Boost your immune defense this season
Updated: Apr 15
Prime your body’s resources for this seasons circulating virus’s with natural medicine. The World Health Organizations and numerous immunologists around the world are strongly encouraging hand-washing, wearing protective masks and minimizing public contact this season to attempt to stop the coronavirus spread around the world. However, a whole world of resources exists from the natural medicine perspective on health to support the immune system and the body’s defenses and to reduce viral replication in the body.
In Chinese medicine, our 2,000 old traditions describe that any body is vulnerable to infection if the resources are stressed. Exposure to “evil qi” is often seen as an invasion from the outer world that causes tension in the neck, upper back and results in symptoms of the upper body. This can progress to body pain and begin a fever/chill cycle in the body’s efforts to push it out. All the avenues of the body’s purging can be an effective and sometimes necessary outlet for the body to regain health.
Any limit of the body’s elimination pathways can interfere in the ability to produce an effective immune response. For example, a chronic lung weakness such as; asthma, chronic bronchitis, persistent pollutants from the environment, allergies or other conditions can interfere in the body’s ability to fight illness. Microflora imbalances or inflammatory issues of the digestive tract can occupy the immune systems energy and result in not enough resources to be effective.
Modern medicine recognizes that the immune system is deeply connected to the function of the nervous system, hormonal system and is heavily reliant on its memory experience to know how to effectively address disease. The emerging field of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology demonstrates the complexity of mental well-being, hormone balance and a healthy immune response.
Unfortunately, our common approach to addressing a cold or flu using over the counter medications and some pharmaceutical drugs comes from a perspective that does not take into consideration the complex dynamic of all systems of health. Dr. Shiva Ayyudurai has put together a youtube video to help bring a broader sense of understanding to the topic here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYQ0lwzFgu8 I highly recommend taking this time to better get to know your body with the video! For a younger audience, the video here demonstrates a simpler visual experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQGOcOUBi6s. but acknowledges that there is far more to the process to balance health.
Here is an example of the typical American response to illness, and why it might be undermining their bodies defense mechanism…
1. Notice first symptom and power through, hoping it will go away. This is the moment we have the best ability to reduce the intensity and duration of the virus existence in our bodies.
2. Wait until it gets worse, then drink more coffee/eat sugar or carbs to push the body for greater activity and take a pain killer to relieve discomfort and get back to work. Distracting the immune system from responding with stimulants can make us feel like we’re not getting sick, but the virus only gets a head start on the invasion. Similarly, the NSAID category of drugs has a suppressive effect on the immune response which allows the virus to further invade the body and go un-noticed, until the drug wears off and the symptoms typically become worse.
3. Use over the counter drugs to mask symptoms. The vast majority of over-the-counter cough and cold medications are suppressive in their effect on the body. This can often serve as a limitation to the immune systems effort to disable and eliminate the virus from the body. While they can provide temporary, symptomatic relief they commonly mis-educate the body in the process of building an effective immune response for future illnesses. Not only that, masking the symptoms can limit one's awareness of the significance of the illness and the illness can worsen.
Natural medicine traditions have been utilizing resources to support health for many generations. The further we look into comparing the traditions with modern science the more we learn the incredible knowledge and wisdom that is at humanities fingertips!
Some of our best resources for boosting the immune system include:
#1. Avoiding and address immune deterrents*
· Cane sugar, chemical additives, pesticides and herbicides dramatically impact the immune systems ability to do its job well.
· Sleep deprivation and high stress reduces the immune system tremendously. If the body perceives it is in a crisis, it will diminish any immune activity in an attempt to just get by, waiting for the stress response to de-escalate. To respond to an immune trigger.
· Immune dys-regulation is probably the most common area of disease in the United States today. This includes the atopic triad (allergies, asthma and eczema) as well as all auto-immune disease, chronic inflammation disorders, arthritis, cancers and more. Treating and correcting these conditions to improve the health of the immune system is possible through the approach of integrative and natural medicine. Caution to not use herbal immune stimulators with auto-immune conditions.
#2. Ensuring proper nutritional balance to maintain health and also to activate the immune response when needed.
· Be aware of the required nutrients for your age and stage of life. Recognizing that our food supply may not supply adequate amounts depending on the source. This is a complex area of health today but a great rule of thumb is to buy as close to your home as possible, eat organic food only and make meals at home with ingredients that you can easily identify as a plant or animal product. Leafy greens, whole grains, fruits, root vegetables, eggs and meats are the most viable resources for healthy nutrition.
· Multivitamins – This is tricky territory as the quality of any one ingredient can make or break the value of an entire product. My preference is to work exclusively with pharmaceutical grade nutrient manufacturers as many available in grocery stores source their ingredients from general industrial production. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3560192/. Calcium for example is commonly contaminated with heavy metals because it is a common by-product of other types of manufacturing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20953844
· Supplemental nutrients – while this avenue can easily be confusing, I hope to simplify the steps by directing people to the highest quality products that I have observed improve health for 15+ years in medical practice. You can access all of these nutrients at the Stillwater Apothecary or from my online store here:https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/drhart Here are some favorites plus adult dosages:
o Vitamin C – to bowel tolerance = every body can absorb a different amount of vitamin C. Therefore, you must try for yourself to find out! A therapeutic dose for adults is 3,000mg or more. However, taking this all at once can result in loose stool, which is a waste of money and an irritation to the system. Start slow and work your way up. Also provides adrenal restoration to help address the stress impact on the body.
o Zinc – activates the immune system but careful with dosages! Prolonged or high dosage of zinc will reduce the bodies copper level. Zinc is best used according recommendations based on blood test results or specifically to address early symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. 30mg daily is an upper end dosage for most people if their blood shows adequate zinc. More info here: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/01/23/zinc-immune-system.aspx
o Vitamin D – our transition to indoor and more sedentary lifestyles has resulted in far less activation of natural vitamin D. Even in Colorado with more sunny days than not, many people are significantly low. While it is safe to take dosages of 1,000-2,000iu daily for people to maintain healthy levels, it may be entirely inadequate for those who are low. Unfortunately the only way to know is to test the blood. Good thing we do that all the time at Stillwater! Vitamin D is an essential immune system regulator.
o Essential fatty acids (EFA’s aka Fish Oil) – in response to the poor dietary habits in this country the necessity for supplemental oils has become ubiquitous. That means, the majority of individuals demonstrate health issues from an imbalance. A dosage to consider for general adult well-being is 1,000mg EFA per day, but may be far less than what is helpful depending on health status.
o N-acetyl-cysteine – this amino acid is AMAZING! It is a pre-cursor to the bodies most powerful natural defence, glutathione. This is necessary for every cell in the body to protect itself and restore from everyday stress. NAc as it’s termed also has a unique capacity to dissolve phlegm, which is important to moving through a viral infection with ease. Dosages start at 500mg/day for adults.
o Probiotics – while necessary for many health conditions, our body ideally contains the quality and quantity of organisms to support our health. Consuming foods with living cultures can be an adequate way for people with good health to sustain their microbiome. For people who have used pharmaceutical interventions, the microbiome can become significantly upset resulting in a long term need for probiotic support. My preference is to assess individually because we can easily make an imbalance worse by over-using a few strains of bacteria when the system is far more complex.
o Colloidal silver – a great anti-bacterial and anti-viral ally to have in the home both as a cleaning product and also for hand sanitizing or as a soap as well as for immediate response to any suspected exposure sprayed right into the mouth.
#3. Herbal allies abound from traditions around the world! Modern research continues to solidify our understanding that the traditional uses of these herbs is accurate and often times far more powerful than the folklore suggests.
In my opinion, aside from daily high potency multivitamins, nutritional supplements should be used according to the unique balance or imbalance of an individual. Herbs should be used by everyone, all the time! Plants are far more sustainable, accessible and contain their unique living force that desires to be utilized.
For immune protection, using herbal allies in concentrates at the start and end of the day and herbal teas throughout the day is a sensible approach.
· Medicinal mushrooms – Paul Stamets is effectively leading the charge to uncover the amazing power of mushrooms for immune regulation and healing. These herbs are not only excellent detoxifies, but many forms provide great energy support working to help regulate the systems that undermine immunity when out of balance. The myco-shield spray is a perfect immune protective blend, focusing the immune protection where we need it most for viral exposures. 2 sprays 2-4x/day for adult dosing.
· Rotating herbal immune tonics – it is very easy to over-use an herb that we like. Immune stimulants are not to be used continuously for their best effect. Instead, think about the value of novelty to the body and how we can benefit from making new friends J. Immune tonics are also to be used with very specific attention if we have an auto-immune disease pattern, otherwise we can be perpetuating the body’s imbalance.
o Immune tonics to rotate: Larch arabinogalactan, astragalus, hyssop, lemonbalm, slippery elm lozenges, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, peppermint
o Anti-virals to use ASAP for suspected exposure: Echinacea, Elderberry, Oregon grape, Usnea, Propolis, and more – alternate 1 dose up to every hour at the first sign of illness
o Individualized formulation if symptoms get started and illness settles in.
#4. Homeopathy is a whole world of medicine in and of itself. There is no end to the truly miraculous stories that homeopathy has offered to people all around the world. More common in India and European countries, homeopathic remedies of 30c or lower can safely and effectively be administered at home based on an individuals symptoms.
· Combination remedies – thanks to the company Boiron, we have several highly effective symptom based remedies that are very easy to use. Cold Calm works for the first signs of an illness and to provide relief of common cold symptoms throughout. Oscillococcinum is not only an effective remedy for flu-like symptoms but also serves as a protective agent demonstrating benefit similar to the influenza vaccine but with no added toxic ingredients or side effects. Sinusalia works to relieve sinus congestion for those who tend to go in that direction with illness.
· Gelsemium and Arsenicum are consistent with the Coronavirus’ symptom picture as single homeopathic remedies. If you suspect exposure, alternating these 2 remedies every hour is the recommendation.
· Single remedies – an effective and safe way to support the progression of an acute illness at home. Get to know homeopathy to expand your resources for home treatment to support symptom relief and to alleviate fear of complications with illness.
Now for what I’m doing to protect myself and my family:
· Catalyte and arabinogalactan – my absolute favorite new combination, the Catalyte powder by Thorne is a delicious electrolyte, antioxidant and nervous system support multivitamin tool to help the body regulate from everyday stress. Arabinogalactan is a product derived from larch tree bark and is a wonderful immune support tool. I mix these 2 together into our water bottles anytime we’re going out to deal with the world.
· Mycoshield spray – lives by my toothbrush to use twice a day.
· Colloidal silver soap used routinely
· Tea; rotating calendula, astragalus, cleavers, yarrow and licorice
· Herbal glycerites; a squirt of hyssop and/or lemonbalm glycerites into water glasses throughout the day provide a delicious boost
· Culinary herbs – ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, mustard, chili, cumin and garlic for winter warming metabolic support
· Daily herbal mouthwash from my custom formulations after tooth brushing
· At the first sign of symptoms, I go to the homeopathy kit (something I highly recommend for every family to have in their home!). Supporting the movement of symptoms is the key to avoiding acute illness progression. In addition, I make use of the hydrotherapy tools to activate the immune system to the best of the bodies ability. Topical oil and water treatments are a great relief to help make it through an illness with greater comfort and ease.
I wish everyone the opportunity to feel empowered about their health choices and have a clear sense of direction about what their body needs and how to respond to it. I look forward to having more time to add the relevant research references to each of the above mentioned tidbits for your further study.
And just so you know, these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.