Toughen Up: Tips for Immunity by Dr. Robin Berzin
You probably know by now that at Parsley Health, we spend a lot of our time foraging for remedies and rituals that work wholly with us. Being modern, complex and unique individuals, our health practices should reflect our complexity and acknowledge the mere fact that we each have a unique body, heart, history and mind of our own!
Today’s hustling, hopeful human needs more than a synthetic drug or an isolated vitamin capsule to truly be healthy.
With winter whispering at our scarfed collars, the time to toughen-up is now. If prevention and holistic support is your jam, here are 5 sweet, tried and tested tips for a stronger immune system and a happier festive season...
1. Magic mushrooms
(aka mycoferon extract)
Extracts from specially cultivated mushroom strains (like Reishi, Shitake, and various others) have a long history of traditional use as invigorating immuno-supportive tonics. They enhance the immune system in multiple ways, most notably by activating our macrophages and innate natural killer cells (the white blood cells that defend against harmful intruders like viruses). Mushroom extracts also stimulate our immune cells to release anti-inflammatory compounds that calm the symptoms of infections. Win!
We like Metagenics’ Mycoferon liquid blend derived from 7 unique strains of mushrooms that act synergistically. People generally take 1 dropper full in water three times a day, which does the trick if you are coming down with a cold.
2. Healing herbals: Andrographis + Elderberry
Andrographis paniculata is a plant native to India and Sri Lanka, where it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. In our Western world, Andrographis has demonstrated immune stimulating properties and has been shown to reduce the severity of the common cold and respiratory infections.
Elderberry is another folk-turned-mainstream herbal remedy for which we have 2 thumbs straight up! Elderberry extracts have immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory properties, plus a wide range of medical benefits for a ton of stuff from the flu or common cold to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and even cholesterol or weight issues.
3. Meditation wins!
While acute stress and the subsequent adrenaline rush in the body does put our immune system on a temporary and necessary hyper-alert, prolonged stress can begin to disrupt this important and delicate coping mechanism. Being always-on and mentally-stretched can interfere with our body’s natural ability to heal and recover.
Meditation, as you know by now, is the fastest and most sustainable route to true relaxation. A calm, focused mind advocates whole-body balance. Even more specifically, regular meditation positively affects overall immune function and boosts flu-fighting antibodies . In addition, a regular mindfulness meditation practise improves the quality of our sleep - a time when your body gets a well-deserved break from the fight-or-flight mode of modern daily life, and shifts into a slower state of rest and repair, which brings us to tip number 4:
4. Sleep It Off
Your precious nightly opportunity to re-set and recover is not to be underestimated. The detoxification of your whole body (including the skin), and the proper efficiency of your busy brain depend on it.
Our tricks to getting the most out of bed time include: early nights (get your 7+ hrs!), eating clean protein at dinner and skipping the booze on most nights (stabilizing blood sugar), daily meditation, and a Magnesium Glycinate supplement before bed to enhance overall muscular and nervous system relaxation.
In the past decade it has become crystal clear that sufficient levels of Vitamin D are needed for various important roles in the body in addition to its classic effects on calcium and bone health. Vitamin D is very closely tied to immune function and deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection. Ideally, we want to be getting our Vit D fix from actual outdoor playtime in the sun - about 20 mins direct skin exposure (sorry, the limited exposure on your face and hands while walking to the train doesn't quite cut it).
At Parsley we test vitamin D levels, and sometimes prescribe a high quality supplement or regular sunlamp exposure to get levels to where they need to be for optimal immune support.