In Winnipeg, the transition from summer to winter is epic! It is invariably a stressor to our immune function. Whether you’re starting a new school year, or just making it back to work after a vacation, immune support is a September must!
Even “good” stress can lead to inflammation and immune suppression. A change in weather, a change in natural sunlight, starting something new, a change in your sleep schedule are all stressors that have been shown in studies to suppress healthy immune action. In natural medicine we do not view exposure to microbes as the sole or even primary cause of disease. Instead, we understand the terrain model of immunity; that a healthy biological terrain makes your body either a likely or unlikely host to pathogens. We use tools such as herbs, probiotics, and homeopathic medicines to alter the biological terrain to increase broad-spectrum immunity.
Natural medicines don’t directly kill microbes, they create an environment in the body that is inhospitable to their stay. Take the example of flies being attracted to rotting garbage; if you clear out the rotting garbage, your fly problem resolves itself. We focus on immune support as the seasons shift because at a cellular level, weather changes and schedule changes create stress on our systems. This time of adjustment requires extra immune support so that we are moving into the “cold and flu” season with strength and vitality.
Here are some key natural remedies we use to bolster immune function during seasonal transitions:
- Thymus support: Active glandular extracts can be taken in micro-doses to support the growth and function of the thymus gland. The thymus gland is an integral part of the lymphatic system that sits just behind the sternum and produces T-cells, which are important fighter cells of our immune system. Taking thymus support in September is a safe and effective way to increase non-specific immunity.
- Broad-spectrum probiotics: The healthy terrain of our digestive tract is essential for immune health as 70% of immune cells reside in the gut. The lining of the gut is like a garden; it is full of microbes, (both good and bad), and the chemistry of this environment is always in a state of flux as it depends on the foods that we put into our system, as well as the state of health of our metabolic and hormone systems to assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste. Adding “good” bacteria in the form of a probiotic supplement can make a huge difference and tip the balance of the ecology of the gut towards optimal functioning. This is one of easiest ways to increase natural immunity as well as digestive health. New research is also demonstrating that a healthy digestive environment not only leads to better immune health, but also leads to better mental health. Studies have indicated that taking a daily probiotic can decrease feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Vitamin D: This sunshine-derived molecule is not just a vitamin, it’s the single most important hormone in our bodies. It influences nearly 3000 or our 25000 genes and plays a critical role in immune function. A recent Japanese study showed that school children who took a vitamin D3 supplement were 58% less likely to contract Influenza A. This immune support drastically out-performed the flu vaccine in Japan for that year. The best way to know if you would benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement is to test your serum level of vitamin D. Optimal serum levels are between 50-70 ng/ml. Unfortunately, many of us are deficient in vitamin D and don’t know it. Supporting vitamin D levels is another easy way to boost natural immunity.
- Vitamin C: Well-known for it’s immune boosting powers, vitamin C is not something that our body can make on its own, it must be consumed through daily foods or through supplementation. Although eating foods rich in vitamin C is a great way to naturally get this healthy vitamin into our systems, in times of increased immune stress, it can be beneficial to supplement with a higher-dose of this antioxidant for extra immune support. Antioxidants metabolize harmful free-radicals, allowing for better immune functioning, improved connective tissue strength, and overall healthy gene expression. High dose vitamin C has been linked to speed wound healing, prevent infectious disease, and slow the aging process.
- Classical homeopathy: Homeopathy uses micro-dose natural medicines to engage the body’s immune system in cooperative and wholistic ways. Our immune systems respond quickly and positively to homeopathic medicines which have been used to effectively treat and prevent anxiety, sleep issues, digestive issues, and infections. A homeopathic medicine is chosen according to the unique overall pattern of symptoms a person presents when they are ill, or their unique constitution when they are well. It acts as a catalyst to the immune system as a whole and is extremely effective way to provoke the body’s self-repair mechanisms.
- Zinc: Zinc literally supports and improves every single part of our natural immune system, from DNA replication, to cell division, to cell adaptation. The immune benefits of zinc have been studied for decades. Zinc modulates immune activity through gene regulation of each immune cell; lymphocytes, immunoglobulin G cells, neutrophils, and natural killer cells. Zinc is crucial for healthy cell development and function and thus plays a critical role in broad-spectrum immune support.
Supplementing with natural medicines changes the biological terrain and bolsters natural immunity during times of stress. It is generally recommended to consult with a certified naturopathic or homeopathic doctor when supplementing with natural medicines to ensure safety and efficacy with regards to dose.
The fall is a great time to support your innate immunity. We are here to help!
Dr. Heather Cardona, BSc. HD
Homeopathic Doctor (MHA)
Mondays: 1:00 pm – 8 pm
Wednesdays & Fridays: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm