“Your immune system is compromised” — a phrase I have been told countless times throughout this lengthy healing journey. I thought I understood what a compromised immune system was, but sitting here now as I write this I realize even a few months ago I was very ignorant about the meaning of that phrase. I spent last week recovering from strep throat, and I am almost certain I got it at a yoga class because I woke up the morning after incredibly ill. Interestingly enough, after the yoga class I went to before that one I woke up the next day with a staph infection on my face. Here’s the kicker, I somehow got both of these bacterial infections while taking antibiotics; and yes, a couple of the antibiotics I am on do overlap with antibiotics that could potentially be used to treat staph or strep. Compromised doesn’t even begin to describe the state of my immune system anymore.
With compromised immunity I have to be extra, extra careful. I wash my hands all the time. I shower the minute I get home from a day being out and about. I’m that person on the airplane that brings wet wipes to wipe down the arm rests and tray table. I’m a true definition of a germaphobe, and I wear that title loud and proud. Avoiding getting sick is a pretty unfair battle when my army of virus, bacteria, and infection fighting cells are overworked 24/7 as it is trying to fight Lyme disease. So, I’ve adopted many natural methods to boost my immune system like taking supplements, incorporating detoxifying foods into my daily diet, getting good sleep, and so on. The moments where I feel “healthy” are fleeting these days. I know most people can go about their day and not constantly think about avoiding touching handles and other surfaces in public places to avoid contact with someone that might be sick, but having a few immune boosting tricks up one’s sleeve is never a bad idea. Here are my favorite immune supporting practices:
Daily supplements // I take around 30 supplements per day. My supplement regimen is based on deficiencies in my blood work as well as my doctors recommendations, so I am by no means telling you what you should and should not take. I’m also not at all suggesting that taking anywhere near 30 supplements a day should be your norm. Always consult a physician or naturopath about your decision to add supplements into your regimen. Some supplements I take daily that help with immunity are: vitamin D3, a B complex vitamin, olive leaf extract, probiotics, chlorella, phosphatidylcholine, and turmeric.
Diet // Diet is crucial for me right now. Unfortunately my diet is crazy restrictive, but it’s the only way to keep stomach discomfort at bay at the moment. I eat mostly SIBO friendly foods, but keep a limit on my fruit intake and am completely grain-free due to candida overgrowth. Garlic is a big immune boosting food, but for me is also a big trigger for symptoms so I eat it sparingly. Berries are a great source of antioxidants, and are a big part of my diet. I love acai, blueberries, and strawberries. As of late, I have been drinking a 2 oz shot of ginger every day. I also consume a lot of greens like spinach and broccoli, soups and broths, and nuts — all good immune building foods!
Matcha // I drink a generous pour of matcha every morning, and it is easily what I look forward to most upon waking up each day. Matcha is essentially a more pure form of green tea. It is grown and harvested differently than regular green tea leaves, but the benefits of both are plentiful. Green tea contains something called L-Theanine, which activates and aids in the production of a specific type of white blood cell our body makes to attack invading viral pathogens. Additionally, L-Theanine has strong antimicrobial properties because it signals the production of an immune signaling cytokine. I’m not surprised my body craves matcha every morning!
Induced Fever Response // Raising our body temperature to the point of a fever is a great way to signal the body to start fighting pathogens. Two ways I like to raise my body temperature are going to infrared sauna or by taking a hot epsom salt bath. I typically sauna for 45 minutes to an hour at 145 degrees, or I’ll sit in a hot bath with a cup of hot tea for 30 to 40 minutes. It’s not the most enjoyable, and a lot of the time I feel worse immediately after. But, it’s effective as hell. Sweating is a great way to get rid of toxin build up in our bodies.
Immune boosting supplements // The supplements I listed earlier are products I incorporate daily, but there are a few other great supplements I start taking if I feel I am getting sick. Oil of oregano, elderberry, echinacea, vitamin C, zinc, and ginseng to name a few. I recommend using elderberry syrup as a preventative measure, and taking vitamin C and zinc once you feel something coming on.
Adaptogens // Mushrooms have so many powerful benefits that our culture and generation is learning to harness. Astragalus is a great adaptogen to incorporate leading into flu season to build your immune system. Other great immune boosting and inflammation fighting adaptogens include ashwagandha, cordyceps, rhodiola, and holy basil. Everyone responds differently to adaptogens, so if you’re new to the game I would suggest starting with one at a time and taking note of how it makes you feel.
Sleep // Good quality sleep is crucial for keeping your immune system healthy. I could write an entire blog post in and of itself about sleep hygiene; but the main tips I have for getting good, restful sleep are to keep electronics out of the bedroom, develop a consistent nighttime routine, turn off your blue light on your phone/computer, don’t consume caffeine after noon, rub lavender essential oil on the bottoms of your feet (I use this one from Saje), and if it’s something you’re open to CBD and micro doses of THC are wonderful for sleep.
Hygiene masks // Okay so this isn’t actually something I’ve done yet, but it makes so much sense to me. In Asian cultures, people will wear masks when they themselves are sick as a means to not spread their illness to others. I wish this is something the American population would adopt, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. It’s something I want to start doing, because I know that for me I start to feel really frustrated when I feel something coming on. I start to wonder who it was I came in contact with that spread the germ to me, how I could’ve better prevented it, etc. So, in an effort to save someone else of this frustration I know all too well, I think I might start wearing a hygiene mask when I am going in public while sick.
Lymphatic drainage // This is something I myself am just starting to learn about. Toxic fluids can build up in our lymphs, causing lingering illnesses. We can support the flushing out of these toxins through lymphatic drainage massages and jumping on a rebounder trampoline. A new self care tool I have implemented in my treatment is a gua sha facial and neck massage. I use my gua sha along the side of my neck, jaw line, above my eyebrows, and on my sinus region to drain the lymph regions in my face. I also jump on a rebounder for a few minutes whenever I go to infrared sauna.
Flu & cold season is still in full swing, and prevention is the best thing you can do for your body right now. I hope these tips are helpful, and if you know of anymore please share them with me!