Immunity? Naturally!

by Jonathan Lawrence
11 minutes
Immunity? Naturally!

Andrew Baird

The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and an important part of the immune system. Both the lymphatic and the immune systems are uniquely affected by stress. Most of the lymphatic system surrounds the digestive system. One of the best ways to boost your immune system is to boost your gut microbiota through inulin in foods like chicory, burdock root, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes, probiotics in the form of supplements and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and miso. Prebiotics like pectin in apples and citrus fruit, beta glucans in oats, inulin in resistant starch like chicory, dandelion roots and onions and xylose in aloe vera, guavas, broccoli and psyllium seeds, also encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria through indigestible fibre usually in the starch of these foods. Gut bacteria help boost your mucosal immune system in particular. Variety is perhaps more important than quantity. The mucosal surfaces are the point of entry for most infectious diseases. Boosting your sleep and your melatonin through more dark time helps keep the bad bacteria under control, activates the glymphatic system and stimulates the immune response. The glymphatic system works to remove toxins and proteins from the brain and the head. The glymphatic system is active at night when we are asleep.

Melatonin is one of the most powerful antioxidants and this helps the immune system communicate better and clean up its free radical damage. Sunshine during the summer helps boost your Vitamin D levels and synthesis of this also requires good gut bacteria. Boney broths with gelatine (or vegetarian gelatine) and, to a much lesser extent, sunflower seeds for vegetarians help repair the intestinal barrier. Herbs like slippery elm, marshmallow root, licorice root, plantain and yarrow would be very useful in healing the gut. Amino acids in gelatine like alanine, proline and glycine are very good for improving the effectiveness of the immune system and these could be supplemented separately. As final synthesis of the active Vitamin D takes place in the kidneys (which requires magnesium) it’s worth considering low Vitamin D (after plenty of summer sunshine) as being related to a deficiency in magnesium and/or boron. Eating too many foods high in Vitamin A such as liver, sweet potato, peppers, carrots and squash could also affect vitamin D synthesis. Crops heavily sprayed in glyphosate such as wheat, oats, corn, soy and potatoes might also increase retinoic acid and chelate vital nutrients from the soil and our food. Low Vitamin D can also be due to inflammation and infections. Herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage can help with underlying infections. Magnesium chloride or Epsom salt baths or massages might go some way to remedy this low magnesium. Transdermal magnesium is the best initial approach to improving levels and reducing muscle tension. This then helps move the lymph by contracting and expanding muscles. Magnesium glycinate supplementation is another way of restoring magnesium deficiencies and providing glycine for healing inflammation in the gut. Prunes and almonds are good sources of boron. Drinking water helps in production of lymph, oxygenates your blood and allows the kidneys to remove toxins (which can also be reduced by eating organically). Conversely, antibiotics can damage your gut bacteria and efforts to avoid these when not absolutely necessary through food and herbs will keep the immune system intact. Beneficial gut bacteria are also very susceptible to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup pesticide. Birth control pills can also affect your gut bacteria.

In the context of bringing up a child then a natural birth can provide the best start for the bacteria that will develop to provide the immune system. Cesarean births can take swabs of the vaginal fluid to baby's mouth, face and the rest of body. Delaying cord clamping for 3 minutes at least increases stem cell concentration in fetal blood and these play a crucial role in the development of the immune system amongst others. Leaving the vernix on the newborn baby and delaying the first bath. The skin on babies has a well-developed immune system and this acts as the first barrier against pathogens. Lots of close skin contact also help swap body fluids that help pass antibody messages back and forth. In the same way, there is a role for breast feeding to transfer immunity that the baby needs. The colostrum given in the first hour after birth will provide a major boost to the immune system.

Co-sleeping with parents creates calm, love and a trusting bond which reduces stress. Babies are breastfed twice as much as formula-fed babies and the milk is crucial to the immune system which develops considerably in the first 6 months. Those babies go on to have more loving relationships which helps the immune system. Donor milk can sometimes help those having difficulty expelling their own milk. First foods are best to be more balanced foods like avocado and butter, boney gelatine soups with barley, egg yolks and asparagus to prevent the developing immune system being affected by too high blood sugar levels. The egg whites might be harder to digest at first. Sauerkraut or kimchi with broccoli for digestibility. Easily mashable fruits and cooked vegetables, like organic strawberries, cauliflower and guavas, help provide flavonoids and Vitamin C which play a role in fighting those early infections. Having pets, playing in the garden and living rurally all boost the immune system in childhood.

Vitamin D plays a major role in boosting the immune system. T and B cells need Vitamin D. Vitamin D is affected by stress because the reduction in magnesium affects the active form of Vitamin D and affects the lymphatic system. The stress also includes oxidative stress. A high carbohydrate diet without much fat and fibre may lead to insulin resistance and oxidative stress. The extreme point is obesity where Vitamin D levels are found to be low. Too much sugar and antibiotics can also affect the gut bacteria. Inflammation in the gut perhaps from food intolerances will also affect Vitamin D levels. Some foods can provide Vitamin D in relatively small amounts. Examples are herring, salmon, mackerel and lard from outdoor reared pigs. Fasting in different ways can boost the immune system possibly because of the cellular recycling of damaged immune cells (autophagy), the improvements in Vitamin D status (less insulin regulation) and reduction in blood sugar levels. Fasting from early evening meal to breakfast, protein restriction, 5 days on 2 days off, a 3 day water fast (if well enough), a low fruit lymph cleansing diet or a very low carbohydrate diet for at least three weeks are examples. The benefits of fasting are maximised by getting better sleep which encourages autophagy. Illness can play a role in this recycling as well as providing future immunity against some illnesses and reducing others. Measles (reduces lymphatic cancer), mumps (reduces ovarian cancer) and chickenpox (reduces household shingles risk) are three examples. Autophagy can also be stimulated by cold shock, foods like pomegranates, red grapes, blueberries and brussel sprouts and herbs and spices like turmeric, green tea and cardamom. The lymphatic system helps the body get rid of toxins, recycles damaged immune cells and maintains the fluid balance all of which help the immune system.

The kidneys are crucial to the overall health of the immune system for a number of reasons. The active form of Vitamin D is synthesised by magnesium in the kidneys. The kidneys play a key role in clearing the body of waste products. And the lymph and immune systems are uniquely affected by stress which affects magnesium which in turn is required the most by the energy requirements of the kidneys. Clearing the body of waste products will reduce inflammation and allow the immune system to work more efficiently. In general, we don't fast as much as in the past and that played a role in recycling proteins. We also generally again eat either too much meat or too much flour products or both causing acidity in the body and the kidneys. Therefore, fasting, protein reduction and a more alkaline forming diet can address the acidity and improve kidney filtering. Foods that are particularly helpful are beetroot, asparagus, apricots, broccoli, celery, berries, kelp, pecan nuts and walnuts. Herbs that are helpful are hydrangea root, juniper berries, horsetail, uva-ursi and dandelion root. Stress reduction and relaxation techniques help the adrenal glands just above the kidneys and reduce the strain on the kidneys. Going on holiday, assertiveness training, anger management, tai chi or qigong, keeping a journal and painting might be some of the best ways (see the last paragraph for more). Hydration is very important for kidney function and fruit combines water with an alkalising effect to help regulate blood pH. Exercise while doing something we enjoy, like growing your own food, is also beneficial for reducing stress. Magnesium chloride or Epsom salt baths help the kidneys considerably with chloride, magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. Chloride reduces acid levels and works with the other electrolytes so crucial to kidney health and sulfur plays an important role in detoxification. The warm baths help stress reduction also.

Antioxidants from foods like raw garlic, onions, capers, cloves, coffee, cocoa, oysters, apricots, guavas, kiwis, berries, camu camu powder, Indian gooseberries and vegetables will all boost the immune system. Coenzyme Q10 can be obtained from sardines and resveratrol can be obtained from red wine and peanut butter. Antioxidant supplements can be used for additional alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 and glutathione stimulants like milk thistle, sulfur foods and selenium from shellfish and brazil nuts all have their uses at different times. Reducing sugar and lowering high grain intake will allow more Vitamin C to get into the cells, improve availability of B vitamins and use up less Vitamin D, magnesium and zinc in insulin regulation. A diet of more than standard diet fat from coconut oil, butter, beef fat and olive oil will help you obtain Vitamin D, E and K better and crucially enable you to absorb the important antioxidants as well. If you can afford organic then it is most important to buy organic fat as fat is where toxins are stored. You will be able to fend off infections quicker and they will be less severe in nature. Herbs like astragalus, ginseng, borage, echinacea, liquorice and sage among many more also help strengthen body defences. Cannabinoids activate receptors in the immune system, colloidal silver can be used as a topical natural antibiotic in emergencies, raw honey contains a probiotic that boosts immunity and hydrogen peroxide that acts as an antimicrobial. A deficiency in iodine can affect the thyroid and the immune system and this can be countered with eating a small amount of kelp, shellfish, fish, cranberries and potatoes. You might also supplement with iodine as the soil can be lacking in this element. Medicinal mushrooms can increase production of B and T lymphocytes which are the crucial immune cells that help control our response to pathogens. They are also a natural cancer preventative. Other herbs and spices are useful in specific cases. For example, juniper berries for urinary tract infections, burdock root for cleansing the blood and detoxifying the system and clivers for the lymph nodes.

People who are more social tend to have less infections. More activities get the lymph moving in different ways. Family support and sound relationships will reduce stress in difficult times. Music, singing, sounds, specific frequencies, Tibetan crystal bowls, meditation, exercise and reducing stress all improve the immune system. Techniques to reduce the effects of electromagnetic fields, air and water pollution like negative ionisers, air filters, water filters, magnetic devices, house plants and flowers, garden streams and fountains, swimming under waterfalls and hiking up mountains. The immune system is very responsive to right brain thinking. Visualisation, the colour red, inspiring and transformative films all help. Cuddling, hugging, sex and love making all boost oxytocin which boosts the immune system.

Viewing great art, yoga, exercise, walking in nature and foraging, particularly near ancient trees, sea swimming, walking along the sea shore, dancing, walking barefoot on the grass, prayer, religion and spirituality, a cheerful attitude, being happy, practising gratitude and laughter all boost the immune system. Therapies help like Ayurvedic medicine, chiropractic, homeopathy, osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, Alexander Technique, Reiki, massage, saunas, hot/cold switches, hot stone massages, lymphatic massage, coffee enemas, colonic hydrotherapy, detoxing by sweating in warmer climes, reflexology, acupuncture, aromatherapy and leech therapy. Living well is the best immunity. That's why I choose to boost my immune system naturally. 

Andrew Baird.