We are as healthy as our immune system is strong!
Our immune system is one of the most important, fascinating and complex system of the human body. Its function is to protect us against infection which could lead to disease and then death. It is responsible for coming to the rescue of small and relatively painless issues to life-threatening infections and illnesses.
What Makes Up the Immune System?
It is composed of lymphatic vessels and organs (lymph nodes, thymus, spleen and tonsils), white blood cells (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, monocytes etc.), specialized cells which reside in various tissues (macrophages, mast cells, etc.) and specialized chemical functions.
When we speak of having a healthy immune system, we want to support and nourish it, enhance its healing function and we also want to make sure it can efficiently and effectively drain waste from tissues and filtration organs (liver, kidneys, etc.) are functioning optimally.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the lymphatic system and its organs, in particular, the thymus gland, the spleen and lymph nodes.
This Gland is Key to our Immune Function
The most important endocrine (hormonal system) gland for our immune system is the Thymus gland. It is located behind the sternum, between the lungs and below the thyroid gland. It is responsible for the production of T Lymphocytes; the “T” here is for “Thymus” because these cells mature in this gland. T Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell responsible for cell-mediated immunity not controlled by antibodies. Cell-mediated immunity fights bacterial infections such as mold, yeast (Candida), viral infections such as Herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr, viruses that cause hepatitis, fungi and parasites.
Cell-mediated response also protects us from developing cancer, autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and allergies.
The thymus gland produces thymosin, one of its hormones that is critical to proper immune function. A low level of this hormone in the blood is usually associated with a weakened immune system and is often prevalent in the elderly, babies and those who have HIV, cancer, unbalanced lifestyle aka stress and infections.
One of my most important therapeutic healing goals for my clients?
Support their thymus gland if they have a weak immune system!
In Comes the Spleen….
It is the largest mass of lymph tissue and weighs a surprising 7 ounces, is the size of a fist and lies in the upper left side of the abdomen behind the lower ribs. Like the thymus, it releases many potent immune enhancing proteins. This is why spleen extracts have great benefits for strengthening the immune system (more on this later!). The spleen main function is to destroy bacteria and it’s responsible for producing white blood cells and destroying worn-out red blood cells and platelets. It also serves as a blood reservoir and releases stored blood when we need it, thus preventing shock.
How Do We Know if Our Immune System is Weak?
Nutrient deficiency is the most common sign of a weak immune system. Consuming processed food, sugars and simple carbs, alcohol, and not enough fresh foods lowers the production of white blood cells. Disease, poor living habits, chemotherapy or a combination of any of the above also contribute to a depressed immune system.
Do you suffer from any of the following?
-repeated colds and flu
-inflammation such as skin conditions or rheumatoid arthritis
-asthma or seasonal allergies
-slow wound healing
-chronic diarrhea or constipation
-infections such as oral thrush or vaginal yeast infections
-trouble sleeping or trouble waking up in the morning
-high blood sugar levels
How Can We Support Our Immune System?
Supporting our immune system is fundamental for good health yet we need a good and healthy environment to support our immune system. Our immune system is a complex system of many parts hence we can say it is holistic and as such we need to support it using various holistic tools. I use a comprehensive approach that involves food, nutritional supplements, herbs, glandular therapy, exercise, stress management and lifestyle habits (Check out my blog).
Let’s start with food!
Hippocrates said let food be your medicine and medicine be your food, but what are the best foods to support healthy immunity?
Protein an important macronutrient
Protein makes up 20% of our body weight and our muscles, hair, nails, skin, eyes and internal organs, especially the heart and our brain are all made of it. Our immune system requires protein to form antibodies that help fight infections. Hemoglobin, red blood cells, is also a protein and many hormones that regulate our metabolism are also made up of protein.
This macronutrient should be included in every meal. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they are found not only in meat, fish, dairy and eggs but in the plant kingdom too. Hence, whether you are paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian, aim to get .8-1.2g of clean, high quality protein per kilogram of body weight.
The amount of protein will vary depending on a person’s level of physical activity.
Those who are more active will require more protein. A person weighing 150lbs who is somewhat active will need about 1g of protein. To calculate this, you will first need to convert pounds to kilos. Divide the number of pounds by 2.2 to get kilos which will give you 68kg. Then you will multiply that number by 1g of protein which gives you 68g of protein a day. (Check out my blog on types of clean, quality protein you should be eating).
Fat for Fuel
Equally important is the daily consumption of another macronutrient: healthy fats. Some clean fats include cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, hemp and flax oil, ghee, avocado, nuts and seeds, but we also need more Omega 3 than 6. Make sure you increase your consumption then of cold deep water fish, flax and pumpkin seed and walnuts in high concentrations.
Fiber for elimination of toxins
Another important element to consume daily which is not a nutrient yet we need it for elimination is fiber. It is found only in plants and is important to note that meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish have zero fiber. This means we need to eat an abundance of fresh veggies (especially those leafy greens!) and fruit.
The average person on the Standard American Diet (SAD) eats less than 15g of fiber a day,. This is half of the minimum daily requirement for effective and efficient removal of waste and toxins from our bowels. To promote healthy bowel elimination an adult should aim to get at least 25-30g of natural fiber from food a day and drink at least 1.5L of water a day.
My Top 15 foods for a stronger immune system include:
1. Amla Berry (Gooseberry)
2. Bee pollen
3. Camu camu
9. Olive oil (cold-pressed)
12. Sauerkraut (fermented)
13. Sesame seeds
14. Tomatoes (cooked)
Information supported by the following sources:
1. Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing 5th Edition. Penguin Group, New York, 2010.
2. Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2006.