teeth every day because we know that if we don’t our teeth will rot and fall out. But what about the system in our body that makes sure our hearts beat and cuts heal? That’s right, our nervous systems, it’s time to start brushing our nervous systems too.
Our nervous systems are comprised of our brain, spinal-cord and nerves and are surrounded by our skull and spine. Research has shown that spinal adjustments provide a nice burst of IgA – the most abundant antibody keeping bacteria in check by triggering the immune system to fight off harmful bacteria2.
The adjustment from our chiropractors is also important because of the stress it takes off the nervous system so that our bodies can function at their best. When we are stressed, whether emotionally, chemically or physically, our bodies have stress hormones racing through them. These are good in the short-term if we’re running away from a pack of rabid skunks or something, and in this case, the body needs these hormones to send blood to muscles and heart. But when we’re stressed out for long periods of time, these hormones build up and are not so necessary. They start to harm us, causing high blood pressure, insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, heart disease, the list goes on. Once we can reduce stress, we are able to take that blood and energy and reallocate it to those functions that we really need to survive on a regular basis, like our reproductive, digestive, and immune systems! So when you’re sick, call your chiro!
Cure with curcumin
It’s just a yellow spice and doesn’t have any nutritive value but does pack in a whole lot of anti-inflammatory properties and as such can have a great effect on our immune systems. Curcumin (which gives turmeric its yellow colour) has been used as turmeric powder since the Vedic times (1500-500BCE) and it’s no wonder it continues to be used today.
Curcumin boasts several pharmacological mechanisms allowing it to act as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, and wound healer. Remember ‘phagocytosis’ from TIP # 1? Turns out, curcumin has the ability to enhance phagocytosis by modulating those cells that eat the bad microbes. The more curcumin, the more the enhancement. The most recent report indicates that humans can ingest up to 12g/day without toxic side effects3, but it’s also important to note any contraindications to consuming curcumin that may arise from any medications or conditions you may have.
Curcumin provides all these benefits by inhibiting certain proteins in the body from being destroyed, because when they are, other proteins become active. Those active proteins can then begin a cascade of inflammatory and immune system activation. So ultimately, curcumin blocks this cascade so that inflammatory cytokines and enzymes aren’t racing through our bodies. YAY!
This mechanism is one of MANY that curcumin has been found to possess. Is it crazy that a simple yellow spice can have potential effects on MANY disorders? Nah, the earth is full of healing, we just have to be open to reaching into the cupboard sometimes, instead of the medicine cabinet.
We are so much more than how we look or how we feel, we are how we function. By eating well, moving well, and thinking well we are connecting to our bodies and their ability to function at their best.
1. Sanchez et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1973; 26:1180-1184
2. Kristensen, M. Influence of chiropractic spinal manipulation on human salivary IgA secretion. 1995.
3. Jagetia GC, Aggarwal BB. “Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 27; 1: 2007.