5 ways to elevate your immune system
Back to school season is quickly approaching, which means many households will experience an influx of exposure to viruses. Many of us may see that word and feel fear or dread based on life over the past few years (cough, pandemic lockdowns, cough), but let’s remember that viruses are important to how humans evolve, because they are small enough to enter the cell wall and alter our DNA. In other words, they upgrade our DNA. Our body contains approximately 380 trillion viruses. Most of the viruses inside of us live in harmony, and some can cause disease. To make this distinction clear, COVID-19 is a disease caused by the virus SarS-coV2; you can’t catch the disease, rather you catch the virus that may or may not cause the symptoms of COVID-19. How our body handles the response to viruses like SarS-coV2 depends on the state of our immune system. There are many, many lifestyle and nutrition factors that can support or downregulate our immunity, so we’ll dive into some tips and tools to strengthen it so that you are feeling resilient to the inevitable viral contact we’ll all be experiencing this fall (and always).
Be conscious about light
Exposing our eyes to the specific photons of light at sunrise regulates our melatonin and cortisol levels to promote deep, high-quality sleep. It also supports serotonin production (the neurotransmitter that we call the “happy molecule” that helps with our mood). It also cleaves a chemical in our brain that regulates appetite, improves lipolysis (fat burning), and supports your immune system. Just 3 minutes of time outside, first thing is enough to orchestrate your circadian rhythm.
In contrast, artificial light past sunset tricks our brain into thinking it is high noon and suppresses melatonin, which prevents us from being able to settle into deep, restorative sleep which is imperative for a healthy immune response. Expose your skin to sunlight between 10am-2pm daily, even on a cloudy day, sans sunscreen or glasses. The sun is the most effective way to synthesize vitamin D which is essential to a functioning immune system (and mood!)
Learn some ways to reduce artificial light in our digital detox blog here.
Spend time near moving water
Water – especially waterfalls or lapping waves – releases negative ions that have a calming and grounding effect on the body. Time spent near moving water increases natural killer cells which strengthens our immune response. See if you can integrate time by moving water a few days a week by taking the long way home or going for a hike to a waterfall or stream.
Include something colourful in every meal
Colour in food = antioxidants and vitamin C, which help keep inflammation at bay and strengthen our immune response. A simple way to ensure you’re consuming a plethora of antioxidants is to have something colouful in each meal. This could look like dark leafy greens, bright orange or red veggies, purple beets or berries, yellow squash or peppers, etc. To enhance your antioxidant intake, you can supplement with quercetin (great for allergies, too), curcumin, superfoods like camu camu or amla berry powder, spirulina (try the TurF mermaid latte, and vitamin C – either in liposomal form or paired with bioflavonoids to improve absorbency.
Supplement with functional mushrooms
Functional mushrooms, like Reishi and Chaga, are immunomodulators, which means they help bring balance to our immune response. For a full rundown on all of the benefits of functional mushrooms, check out our shroom-focused blog post here. This means taming an overactive one, or helping bolster a down-regulated response. We love Rainbo Mushrooms, which you can purchase at the TurF shop, for their high quality and sustainable resourcing. Add your shroom tincture to your morning coffee, water or smoothie, or upgrade your daily TurF brew with a Reishi booster.
Breathwork is one of the quickest ways to change our physiology. It helps produce nitric oxide (which is toxic to viruses), improves our resilience to stress, alkalinizes our blood, gets our lymph flowing (which helps clear out toxins), and can feel both highly invigorating or calming and grounding. When we breathe consciously, feeling the ribcage expand and contract, we activate our vagal nerves which improves vagal tone to ultimately help regulate our stress response. You can learn more about all of the benefits of breathwork in our blog post here.
When it comes to day to day breathing, opt to breathe through your nose to maximize nitric oxide production and allow the mucus and cilia in your nostrils to trap incoming viruses – in contrast, breathing through our mouth is like wearing our lungs on the outside of our bodies…our nose is our filtration system, so tap into it as often as you can!
Move your body to move your lymph
Stagnant lymph = a stagnant immune system. Our lymph is a milky fluid that pumps through our body through physical movement. Lymph nodes are intelligently located in areas of our body that experience a lot of friction or movement, such as behind the knees, in the groin, armpits , neck and spine. Your biggest lymph node is called the cysterna chyli and it sits on your spine right by your diaphragm so that every time you breathe you pump lymph. Moving our body dynamically allows lymph to circulate to effectively collect debris – toxins, cancerous cells, viruses, bacteria etc. The more blood flow you have, the more your lymph will circulate and keep your immune system happy. Jumping is particularly effective at pumping lymph through the body – just another reason to come to meta or TurF run club :)
Do something joyous or pleasurable daily
The physiological effect of joy and pleasure cannot be overstated. You can eat meticulously, have a regular movement schedule, dial in sleep and take all the adaptogens and supplements in the world, but if you’re not regularly feeling joy, delight or pleasure, you’re not going to feel optimal. Our emotions have a vibration that affects our biology; emotions like grief, envy, anger have a low vibration, while emotions like joy, gratitude and peace have a high vibration. A higher vibration = more energy, which = a greater electromagnetic field around you. It’s believed that this is what plays a role in how we magnetize and manifest things into our lives; you attract what you put out. This is based off of David R. Hawkins work.
Here are some amazing studies that show how positive emotions improved peoples’ immune response when exposed to a cold virus.
The more we experience joy, the more receptive we are to it, which is based on Kelly McGonigal’s research and work. Make a list of all of the things that bring you pleasure and joy and get specific. Then, every morning, consider how you can integrate at least one of those things.