Going to the grocery store has been a wild experience this past week. Shelves empty and people purchasing out of fear, trying to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. And for some, they’ve had to face the disappointment and fear of items being sold out or unavailable. The fear-mongering is freaky and can be contagious. However, there are some amazing and truly powerful things you can do right from your very own backyard to boost your immune system and help keep you healthy and strong.
Here are 9 ways you can seriously boost your immune systems naturally, right from your own backyard. And they never sell out.
1. Get Outside to Breathe Fresh Air
Even a simple walk outside can boost your immune system. “Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils and monocytes, which ultimately increases immune function,” states Ather Ali, ND, MPH, assistant director of Complementary/Alternative Medicine Research at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Stopping to smell the roses, or breathe in the fresh air really does help to alleviate stress and boost your feelings of okay-ness and gratitude. All of which has a massive effect on our psyches and immune systems.
2. Harness the Power of the Sun
Immune cells are favorably affected by vitamin D levels, and natural sunlight is the best source of natural vitamin D. In fact, low vitamin D levels are linked to respiratory infections and may increase susceptibility to influenza. Additionally, our body’s biological rhythms appear to influence our inflammatory response and how we resist infections, and research suggests these rhythms are directly related to our exposure to the sun. Just stepping outside for a few minutes to feel the sun on your skin and feel gratitude for that warmth can begin to shift a lot under the surface. Check out this article to learn more about how fresh air and sunlight effect the virus.
3. Find a Tree and Do Some Tree Breathing
Trees emit natural chemicals called phytoncides which have been proven to boost immune function, lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, and improve concentration. Additionally, when you ground with the Earth—whether through bare feet on the ground or hands on the tree—your nervous system actually attunes to the natural rhythms of the land, rebalancing your entire system by engaging your parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of the fight or flight system that we are so often in. All of which supports the health and strength of your immune system. Find out more about the benefits of tree breathing here.
4. Get Some Skin to Ground Contact
There’s been a substantial amount of research to support the benefits of connecting your body with the body of the Earth. According to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, earthing or grounding—skin contact with the earth—can have an immense anti-inflammatory and energizing effect on the body. Additionally, other research strongly supports that exposure to a bacterium found in soil, called Mycobacterium vaccae, is connected to the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, increasing cognitive performance and resistance to stress—stress, which tends to compromise immune system function. Everything is linked and it does us well to connect naturally our bodies with the Earth.
5. Make a Cup of Rose Hip Tea
While citrus fruits contain approximately 71 mg vitamin C per 100 g, rose hips contain 1,750 mg — 25 times that of an orange! Not only is this fruit an excellent source of vitamin C, but studies show them to be high in zinc, iron, and contain more antioxidants than blueberries. They log a long list of other vitamins and minerals as well (including vitamins D and A, two extremely important vitamins that are not commonly found in food) making rose hip medicine super effective in relieving inflammations as well as preventing and fighting infections like the flu. Overall this is a powerful superfood that is abundant in our yards and wild spaces. Check out this article to learn more about how to harvest and use Rose Hips for your health.
7. Eat Your Garlic
One of the best ways to build your immune strength daily is through a food most of us keep in our pantry. Raw garlic is a powerful superfood that has very strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties. The potent sulfur compound allicin in garlic is known to treat serious GI infections, as well as kill parasites and yeast infections. At the first sign of an infection or illness, start taking one raw garlic clove daily. I like to chop it up and add it to broth or soup just before I eat it so as not to diminish the antiviral properties.
8. Get Good Sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation and disruption of the sleep-wake cycle can cause an activation of the inflammatory immune response. Lack of sleep decreases the activity of T-cells (a crucial type of immune cell) and weakens our immune response to vaccines. Studies of identical twins show that the sleep-deprived ones had increased inflammation markers and worse immune markers. They say it’s good to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis (though I do best with 9).
9. Find What Makes You Feel Good (practice gratitude)
Saved the biggest and the best for last.
Limit your intake of news and anxiety producing inputs in your life. Put some boundaries around how much you will turn on your screens, and be sure to carve out time to notice what is actually present around you in this moment. Oftentimes when we look around us in our current landscape, things are not nearly as bad as it seems when we are tuned into the fear-based news systems. Chronic stress actually suppresses our immune response by releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol itself interferes with the ability of specific white blood cells called T-cells to proliferate and get signals from the body. In addition, cortisol also lowers an important antibody called secretory IgA, which lines the respiratory tract and gut and is our first line of defense against invading pathogens. In fact, studies show that even a short bit of meditation or deep breathing can increase levels of IgA and improve immune function.
Sooo, all that being said, find what feels good and allow yourself moments (even if small moments) of gratitude, pleasure, awe and wonder. This can feel contradictory in times of crisis, but it is actually more important now than ever. This is not only what keeps us healthier physically so we can be able to help serve our relatives. It also helps keep us grounded, centered, connected and reasonable—all of which can be swept up in the fear and anxiety of the times if we do not take care to connect and cultivate moments of gratitude. And this too is contagious.
Music, dancing, drinking water, building a fire, noticing the new growth of plants, listening to birdsong, smelling fresh air, watching the sunset, making things, singing, praying, writing, and connecting with friends and family…. I could go on, but these are just a few ideas.
What are you doing to keep yourself healthy?
What makes you feel good and helps you be a beacon of light for your community?