YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM : virus infection protection. By Lisa Rieniets ND
1. understanding your immune system
2. lessons from COVID-19 in 2021
3. how to build and maintain immunity
UNDERSTANDING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
BE PREPARED NOT PANICKED
Autumn is always a good time to boost your immune system and prepare for health challenges the colder months can bring. With the COVID-19 virus still active worldwide, it’s even more essential to build and maintain your immunity.
As borders begin to reopen, people worry about being exposed to an outbreak of corona-virus infections. Caution is wise. Prevention is even better. But we need to let go of fear, anxiety, or panic. These stressful emotions undermine our health.
Instead, I want to help you prepare for COVID-19 to come knocking on your door and address common concerns about being a potential victim of this disease.
YOUR BODY IS FAR FROM HELPLESS AGAINST COVID-19
COVID-19 has evolved and spread rapidly worldwide, causing sickness, death and 'long- haulers' who can't seem to recover.
However, with growing health data about COVID-19, you can now map how it affects the human body and defend yourself accordingly.
By understanding the mechanisms (how it acts) and processes (the effects) and damage COVID-19 causes, you have more opportunities to intervene in each step of the way and protect yourself and your loved ones.
YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM & PROACTIVE PREVENTION: YOU ARE A GARDEN
The entire foundation of natural medicine is based on recognising that you are a balanced ecosystem, much like a garden but more complex. Like any garden, you are a self-protecting, self-recovering, self-regulating and self-restoring organism.
In a healthy garden, all the individual parts – soil quality, nutrients, water, sunlight, seeds, animals (birds, bees, insects, worms), and microorganisms - work together harmoniously to produce trees, flowers, grass, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Not one part of a garden works in separation from the whole.
It’s the same with your own body (garden). All of your immune system organs - your gut, lymph nodes, white blood cells, bone marrow, liver, lungs, sinus and brain - work together to provide a well-functioning immune response. No one part of you works in isolation from the rest. They all depend on each other.
When it comes to gardening, gardeners know that tomato seeds will not grow in beach sand, no matter how many seeds you scatter. That’s because seeds alone are only one part of the story.
There are fundamental natural laws that govern gardening. Producing a healthy harvest requires fertile soil containing the right amount of nutrients, seeds, water, and sunshine. All of these elements must also be in proper proportion and balance. If you use too much water, your plants
will drown. If you don’t provide enough water, your plants will wither and die.
It is precisely the same for your body and its ability to thrive and protect itself.
Your body has a co-ordinated defence system called your immune system, which is made up of an interconnecting network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect you against invaders. All parts of your defence system are essential to the whole.
To take charge of your health, you need to change your perception of your body. You are a garden, an intricately balanced ecosystem. And you are the gardener.
YOU ARE NOT A MACHINE
The opposite belief of seeing yourself as a garden is to consider yourself to be more like a machine made up of individual parts, unable to be repaired unless broken bits are replaced.
A machine is a victim of wear and tear, powerless to defend or renew itself. Machines are destined to break down and end up on the scrap heap.
You are not a machine.
EVERY ACTION YOU TAKE TO SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM CHANGES YOUR OUTCOMES
Just like the laws for creating a healthy garden, there are fundamental natural laws and methods for building and maintaining a healthy immune system. You need to:
• Restore your gut microbiome - 80% of your immune well being depends on the
microorganisms (microbiome) that live in your gut. Therefore, you need to address any imbalance in the gut microbial community. Too much pathogenic bacteria and not enough friendly bacteria contributes to an irritable bowel (diarrhoea, constipation), smelly gas, bloating, an itchy anus, and compromised immune response.
• Reduce your stress load with sufficient relaxation, mindfulness, and prayer practices.
• Supply micro nutrients that support your immune response - including vitamin A, C, D, E, multi-B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, mushrooms, ginseng and astragalus.
• Keep inflammation levels low with fish oil and plant antioxidants such as curcumin, resveratrol, green tea, ginseng and quercetin.
• Exercise briskly 3-4 times per week – start with 10 minutes minimum and build up to 40 minutes of exercise, increasing your heart rate until you are sweating and puffing.
• Get sufficient sleep - aim for 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
• Reduce belly fat by eating less sugar and processed foods, reducing how much food you eat (portion control), and increasing your exercise. Obesity is a leading contributor to COVID-19 severity.
• Eat for a healthy immune system by reducing sugar and processed foods and increasing your intake of fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds.
• Quit smoking and get all the help you need to succeed.
• Drink alcohol in moderation - 2 standard drinks maximum per day. • Reduce exposure to immune depleting toxins from dangerous chemicals hidden in household cleansers (go green) • air fresheners (use essential oils) • plastic and non-stick cookware (use glass, ceramic and stainless steel) • personal hygiene and makeup (use chemical-free, organic products) • cosmetic fillers and Botox injections (switch to cosmetic acupuncture) • highly coloured and preserved food (eat organic and bio dynamic).
HEALTH MEANS THE WHOLE OF YOU (HOLISTIC)
There are published studies that claim taking vitamin C, or zinc, or vitamin D alone doesn’t make a difference to COVID-19 infection. Well, of course, they won’t.
We are gardens and not machines, and our immune system doesn’t function in isolation.
The fundamental natural law of a healthy immune response is that the whole of you needs to be balanced for your immune system to work efficiently.
Breaking your immune system down to a matter of components (such as micro nutrient levels of vitamin C, D, or zinc) is ignoring the wholeness of your body (garden). A mechanistic approach to health is a bit like trying to grow tomatoes in beach sand.
No matter how much vitamin C, D or zinc you throw at your immune system – if your gut microbiome is imbalanced • you experience constant stress, eat lots of sugar • you don’t eat enough fruit, vegetables or whole grains • you smoke • drink heavily • are obese • don’t exercise • suffer from poor sleep • or your body is inflamed (in pain) • then vitamins and minerals won’t make much of a difference. Micro nutrients are only one small part of your immune function and
not the whole story.
NATURE IS DESIGNED TO RECOVER AND SO ARE YOU
The fantastic thing about nature is that it doesn't matter how damaged or neglected a garden (body) is; you can still restore it.
With effort applied to clean out the weeds (toxins, inflammation, sugar etc.) • repair the soil quality (microbiome and micro nutrients) • and nourish the garden (nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, relaxation) • you can rebuild and revitalise and heal.
If you see yourself as a machine and don't bother to cleanse, repair, and fuel your body (garden), you won’t be able to thrive or protect your health.
Most people don't know how healthy they can be because they have never applied nature's laws to their own body and reaped the benefits.
Once it became clear how dangerous COVID-19 could be, even world leaders in health care advised us to do what we can to be healthy so we can better defend ourselves from this virus. In April 2020, the World Health Organisation stated that physical health was crucial to corona virus recovery. A person's state of health before they become infected with COVID-19 plays a vital role in determining the outcome.
LESSONS FROM COVID 19 IN 2021
BY LOOKING AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OTHERS, YOU CAN PREPARE
Knowledge is power, especially when it allows you to prepare your body’s defences against viral infections before you get exposed.
There is no magic bullet to prevent COVID-19 infections, but you can prepare and strengthen your body to fight off this potential invader.
From health data collected worldwide, we know that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that impacts other organs, with symptoms including:
• Lungs: clogs and inflames alveoli (the air sacs that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide) and hampers breathing • pulmonary embolism caused by breakaway blood clots from the arms or legs that end up micro-clotting your lung blood vessels.
• Heart: weakens the heart muscle • causes dangerous arrhythmias and heart attacks due
to small clots.
• Blood vessels: attacks the lining of blood vessels causing blood clots.
• Brain: significant brain function impact including stroke, dementia, psychosis, headaches,
dizziness, seizures and confusion.
• Gastrointestinal system: nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
• Kidneys: the journal Kidney International reported that out of over 5000 people
hospitalised for COVID-19, 36.6% developed acute kidney injury. 1,830 patients (14%) required dialysis to compensate for failing kidney function. Overall, around 30% to 40% of patients experience kidney complications.
• Liver: can infect and injure the liver.
• Nose and Tongue: loss of smell and taste (anosmia).
• Eyes: pinkeye or conjunctivitis, which is an infection causing inflammation of the
membrane that lines the front of the eye.
• Toes and fingers: “covid toes” where blood flow is reduced to the toes causing darkened lesions. This can also happen to fingers. People are at risk of amputation if blood flow is not resolved.
• Skin: clotting in the micro vessels of the skin, which causes a rash-like pattern to appear.
• Muscles: severe debilitating weakness and fatigue.
• Immune system: fever, aches and pains. Massive inflammation as the immune system fights back.
• Pancreas: may induce diabetes.
ONE IN THREE ARE READMITTED TO HOSPITAL
Health data released in January 2021 by the Leicester University and the UK Office for National Statistics reveal that out of 47,780 COVID-19 patients discharged from British hospitals between January and September 2020:
• 29.4% were readmitted within five months, and 12.3 per cent died.
• Re-admissions were 3.5 times higher than any other hospital outpatient.
• Discharged patients were also diagnosed with heart, liver and kidney complications at a far greater rate after being ill with COVID-19.
THE CHALLENGES FACING COVID-19 ‘LONG-HAULERS’
In January 2021, The Lancet medical journal published an article stating that 76% of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 still experience at least one symptom six months after falling ill, including:
• Shortness of breath.
• Ongoing, sometimes debilitating fatigue.
• Brain fog, confusion and can’t concentrate.
• Loss of sense of smell and taste.
• Muscle weakness.
• Body aches and joint pain.
• Difficulty sleeping.
CHART: Sarah Newey, Global Health Security Editor, London
HOW TO BUILD & MAINTAIN IMMUNITY
‘immunity is your body’s ability to protect itself from infection’
NOW YOU KNOW WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN, THIS IS HOW YOU CAN LESSEN THE IMPACT
The more you know about what supports your immune function, the better you can defend yourself.
You are not an automatic ‘victim’ of infections. Your body is a balanced ecosystem. To restore and maintain balance, you need to:
1. Clear out what is in the way of your body thriving.
2. Restore what's needed to regain your health and wellbeing.
3. Feed what is required to fuel your body to defend itself.
4. Make your health a priority. Dedicate time each day to you.
DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS PROTECT YOU FROM COVID-19
In November 2020, an analysis study, Dietary supplements during the COVID-19 pandemic: insights from 1.4 million uses of the COVID Symptom Study app: A longitudinal app-based community survey, revealed that the use of probiotics • omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils • multivitamins • and vitamin D3 were all associated with a lower risk of COVID-19 infection.
This study indicates that your immune system needs a variety of support for a healthy immune response.
There is no one magic bullet. Various nutrients are required to either fuel your immune system • protect your cell receptors from infection • or reduce inflammation.
GUT HEALTH IS CRUCIAL FOR IMMUNE DEFENCE
Your gut has its own dedicated immune system, and 80% of your entire immune system is contained in your gut.
Your gut flora (microbiome) regulates your immune defence against viral infections. Poor gut health has been connected to severe COVID-19 symptoms.
A study conducted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong concluded that although COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, there is mounting evidence suggesting that the gastrointestinal tract (your gut) is involved.
What they found was that the gut microbiome is linked to how severe people experienced COVID-19. The lower the gut-friendly bacteria levels were, the higher the concentrations of cytokines.
Cytokines are a group of ‘messenger’ proteins made by your immune system that signals it to do its job. However, if your body releases too many cytokines into your blood too quickly, it causes a 'cytokine storm' - a severe overreaction of the immune system. The resulting inflammation can damage your organs, lead to multiple organ failure, causing death.
Researchers found that the more compromised a person's gut microbiome was, the higher the inflammation blood markers were, particularly:
• C reactive protein: an acute (intense) inflammation marker.
• Lactate dehydrogenase: monitors tissue damage in your liver, heart, pancreas, kidneys, muscles, lungs, lymph tissue and blood cells.
• Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): an enzyme found in cells throughout your body but mainly in the heart and liver, and to a lesser extent in the kidneys and muscles. When liver or muscle cells are injured, they release AST into your blood.
• Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT): an enzyme found in many organs throughout your body, with the highest concentrations found in your liver. GGT is elevated in the blood in most diseases that cause damage to the liver or bile ducts.
These findings tell us that getting your gut health right and using probiotics (friendly bacteria) to support your immune system against COVID-19 is essential.
QUIETING CYTOKINE STORMS IS KEY TO EASING SEVERE COVID-19 SYMPTOMS
The major indicator of severe COVID-19 infection is an uncontrollable inflammatory response (cytokine storm).
The good news is that researchers with the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) in South Dakota, found that people with a high omega-3 index are 75% less likely to die from COVID-19.
Omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory activities. Ongoing studies indicate that marine fatty acids may help dampen the cytokine storm and reduce adverse outcomes. Good dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include linseed (flax-seeds) • chia seeds • hemp seeds and cold-pressed hemp oil • walnuts • raw nuts and seeds • tofu • soybeans (edamame) • seaweed, algae and algae oil • organic spirulina • navy (haricot) beans • kidney beans • broccoli • brussel sprouts • kale • cauliflower • pumpkin • avocado • spinach and leafy greens • berries •
mango • wild rice • organic free-range eggs • salmon • sardines • fish oil supplements • krill oil.
VITAMIN D SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCES THE IMPACT OF COVID-19
A Spanish review of micro nutrients and the immune system highlights a direct link between low vitamin D levels and the severity of COVID-19 infection.
This makes sense because vitamin D stimulates antimicrobial peptides lining the respiratory tract, protecting your lungs from infection.
Vitamin D also defends and supports your immune system, brain, heart, gut, liver, kidneys, eyes, muscles, bones and skin, all of which are at risk of COVID-19 invasion.
EVERY STAGE OF YOUR IMMUNE RESPONSE REQUIRES MICRO NUTRIENTS
Various micro nutrients are essential for your immune system to be able to fight off infection.
You need to maintain healthy levels of vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, B12 • folic acid • iron •magnesium • selenium • and zinc. Even marginal deficiencies can impair your immunity.
Micro nutrient deficiencies are recognised as a global health issue due to nutrient deficiencies in the soil food is grown in, and excessive consumption of highly processed foods that have been stripped of their nutrients and fibre.
Stress • infection • toxins • inflammation • injury • trauma • and pollution further deplete micro nutrients.
The following charts highlight the importance of micro nutrients for enhancing immunity.
Micronutrients have key roles at every stage of your immune response.
This chart summarises important processes involved in immune responses.
The circles highlight the micronutrients known to affect these responses.
The overlap between micronutrients shows that multiple micronutrients are needed to support your immune system.
Image Reference: Gombart AF, Pierre A, Maggini S. A Review of Micronutrients and the Immune System-
Working in Harmony to Reduce the Risk of Infection. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 16;12(1):236. doi:
10.3390/nu12010236. PMID: 31963293; PMCID: PMC7019735.
Micronutrients are also referred to as vitamins and minerals and nutraceuticals. They are vital for healthy development, disease prevention, and wellbeing.
Except for vitamin D, micronutrients are not produced in your body and must be
derived from your diet or nutrient supplements if diet alone cannot meet your needs.
Certain nutraceuticals have been found to target and calm inflammation, as an
approach to prevent damage from a cytokine storm:
• Vitamin D
• Green Tea Polyphenols
This chart highlights again the need for multiple nutraceuticals to support a healthy immune response.
Image Reference: Desjarlais M, Wirth M, Lahaie I, et al. Nutraceutical Targeting of Inflammation-Modulating
microRNAs in Severe Forms of COVID-19: A Novel Approach to Prevent the Cytokine Storm. Front
Pharmacol. 2020;11:602999. Published 2020 Dec 11. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.602999
EAT WELL TO BE WELL
What you eat is important. Most people do not eat what they need to meet their daily nutritional requirements:
• 2-3 serves of high fibre whole grains,
• 1/3 cup of nuts and seeds,
• 2 pieces of fruit, and
• 5-7 seasonal vegetables.
You can’t pluck the nutrients you need to have a healthy body out of thin air. You need to eat well to be well. Poor nutrition lowers your disease resistance and predisposes you to infections.
Start by cleaning out your fridge and pantry and get rid of artificially coloured and flavoured food and drinks • foods high in sugar • highly processed foods • lollies, and junk food. They are full of chemical additives, preservatives, and trans fats. And they are devoid of nutrients.
Eat as much fresh, unprocessed, bio dynamic and organic food as you can to gain maximum benefit from the food you eat. The Mediterranean Diet is an excellent place to start.
STAY WELL HYDRATED
Most people don’t drink enough water and wonder why they lack energy, or feel dull headed, get
constipated, or suffer from kidney and urinary tract issues. ⠀ ⠀
As part of a healthy lifestyle, here are some tips to help you manage your hydration:
• Aim to drink 8 tall glasses of water a day - 2 litres if you are trying to lose weight.
• Drink pure water throughout the day, even if it means buying a good quality stainless steel or glass water bottle and carrying it with you wherever you go.
• If you don’t like the taste of water, buy yourself a glass water infusion bottle and fill it with slices of lemon, fruit and fresh berries.
• Limit drinks that act as diuretics and dehydrate you, such as alcohol, coffee and sugar-laden, salt-loaded or caffeinated soft drinks (soda, pop, cool-drink, carbonated). Drink herbal teas instead.
• Eat plenty of water-rich foods, such as melons, berries, oranges, apples, fruit, salads and vegetables, broths, smoothies, nut milks, fresh juices, and soup.⠀ ⠀
• Highly active people should drink to keep pace with their sweat loss. That means drinking water before, during the period of activity, and afterwards. ⠀
• One way to make sure you are adequately hydrated is to check your urine. If it's clear, pale or straw-coloured, all is well. If your urine is darker and has a more pungent odour - then grab a glass of water and re hydrate.
PRACTICE GRATITUDE & STILLNESS EVERY DAY
Start each day in a quiet, grateful way.
I see too many clients who start their day as if their world is on fire, minds racing and pumped with adrenaline.
All I can say is stop doing that to yourself.
Before you get out of bed in the morning, close your eyes for just a moment. Breathe deeply and gently and think of 5 things you are grateful for. Then start your day.
Gratitude might seem such a simple idea, but it’s also a very effective way to set a positive attitude to carry you through the rest of your day. With practice, gratitude helps you to see life differently and calms you.
If you’re struggling and can’t think of anything to appreciate, say a prayer for yourself and others that you have a beautiful day, guided and protected every step of the way. Or buy a book of inspiring quotes and read one before you start your day.
At the end of each day, set aside time to be quiet. Turn off your phones and gadgets and television, and practice stillness for half an hour.
You might like to learn how to meditate or use this time to pray. You could listen to a guided meditation or sound healing music. Some people find stillness doing yoga, tapping, chanting or using sound bowls. Others like to sit in their garden at night and practice breath work.
Whatever you resonate with that stills and calms your mind and emotions – do it every night before you go to bed.
How you begin and end each day has a significant impact on your health, immunity, and well being.
You are a Garden,
And the Gardener,
Of your Body, Mind,
Heart & Soul.
Lisa Rieniets ND
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