Immune System Support: Playing Offense and Defense*

Published on October 09, 2015

With football season well under way, it's the perfect time to discuss immune support.* Like your favorite team, your body has an offense and a defense. The "offense" in the immune system refers to the functions that naturally support the body in the occasional presence of a stressor, be it seasonal or environmental (call it "interference").* The "defense" refers to the naturally healthy habits that provide support in every season.*

Unfortunately, there's no referee in your body, so let's start with a few tactics (aka healthy habits) that will help you "play ball" year round.

Wash your hands. Hand washing is one of the best safeguards for the immune system.(1) Experts recommend scrubbing for at least 20 seconds (hum the Happy Birthday song twice) with regular soap and either warm or cold water.(2)

Manage stress.* When the body is focused on responding to stress, it diverts attention from other normal bodily functions.* To keep the body responding to stress in a naturally healthy way, nourish the adrenals.* When the adrenals are functioning optimally, the body's natural defenses receive the attention they need.* Adaptogenic herbs, such as Ashwagandha, also tonify and support the immune system by helping the body respond to stress in a healthy way.*

Take a walk. Exercise naturally releases feel-good endorphins, and studies have shown that moderate exercise supports the immune system (versus strenuous exercise or inactivity).(3)* At the very least, exercise promotes normal, healthy blood circulation, which allows the immune system to do its job efficiently.* Healthy adults should aim for 150 minutes a week.(4)

Get enough sleep. The Circadian rhythm, our natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, is a strong immune system regulator. Sleep is when our body replenishes its energy reserves and does the bulk of its growth and regeneration.* On average, adults should aim for between 6.5 and 7.4 hours of sleep per night.(5)

Eat fruits and vegetables daily. Eating a balanced diet that provides an appropriate amount of calories helps your immune system function properly.* Fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in calories by weight, should comprise half of the plate at mealtimes, and choosing produce in a variety of colors helps ensure you get a range of antioxidants.(6)*

Support the immune system year-round with herbs.* If you are looking for a product that offers deep immune support, consider Astragalus Supreme, which provides targeted support to your adrenal glands to help you adapt to daily stress.* This immune formula, with adaptogenic herbs, is designed for long-term daily use.* Another year-round favorite is Black Elderberry Syrup, which provides immune support while also encouraging healthy upper respiratory function.* This functional food is quite versatile and delicious, too! (Check out these fun ways to incorporate Black Elderberry Syrup.)

During those times when the body needs to play the offense, here are a few things to try:*

Stay warm. Temperature regulation is one of your body's natural defenses.* Your internal thermostat will adjust based on what the body needs.* Staying warm allows the body to divert energy to support the immune system.*

Listen to your body. During seasonal immune challenges, light exercise might help support normal energy levels.* (The general rule is anything above the neck-OK to exercise if you want. Below the neck-take a day off.) Also remember that sleep is when we rest and rebuild.* If you feel like you need a nap, take one! Go to bed early and sleep in. This is not the time to push yourself. Be patient. Your immune system might need a few days.

Drink up. Just as hydration is a healthy habit year-round, it's also a way to support the body during times of occasional stress.* Drinking fluids supports a number of areas of the body-digestion, to naturally remove waste and toxins; mucous membranes and temperature regulation.* It also can help maintain proper fluid levels and appropriate perspiration levels.* And when you drink herbal teas, they hydrate while supporting targeted health concerns.*

Take a bath. Inhaling the essential oils of herbs helps soothe the upper respiratory system, and adding Epsom salts is a natural way to support detoxification and occasional aches.* Plus, it can feel like an indulgent act of self-care to list the spirits!

Eat lightly. When the body diverts its attention to maintaining the immune system, it has less to exert on digestion. Eat a light, plant-based organic diet, and include plenty of bone broth or miso soup to support healthy electrolyte levels and provide minerals.* Add maitake or shiitake mushrooms for flavor and immune support, as well as seasonal herbs like Sage, Rosemary and Thyme-all of which support the immune and respiratory systems.*

Provide support at onset with herbs.* Provide support at onset with herbs.* Quick Defense® is a popular product that supports the body's rapid response to immune stressors, and our newest Turmeric Supreme product, Immune A.S.A.P., delivers broad immune support when taken at onset.* For kids and adults, there is also KidsDefense™, which supports a rapid response to immune stressors.* When I travel, I carry this comprehensive, time-tested blend of comforting herbs with me, and I put it in my herbal tea or water daily. To learn more about our full line of immune support products, visit MeetYourHerbs.*

How do you support your immune system throughout the year? Share your tips, stories and recipes with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Selected Sources:
(2) Litjen Tan, PhD; Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD; Donald C. Young, MD; Zoltan Trizna, MD, PhD; for the Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(8):1082-1086.
(3) Murphy EA, Davis JM, Carmichael MD, Gangemi JD, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP. Brain Behav Immun. 2008 Nov;22(8):1152-5.
(5) Daniel F. Kripke, MD; Lawrence Garfinkel, MA; Deborah L. Wingard, PhD; Melville R. Klauber, PhD; Matthew R. Marler, PhD Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59(2):131-136.