Right now at the forefront of our minds is the sickness going around the globe. While yes this is a pandemic, the last thing you need to be doing is panicking. Panic, and stress in general, really diminish the immune system’s ability to do its job. When we are in a panicked state, our fight-or-flight responses are activated and when that happens, our immune system is put on the back burner until the danger has passed and decreases our body’s ability to fight off infections.1, 2, 3
My goal with this quick article is to help empower you, giving you some approachable tools you can use, as well as some recommendations for easily accessible products if the need arises, and a few words of caution. This by no means is meant to replace western medical advice, and if you feel your life is in danger, obviously go to the emergency room, or call 9-1-1.
7 Tips for Reducing Stress and Supporting the Immune System
- Practice Breathing.
Set a timer on your phone for 2 or 5-minutes. During this time, close your eyes and focus on taking slow, deep, full breaths all the way into your abdomen from your nose, and slowly exhaling the breath through your mouth. –> This form of breathing helps to stimulate your vagus nerve and lower stress responses associated with “fight-or-flight” responses. 4
- Practice Savasana (Corpse pose).
This pose helps with calming the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, it relaxes the body, reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia. It also helps with lowering blood pressure. For a set of instructions on this, check out https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/corpse-pose.
- Actually call, instead of texting, an upbeat friend or family member like your mom to find out about their day and let yourself get lost in the conversation. In a study talked about in 2010 on CNN 5, girls that talked with their mothers on the phone for 15-minutes had a sharp drop in stress hormones. This might also give you an opportunity to laugh, which laughter (even a fake belly laugh) has been shown to reduce stress and improves immune function.7
- Support your Liver.
From a natural health standpoint, the liver helps us to process polar emotions – but this is taxing (or weakening) to it. The liver is also crucial in immune function as it’s pretty important for clearing bacteria, and viruses, from the system.6 There are many ways to support your liver, doing the Moist-Heat Liver Pack therapy is one way. Another is drinking teas with burdock root, dandelion (gobo) root, ginger, or milk thistle, which are beneficial according to natural medicine practices (ps: you can drink that while on the phone with your mom finding out about her day). Adventurous Tip: If you happen to already have dandelions growing in your yard, the leaves go great in salads.
- Get your Lymph moving.
Lymph, like your blood, plays a huge role in helping to rid the body of toxins, but unlike the blood, it takes a little bit more to get it moving. Lymph is a clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells, or leukocytes, and hence, very important to your immune system. To get your lymph moving you can simply go for a walk in nature or even do a few jumping jacks or use a mini-trampoline at home. If walking is tough, or you’re unable to do jumping jacks or use a mini-trampoline, dry brushing is a good alternative.
- Eat more citrus fruits like Oranges and Grapefruit.
Citrus fruits, specifically oranges and grapefruit, tend to have an uplifting smell while helping to break up mucus congestion according to natural medicine. These are also a good source of Vitamin C.
- Remember to Hydrate!
Hydration is important, especially during times of sickness as this helps with the transportation of toxins out of the cells and body. Realize, you need to drink adequate amounts of water for every cell in your body, and the general rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds, divide by two, and that is the number of ounces of water you need minimally each day.
6 Natural Remedies for Stress and Immune Support
One of the beautiful things with natural medicine is that we literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of options when it comes to supporting the immune system – from black seed to onions and even local raw unheated honey, or items like licorice or Tulsi in tea, or even fresh basil on pizza for helping cope with stress. Single-item remedies tend to need to be more specific for the individual and issue – especially if using at higher dosages, though there are also some nice “broad spectrum” and easily available options today. Here are some of my favorite natural remedies to use this time of year for cold and flu. These are all available through our dispensary through Wellevate which offers fast shipping (normally 2 or 3-days), and with orders over $49 the shipping is free. (Yes, we do have most of these items in the clinic currently, as well as other options.)
Note: If taking a prescription medication, always check for interactions before taking a natural remedy! Natural does not automatically mean safe.
- Elderberry and Zinc Throat Lozenges by Zand
Elderberry is a really nice thing to have on hand during the cold and flu season as in clinical studies it has shown to help reduce the duration of the sickness. How does it do that? In the studies, they found that components in Elderberry made it more difficult for viruses to attach to cell walls and hence had a harder time spreading. Pair this with Zinc as it’s an Immune Modulator. Zand has some really nice throat lozenges that contain both Elderberry and Zinc, and are amazingly affordable.
- Immune Support by Banyan Botanicals
One of the key ingredients in this formula is Andrographis which is a very popular immune support herb. It’s even been studied some for uses in issues of HIV infection as one of its components interrupts or modifies the cellular signals transduction pathway of the virus and hence disrupting the viral reproduction.8 This supplement can be used as a preventative to help support the system, or for acute support.
- ColdCalm by Boiron
This is a Complex Homeopathic remedy dealing with issues with cold symptoms and is a well-rounded remedy in my opinion. Some Classical Homeopaths don’t like complex remedies (understandably), and so if you’re looking for a specific classical remedy, here is a fantastic article going over the specific acute remedies by my friend at Lotus Homeopathy on the topic. One of the individual remedies she does recommend in her post is Oscillococcinum which is also a Boiron product.
- Adrenal Nourish by Banyan Botanicals
I have to be honest… this is one of my favorite stress-reducing formulas, and while the name is Adrenal Nourish, there are also beneficial aspects for the liver, lungs, and immune system. Why would I suggest something for the Adrenals? Well, the adrenals can get really taxed during times of fight-or-flight responses.
- Blissful Balance by Amrita Aromatherapy
Are you filled with doom and gloom due to things on the news and social media, or just having a hard time getting to your normal happy-go-lucky self? This remedy is great for anyone that is wanting to tap into their blissful balance.
- Cinnamon Honey Tea is great
Have a dry cough? Mix 1 teaspoon of raw unheated honey and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon into a paste, add about 1 cup of water, let steep for a few minutes and drink as a tea… including the “sludge” at the very bottom of the cup.
4 Precautions during this time
- Be very careful diffusing essential oils in the air, especially peppermint if you have children under 6-years old, or pets. While peppermint can be great for opening up breathing pathways, one drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to about 16-cups of peppermint tea, and at this amount can create a toxic buildup in children and pets that can be life-threatening. Also realize, if your child is weakened from the cold or flu and having a negative reaction to the essential oil being used, they might not be able to tell you and you might not notice the symptoms and attribute these signs them just being sick.
- Know where you are getting your products or remedies (Amazon is not always a good source). Also, read the directions carefully and take any remedies as directed and don’t double up because you think you’re extra sick, and normally do not combine multiple over-the-counter items. If on prescription medications, also check those to see if they might interact with anything.
- If in doubt, talk to a professional.
- While fevers are great as they say your immune system is doing its job, the general rule of thumb is to not let it get over 105/106°F as fevers over 107.6°F can cause brain damage.
- “Stress, Illness and the Immune System”. SimplyPsychology.org, 2010, https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html
- “What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out?”. Cleveland Clinic, March 1, 2017, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/
- “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry”. US National Library of Medicine – NIH – PMC, February 7, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
- “Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises and Your Vagus Nerve: Vagus Nerve Survival Guide: Phase One (This entry is first in a 9-part series.)”. Psychology Today, May 16, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201705/diaphragmatic-breathing-exercises-and-your-vagus-nerve
- “Stressed? Calling Mom helps, study says”. CNN, May 12, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/05/12/stress.mother.voice.call/index.html
- “Immune Response in the Liver.”. US National Library of Medicine – NIH – PubMed, April 26, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29328785
- “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke”. Mayo Clinic, April 5, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
- “Pharmacological Aspects of Andrographis paniculata on Health and Its Major Diterpenoid Constituent Andrographolide”. Kanokwan Jarukamjorn and Nobuo Nemoto, Journal of Health Science, 2008 . https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jhs/54/4/54_4_370/_pdf