The immune system is the body’s defense system designed to fight off bacterial infections, viral infections, the flu, cancer or anything else that may try to harm you. Most of the time, the body’s immune system wins, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Medical interventions, particularly antibiotics, originally designed to save lives when the body is in a crisis, are now being widely used as the “first line of defense” without letting the body do its work first. As a result, experts agree that we have caused microbes to rapidly evolve to the point where some are resistant to antibiotics altogether. The everyday use of antibacterial soaps and other external treatments to kill germs has also contributed to this dilemma. The natural approach is not to develop stronger medications that will only repeat the cycle, but to strengthen the body’s immune system to fight infection and reserve the use of medications for emergencies only.
Fortunately, there are several proven steps to strengthen your immune system naturally.
If you aren’t getting at least 10-15 minutes of mid-day sun exposure per day, with 40 percent of your skin exposed, you are likely deficient in Vitamin D – a key player in your immune system! Emerging research is showing that one’s risk of developing (or dying from) colon, breast and prostate cancer, melanoma, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and multiple sclerosis (which all indicate abnormal immune function), is greatly reduced by maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels.
If you are taking a Vitamin D supplement, be sure it is Vitamin D3, the active form you need. Most experts now agree that the traditionally accepted standard of 200-600 IU’s per day is not sufficient, and that the average person needs closer 5000 IU’s per day for maintenance, but will benefit from 10000 to 20000 IU’s per day when they are sick. In the case of serious flu, some MD’s will recommend even higher doses for 2-3 days until the symptoms resolve.
Spinach is one of the best vegetables to consume every day, as it contains Vitamin K2, boron, and magnesium to increase the absorption and utilization of Vitamin D3.
Long known to aid the body when fighting a cold, Vitamin C is a well-known supplement. Unfortunately Vitamin C cannot be made in the body, so we must acquire it through our diet. Oranges and citrus fruits are best known for being good sources of Vitamin C, but lower glycemic foods are a better option when consumed on a daily basis, as they contain less sugar and are less acidic. Raw red peppers and strawberries are incredible, low-sugar sources of Vitamin C.
While the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is only 60-95 mg per day (enough to prevent scurvy), the Vitamin C Foundation is presently recommending 1000 mg of vitamin C, three times per day (3000 mg total), to enjoy optimal health.
Your body heals when it is at rest. Numerous studies have shown 7-9 hours of sleep per night is needed for the average person. Ultimately, listen to your body and get all the sleep your body requires.
Sugar (the enemy)
It has been known for decades that sugar is a major enemy of your body’s immune system.
Consider cancer, the ultimate immune system disorder: In 1931, German Professor Otto Warburg received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his studies showing that cancer cells and tumors generate energy by glycolysis, the non-oxidative breakdown of glucose in the absence of oxygen. Fundamentally, Dr. Warburg hypothesized that cancer cells use sugar as their main source of energy, in contrast to healthy cells which use oxygen.
When Insulin levels become high, in response to high blood sugar, the liver releases IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor), which causes the cells of the body to grow in the presence of food. Cancer cells have eight times the number of receptors of IGF-1 than do healthy cells of the body, and therefore utilize sugar as their primary fuel. Further, IGF-1 has an estrogen-like action, making it very dangerous in hormone-responsive cancers such as breast cancer. IGF-1 also promotes the formation of blood vessels in tumors, allowing cancers to grow and spread.
Not only does sugar feed cancerous cells, but it also impedes the function of the immune system, which would otherwise identify and destroy potentially mutated and harmful cells.
Dr. Warburg’s research has been backed up several times in recent years: A study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2004 showed that women who ate the highest glycemic (or sugary) foods were three times more likely to develop colon cancer. Researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah have discovered in 2009 that genetic regulation of tumor growth is indeed halted in the absence of glucose. In a nutshell, sugar feeds cancer and suppresses the immune system.
In the Maximized Living Core Nutrition Plan, simple sugars and refined grains are eliminated completely – however you can substitute with healthy alternatives such as stevia and whole grains, respectively. When you are run down, follow the guidelines of the Maximized Living Advanced Nutrition Plan, to eliminate not only simple sugar, but all foods which convert to sugar, until your health is restored.
Research has shown that chiropractic care boosts the immune system. Chiropractic adjustments relieve stress from the nerve system, which is a critical link and has governing role over the immune system.
Consider the following:
- Spinal lesions, similar to vertebral subluxation complexes caused by misalignments, are associated with exaggerated sympathetic activity, which releases immune regulatory cells into the blood circulation and alters immune function. The nervous system has a direct effect on the immune system due to the nerve supply to the important immune system organs. (1, 2, 3)
- White blood cells, which eat and destroy bad cells, are enhanced through chiropractic care. (4)
- HIV positive patients adjusted over a 6-month period showed a 48% increase in CD4 cells, an important immune system component. (5)
- The chief of cancer prevention at New York’s Preventative Medicine Institute found that people who received regular chiropractic care over a five-year period had a 200% greater immune competence than those who had not received chiropractic care. The chiropractic group showed a 400% greater immune competence than people with cancer and other serious diseases. (6)
Chiropractic care for maintenance of a strong immune system should be a standard regimen for everyone. Typically, patients on a maintenance schedule will be able to hold their chiropractic adjustments from 1-3 weeks, depending on stress levels. However, in times of immune system suppression, a patient can have their spine examined for misalignments several times per day to ensure their nerve systems are free of interference. Wellness chiropractors and Maximized Living doctors use several objective technologies to check for diminished nerve supply, the presence or absence of subluxations, and how well (and how long) their patients are holding their adjustments.
There are specific supplements that may support your system in times of severe immune system suppression. Some of these include oil of oregano, effective for viral infections, and probiotics to support your immune system when fighting off bacteria, while maintaining a proper intestinal flora of healthy bacteria you need.
The Chiropractic Perspective
Above all, remember that there is a big difference between being “sick” and being “under the weather.” By definition, “sick” means that your body isn’t working properly. The expression of symptoms does not necessarily mean your body is not doing what it needs to – particularly when those symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes or sweats to aid your body’s natural detoxification.
If your body is fighting off an infection, the intention of chiropractic care is to see that your body is working properly … the best it possibly can. Truly healthy people will get symptoms and will get “under the weather” from time to time, even if their bodies are working right.
Unlike allopathic medicine, this approach does not cover up the symptom, but instead addresses the true causes of the problem and supports your body’s natural mechanisms to heal on its own.
- Felton DL, Felton SY, Belonged DL, et al. “Noradrenergic sympathetic neural interactions with the immune system: structure and function.” Immunol Rev. 1987 Dec;100:225-60.
- Korr IM: “Andrew Taylor Still memorial lecture: Research and Practice – a century later.” J Am Osteopathy Assoc 1974 73:362.
- Murray DR, Irwin M, Reardon CA, et al. “Sympathetic and immune interactions during dynamic exercise. Mediation via a beta 2 – adrenergic-dependent mechanism.” Circulation 1992 86(1): 203.
- Brennan P, Graham M, Triano J, Hondras M. “Enhanced phagocytic cell respiratory bursts induced by spinal manipulation: Potential Role of Substance P.” J Manip Physiolog Ther 1991; (14)7:399-400.
- Selano JL, Hightower BC, Pfleger B, Feeley-Collins K, Grostic JD. “The Effects of Specific Upper Cervical Adjustments on the CD4 Counts of HIV Positive Patients.” The Chiro Research Journal; 3(1); 1994.
- Pero R. “Medical Researcher Excited By CBSRF Project Results.” The Chiropractic Journal, August 1989; 32.