Being proactive and building a strong immune system, using positive lifestyle approaches and repairing a compromised system is all covered in this article by Naturopath Su Ludewig from the Menlyn Park Branch of Wellness Warehouse in Pretoria.
The immune defense system is designed to protect the body from infection. Its actions are facilitated by immunoglobulins (our antibodies) and cells present in the lymphatic system (cellular immunity). A deficiency, either genetic or acquired, of either system will increase susceptibility to infection and certain diseases. Since the discovery of the first immune deficiency disease in the early 1950s, over 20 distinct types have been reported, most of which are hereditary. The immune system is susceptible to acquired malfunction from a number of sources. One very controversial cause of the immune malfunction is the procedure using vaccinations against common childhood and epidemic diseases. In a compromised immunity, the thymus gland seems to be most severely affected, altering the function and activity of this all-important kingpin of the immune system. While severe infectious diseases may be the result of immune deficiencies, they may also be the proceeding cause. For example, it is common for allergies, a frequent result of immune malfunction, to follow a severe case of mononucleosis, hepatitis, rheumatic fever, candidiasis, or other acute viral or bacterial disease that may reduce production by the thymus gland of T-helper cells necessary to moderate the allergy response.
Another common source of immune deficiencies is nutritional deficiencies. The immune system can only be as healthy as its organised cells and tissues. Nutritional deficiency may be simply the lack of nutrient intake, or poor digestive and absorption processes. Stress, pharmaceutical drugs (chemotherapy, including antibiotic usage), undiagnosed or untreated allergies, environmental pollutants, and poor hygiene can all contribute to a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system makes the body susceptible to opportunistic viruses or bacteria. In fact, any infectious disease is considered an immune deficiency because if the immune system is functioning adequately, no such infection can take place. This includes the range of infectious conditions from colds to pneumonia, or diseases of unknown origin like multiple sclerosis, multiple dystrophy, and AIDS.
Prevention, alongside a healthy lifestyle, is fundamental in any disease prevention strategy. A basic tenet of naturopathy is, that given the right opportunities and the right help, the body can heal itself. With any immune system dysfunction, the goal of treatment must be to boost the immune system naturally. This includes all the lifestyle markers of good immunity, the ‘Seven Doctors’ – fresh air, sunshine, clean water, clean fresh raw foods, exercise, rest and a happy heart. Avoiding practices and conditions that predispose towards disease and ensuring the body has enough nutrients for self-healing is the basis of any protocol to regain health. In addition, assistance from new and traditional vitamin, mineral and botanical supplements.
Each case of immune deficiency must be considered individually. Classic forms of immune deficiency may need to be treated by an immunologist. The treatment protocol must address first things first; for example systemic candidiasis which often underlies chronic infection, must be addressed as a priority, including addressing potential leaky gut syndrome. Then detoxification appropriate for the individual person, cellular metabolism boosted at mitochondrial levels, and possibly a rebuild of the immune system. The tissues affected most will need local therapy. They offer valuable clues as to the specific nutrients needed.
Advice from a naturopathic physician familiar with proper protocols is imperative, as well as incorporating positive lifestyle habits. Here are some guidelines.
Move towards a less acidic and more alkaline diet. Acid-forming foods include animal foods (red meat, dairy) and refined cereal (bread, rice pasta, etc). Initially a vegan diet majoring in raw fruit and a ‘rainbow’ salad with herbs, flowers like nasturtium, steamed vegetables and limited amounts of whole-grain cereal like oats and brown rice might be appropriate for a period of cleansing, alternating with a few days of juice and broth fasting.
Choose easily digested proteins that include raw nuts and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds), sprouts, salmon and sardines, soy foods (tofu, soy milk), cheese, yoghurt, and eggs. Opt for organic foods and drink lots of pure water to help detoxify metabolic and exogenous waste products. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, recreational drugs, refined sugar and refined flour all of these suppress the immune system. The less refined or processed (which includes cooking) the better. Fried foods and vegetable oils and fats (margarine) are also taboo.
Both the emotional body and the physical need nurture and healing. Negative emotions like worry, anger, fear, anxiety, rejection, hurt sorrow, depression, and insecurity all contribute to immune system depression. Exercising, having a massage, doing yoga, meditating are forms of stress management that can be practiced regularly alongside getting good quality sleep and rest.
PRIMARY VITAMINS AND MINERALS
It’s highly important to take the correct amount of vitamins to prevent toxicity. *Vitamin A, Vitamin B (energy and anti-stress), Vitamin C, Vitamin 86 (protein absorption and enzyme systems), Vitamin B 12, Vitamin E (not in high doses as that can suppress your immune system). Bioflavonoids (especially Quercetin to keep allergic reactions in control). x Zinc and Selenium (both needed as a supplement carrier).
SECONDARY VITAMINS AND MINERALS ; Vitamin B5, Folic Acid Pantothenic acid Magnesium