Happy New Year!
“Boosting the immune system” seems to be a new catch phrase in the marketing and media worlds these days. What does this really mean? Is the immune system something that goes on the fritz and quits working? Does a cold/flu indicate an immune system malfunction? Here at Bambú Clinic, we realize that balanced immune function is crucial to good health. Read ahead to learn more…
The immune system has one major function: distinguishing “self” from “other.” This system must identify foreign invaders and either destroy them, remove them, or mitigate their harmful impact on the body. As human beings, we come into contact with things other than our “selves” every day. These exposures occur in the form of foods, the environment, air & water particles, and microbes. Some of these items provide nourishment, some contribute to illness, and others engage in a mutually beneficial (or symbiotic) relationship with us. Whatever the case, all of them trigger an “immune” response as the body determines how to respond to each outside intruder. In other words, the immune system is constantly working… not always to create the sniffly, sneezy, icky, achy crud.
Actually, a variety of systems participate in the healthy, balanced function of the immune system. The most important of these are the specific immune glands (including the spleen and the thymus), the mucous linings of the respiratory tree and the digestive tract, the lymphatic network (including the nodes and aggregations of lymph tissue like the Peyer’s patches in the abdomen), the hormonal system, and the primary routes of elimination (GI, kidney, lungs, skin). The body utilizes these systems in its primary and secondary immune functions. The primary functions include our body’s barriers that stand between our internal and external environments (the skin and the lining of our digestive tracts and lungs), the natural fever reaction (modulated by neuroendocrine signals), and physical mechanisms like mucous production, coughing, and sneezing.
The secondary defenses include the body’s ability to produce and maintain internal responses to external invaders, especially, the manufacture of antibodies and other immune modulating factors and cells. As the body interacts with the outside world, it develops “memorized” biochemical reactions to each stimulus it encounters. You may experience those reactions as too little (lingering colds), too much (allergies to foods and the environment) or balanced (yippee!!).
The routes of elimination must always function properly for health maintenance. But, one specific thing happens when our bodies are unable to eradicate waste products. Inflammation results. And, inflammation often accompanies infection by creating a susceptible environment. Inflamed tissues are more prone to infection. Therefore, these routes of elimination are central to maintaining an internal environment that is unfriendly to microbial invasion.
Colds & Flus: Friend or Foe?
The physicians at Bambú Clinic firmly believe that 1-2 colds per year are the sign of a healthy immune system. Think of it as a tune-up, just like your car, minus the mechanic. But, we don’t just want you to have the sniffles. If you are staying home sick, make it a good one! J A “wicked” cold demonstrates the kind of vitality that we hope all of our patients can achieve. This means that you get a sore throat, lots of mucous, a fever and a good strong cough. You will feel lethargic, foggy brained, achy and like you CANNOT get out of bed for a day or two. For the next 3-5 days, your symptoms gradually abate, on your way to feeling as good as new (!), or maybe even better than before.
It is the cold that never really surfaces or the one that lingers for weeks that signify an inadequate immune response. Then, it is important to figure out which of the systems involved in the natural defenses needs support. We know, for example, that the digestive system is intricately linked to optimal immune function. The mucus membranes that line the entire tract (from mouth to anus) is packed full of antibodies that neutralize many unwanted bacteria. Also, health-enhancing intestinal bacteria serve to prevent the overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria in the gut. Impressively, over 50% of our immune tissue actually resides in the gut!
On the other hand, sometimes the immune system is an over-achiever—mounting aggressive symptoms to harmless stimuli. This dynamic is evident when spring rolls around and allergies abound. Since when did newly cut grass require such dramatic symptoms? At Bambú, it is our goal to determine what it will take for you to achieve a healthy, balanced immune response (both with a cold and when allergy season approaches).
Recipe for Immuni-tea:
Hot water with honey and lemon is a great standby—add some cayenne, ginger for added warmth.
Lemon is the ideal food for restoring acid-alkali balance. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in water, or adding it to tea helps maintain the body’s internal “climate” at a pH which supports healthy bacteria instead of the viruses and harmful bacteria which thrive in more acidic environments.
Baked Pear Cough Syrup
Cut a pear in half, core it, and place it in a small pyrex dish (flat side down). Add 1/2 inch of water and bake the pear in the oven until it is soft. Eat half the pear and drink the liquid (you can add honey and lemon if you wish).
Kitchen cupboard immuni-tea —Mix ground ginger (or sliced ginger root), grated orange peels, a clove, a cinnamon stick and a pinch of stevia…steep for 10 minutes and drink as a tea.
Garlic & onions, mustard powder, turmeric, horseradish, rosemary, oregano and thyme are also herbs/spices you may have at home that are useful in treatments to support immune function!
Essential Oils for Cold and Flu: Best Essential Oils and How to Apply Them
Oregano – One of the most popular essential oils for treating everything from cold and flu to warts, oregano is considered a “hot” oil (it will heat up and tingle) and should be used cautiously. Do not apply to the face or throat without diluting it first with pure olive oil or another fatty oil. If you do get some on your face, dilute with butter or oil, NOT water! Oregano is best applied on the back, shoulders, and the bottoms of the feet.
Lemon – Lemon is great for boosting the immune system from within. Take a drop or two in every glass of water throughout the day, or use in capsules. Lemon is photosensitive so it should not be applied to skin.
Cinnamon – Another hot oil, cinnamon is great for boosting the immune system and has been shown to support the pancreas and digestive system (in Chinese medicine, the pancreas/spleen relates to the immune system). Apply on the feet or inhale.
Frankincense – One of the most powerful immune-boosting oils, real frankincense does not come cheap ($80-100 for 15mL) but it’s worth its weight in gold. Frankincense is mild on the skin and can be applied anywhere. For persistent colds, fill a capsule with 10-20 drops of frankincense and take on an empty stomach*.
Peppermint and Eucalyptus – These oils are cool and soothing and are known to clear the respiratory system and ease breathing. They can be applied directly to the neck, throat, chest, and back to open the lungs or inhaled to soothe the sinuses. Peppermint and eucalyptus are safe to apply on the skin.