Now more than ever, during these colder months, it’s paramount to boost your immune system. This will help prevent illness or reduce downtime if sickness occurs.
With the onset of winter, we are generally more susceptible to coughs, colds and flu… and with COVID-19 we are all keen to go that extra mile to look after ourselves so that we are at the top of our game.
The biggest red flags are frequent and/or persistent infections. For example, you may seem to get one throat or ear infection after another. You may appear to “pick up everything that is going around.” Or perhaps you experience more prolonged illnesses that a person with a more robust immune system shakes off quite quickly (1).
Maybe you are already taking supplements and superfoods to provide extra support to your immune system, and I want to encourage you for being proactive. But if that doesn’t get you feeling your best, homeopathy can be an excellent way to boost your immune system, rapidly, naturally and with a personalised approach.
In homeopathy, we use a holistic approach to boost the immune system on a case by case basis. So, in a typical consultation I will ask a set of questions relating to general health, wellbeing and lifestyle and use this to guide a personalised course of treatment.
But before discussing the homeopathic treatment approach, let’s discuss the immune system and what causes it to become depleted.
The immune system is an intricate system that defends the body against foreign invaders (aka pathogens) such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.
White blood cells, antibodies, lymphatic system, thymus gland, spleen, bone marrow and tonsils are all parts of the immune system (2).
Without getting too technical, we have two types of immunity; innate and adaptive.
Innate immunity is the first line of defence and is present on the skin, in mucous, stomach acid, enzymes and immune system cells.
Adaptive immunity protects us against unknown invaders. This system recognises the pathogen and creates antibodies to destroy it, then the immune system ‘adapts’ and remembers the pathogen so it can provide a quick response to destroy the invader if it returns (3).
Aside from the immune system, the body has other forms of defence against microbes. These include the skin, mucous in the lungs and digestive tract, saliva, tears and the flushing of the urinary tract and bowels (4).
An immune system disorder occurs when the immune system is not functioning correctly. Some common examples include:
Sleep disturbances put you at greater risk of infection. Cytokines, the protein that targets infection and inflammation, are produced while we sleep (5). The less sleep, the less cytokines we produce. Cytokines are also released while we sleep, so if impaired sleep is a pattern, the problem is two-fold.
Anxiety and stress can trigger the fight or flight response which releases a flood of chemicals and hormones into the system. Under normal circumstances, once the impending danger is averted the chemical levels return to normal. However, being in a continuous state of fear or worry is exhausting for the immune system and health.
Poor diet and nutrition mean the immune system’s need for energy and nutrients can’t be met. Ample amounts of nutrient-dense foods are necessary for optimal cell function and this includes the cells in the immune system (6).
Other things that affect immunity include too little time outdoors, certain medications and recreational drugs, smoking, alcohol, ageing and illness.
If you are struggling with any of the issues mentioned, then it is possible to clean up your diet, take supplements, reduce your stress etc, though sometimes it feels like it’s not enough.
In homeopathy, we treat the person as a whole. So, if you feel you need extra help to boost your immune system or want to address a specific ailment, or recurring illnesses, particularly at winter time – homeopathy is adept to assist.
Also, if you’re not getting enough sleep, homeopathy will address that, if your digestion and gut health is poor from poor nutrition, homeopathy can accelerate healing and I discuss this further in the explanations below.
Not getting a regular 7-9 hours of unbroken sleep each night could, over time, reduce your immunity and increase your risk of picking up more infections.
The cause of sleep disturbances are many and varied and can present with a vast range of symptoms, which is why, in Homeopathy, we search for and treat the cause rather than the symptoms.
In fact, studies have shown (7) that homeopathy provides fast relief for sleep disturbances and anxiety disorders for people of all ages. So, no matter if your sleep disturbances are a recent development or something that has plagued you for years, homeopathic treatment will address the core issue.
SLEEP TIP: Support yourself and promote quality sleep by reducing screen time, sticking to a bedtime routine and drawing the curtains to ensure the room is dark. Meditation is also great for quieting a busy mind.
Over the last 20 years, studies on the mind-body connection (8) have documented the link between stressful emotions and negative changes to the body’s white blood cell function. Researchers have shown our thoughts, feelings, emotions and attitude affect our biological functions. In other words, the mind affects the body.
In homeopathic medicine, we know that in order to support the immune system we must address the cause of your stress and its triggers and the subsequent fight or flight response. There are a wealth of tried and tested remedies to treat clients based on their individual needs.
STRESS TIP: Support yourself by managing stress as it occurs – laughter often is the best medicine so watch a funny movie or sit com. Create a regular meditation or mindfulness practice to curb stress levels, or get out into nature and go for a walk.
Good sources of macro and micronutrients are essential building blocks for the immune system. But it’s not always enough to say ‘eat better food.’ Often the compounding effects of sleep deprivation, fear, anxiety and emotional disturbances can affect our appetite, digestion, moods and energy levels.
But it is possible to eat a healthy diet and still not get the best out of the food you eat. If you have poor digestion or problems with absorption of nutrients this will affect your immune system.
During a consultation, I am keen to understand any challenges you have with your diet and nutrition. Poor gut health, irregular bowel movements, food allergies and/or intolerances are all indicators of a deeper problem.
Emotional eating, anxiety and stress (including COVID-19 related stress), lethargy and pain will also add strain to your immune system.
The homeopathic solution is to prescribe remedies specific to your needs to improve your digestion and deal with any obstacles that are hindering a return to great health. At the same time the remedies also boost your energy and moods to get you motivated and back on track.
NUTRITION TIP: Support your dietary needs by planning your menu, getting your 5-8 serves of fruit and vegetables per day and avoiding processed foods.
Good hygiene is essential for anyone with a compromised immune system. Here are four simple things you can do to reduce your likelihood of contracting COVID-19 or other infections at this time.
There is no doubt these are challenging times, but the good news is more people are choosing to be proactive in boosting their immune system.
Complementing your healthcare with homeopathy is a great way to accelerate your healing and boost your immunity. Meaning you can get to the root cause of any underlying health issues, whether mental or physical, so you can remain resilient and strong through this pandemic period.
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Consultations available: Dublin 2, Dublin 13, Co. Dublin, Ireland & Worldwide Via Video Call
Eileen Scullion of Homeopathy-Healing is a Registered Homeopath LicISH ISHom with the Irish Society of Homeopaths (The Regulatory Body for the Homeopathic Profession which is recognized by the Department of Health and Children and works on the National Working Group towards an integrated Health System).