If it wasn’t already before, immunity is a word that has recently become commonplace in households throughout the world. This is a great time for us to take stock and discover more about the wisdom of our body and what we can do to support it. Louis Pasteur, the famous microbiologist who invented pasteurisation, said on his deathbed, “It is not the seed, but the soil” that cause disease. So how do we keep our ‘soil’ healthy?
When our neighbour who lives in the same environment as us and is exposed to the same pathogens falls ill while we remain healthy, it is our immune system which is responsible for that difference in outcomes. Our immune system also determines how long we are sick, how often it happens or how severe it may be.
Immunity is a whole body response involving many systems, especially the nervous, digestive and respiratory systems. Without even realising it, we are continually exposed to pathogens like viruses and bacteria. When this exposure occurs, our immune system releases specific immunity cells to fight that bacteria or virus, cleverly working in the background to keep us healthy.
When our body doesn’t respond fast enough to these pathogens or doesn’t have the capacity to destroy an infection, we may start to experience symptoms. Symptoms are a sign the body is working hard to protect us. There are many different symptoms we may experience, some of which include;
- Swelling of our lymph nodes - to filter the foreign infectious cells
- A fever - to increase the temperature inside our body and kill the virus or bacteria
- Coughing - to clear mucous from the body that holds infectious cells
- Vomiting - to remove a bacteria from our stomach that is harmful
Symptoms are warranted and necessary for recovery. When Louis Pasteur was talking about seeds and soils, what he meant was the problem is not that viruses and bacteria are commonplace in our environment, as many of these actually contribute to a healthy ecosystem. The problem is that there are times that our bodies are weaker and more susceptible. The more healthy and more resilient we are, the better chance we have to integrate these pathogens and develop natural immunity.
There are many things you can do to support your immune system and create a healthy body. Here are a few of the most essential.
Sleeping is essential as it is the time for our body to regenerate and recover. A regular sleeping routine is important to keep our circadian rhythm in balance. This means having regular waking and sleeping times, regardless of what your agenda may look like on a day-to-day basis.
This is a no-brainer. Food is medicine. One might think for most circumstances that the better food choices you have, the less medicine you need, and I would strongly agree. What you put into your body is fuel and goes on to create new cells, what you put in you will get out so if you put in rubbish you can expect to get that in return.
Consuming nourishing foods rich in vitamins and minerals will have a hugely beneficial effect on your body’s performance. This doesn’t mean eating poorly and then supplementing with Vitamin C. As beneficial as vitamins are they are still no replacement for the vitamins and minerals you receive from natural food.
A lot of poor foods will have a negative interaction with vitamin and mineral absorption in your body. Caffeine is one example - it increases the excretion of vitamins and minerals from your body and you will lose some of the benefits from consuming healthy foods.
- Vitamin D
This is an essential support for the immune system. In the Netherlands we live so far north that we would usually have to rely on supplementation through the darker winter months. But recently nature has given us a huge reward and let long-awaited, MUCH-appreciated sunshine grace our lands, so get out in the sun when you can while following the guidelines given by the RIVM.
Obviously be “sun-smart” and don’t go lying unprotected in the sun for hours on end. Instead make sure your skin sees the sun for 15-30 minutes at different times of the day without sun screen. Inside most brands of sunscreen are often lots of nasties that have negative health effects, so if you are out in the sun for long periods then check the label on your sunscreen bottles. Zinc oxide is the substance in sunscreen the provides the protection and there are lots of products on the market now that utilise zinc oxide but don’t have the other chemical nasties, so investigate getting yourself a natural protectant.
- Get exposure to some bugs
With the frequent use of hand gels that kill all pathogens, and the lack of contact with different people and environments, our bodies aren’t being exposed to the usual “array” of bugs that it is used to. The microbiome in our gut is a huge player when it comes to our immune system and overall health. Get some exposure to good bugs that will help to support the microbiome. Anything containing probiotics is fantastic, so opt for foods with a high probiotic content such as kombucha (check the sugar content of this first), kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Some simple and easy steps can go a long way in protecting your immune system. Look after your soil and your body will flourish.