We are living in strange and uncertain times and your number one priority should be improving overall health. The second area of focus is optimizing immune function, including improving immune defense to resist infection. Because the body can be exposed to various germs, toxins, or harmful threats on a daily basis, the immune system is constantly at work to keep you as healthy as possible. During these times, the best way to do that is through immune system regulation.
What Is The Immune System?
The main function of the immune system is to defend the body against infection from harmful microbes and pathogens, provide round the clock surveillance of malignant cell growth, and to clear damaged tissues. If that wasn’t enough work, the immune system also develops tolerance to avoid unwanted response to healthy tissues of both foreign substances and the self. There are hereditary, environmental, lifestyle, and nutritional factors that influence the immune system’s ability to function optimally. All evidence points to the fact that nutrition plays the largest role in healthy immune function.
You Need To Regulate, Not Stimulate
There’s a lot of talk about boosting the immune system, and this is beneficial in certain instances, but not all infections require an immunity boost. Too much stimulation can result in overreaction, which can turn the immune system against itself. It’s all about balance because a regulated immune system doesn’t overreact or underreact. This concept of regulation also applies to the rest of your body, including regulating stress, emotions, panic, and fear, all of which can impair immune function and make you more susceptible to developing infections. Luckily, you can easily regulate the body by:
- Getting plenty of rest (7-8 hours of sleep per night is optimal)
- Spending time outdoors/in nature (reports show that being in nature helps to naturally reduce stress levels)
- Meditating daily to calm the mind and body
- Eating as healthy as you can (this means focusing on plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes)
- Incorporating movement into daily life (you don’t need to overexert yourself, but moderate exercise helps to decrease stress, boost energy levels, and promote lymphatic drainage)
- Doing things that help you relax (listening/playing music, taking baths, gardening, or exercising)
What Happens When The Immune System Overreacts?
The immune system’s job is to detect harmful threats (viruses and bacteria) that the body encounters. When it encounters these threats, an alarm system goes off and one of the primary alarm proteins is known as galectin-3 (Gal-3). This protein urges other immune cells to respond and sets off immune reactions like inflammation, a necessary response. Gal-3 can go into overdrive, however, and cause an excessive inflammatory response, which can lead to a cytokine storm. This can be dangerous, especially for people with respiratory infections, because the lungs can become overly inflamed.
How To Regulate The Immune System
For centuries, traditional Asian medicine has used medicinal mushrooms for their ability to reduce inflammation and adjust the immune system. These mushrooms (maitake, shiitake, cordyceps, coriolus, tremella, umbellatus, and reishi) are adaptogenic, which means they adapt to immediate circumstance to survive. This quality is beneficial for immune system regulation. Medicinal mushrooms also contain antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, but you can’t just rely on mushrooms to regulate the immune system. You need other immune-regulating herbs with powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Herbs With Antiviral Properties
- Star Anise
Herbs With Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Herbs For Immune System Regulation
All of the aforementioned herbs are essential tools to have in your antiviral toolkit. In your journey to a healthier immune system, always remember that regulation is key. Too much overreaction can harm the body and lead to dangerous cytokine storms. Refer back to these herbs if you ever feel that your immunity is not properly regulated.