How Can I Keep My Immune System Healthy?
If you visualize the immune system, you may think of it as an army fighting to protect the body from alien invaders. And yes, this is how it works yet a little more complex. In fact, the immune system is a whole system of organs that work together to keep you healthy, http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/immunity/immune-detail.html.
So if you are trying to dodge the getting sick “bullet” know that you must keep the body’s whole defense system in good condition.
Last week’s blog, “Beat The Battle of The Perfect “Sick” Storm: Part 1”, https://valeriegoldstein.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/beat-the-battle-of-the-perfect-sick-storm-skin-deep-part-1/, started this series and discussed the role of the skin as the largest external barrier to germs and an important part of the immune system.
Internally, it is the lymph “system” (a network of organs: spleen, thymus, gut and bone marrow) that protects you from getting sick.
The Spleen Helps Keep Us Healthy
The spleen, about the size of your fist (you can see a picture here, http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/blood-disorders/spleen-disorders/overview-of-the-spleen) is located on the upper left side of the stomach under the rib cage and above the kidney.
When “an invader” penetrates the skin or is detected in the body, the spleen produces white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes produce antibodies (specialized proteins that protect against invasion by foreign substances). It also contains other white blood cells called phagocytes that ingest bacteria, fungi, and viruses and destroy abnormal or old and damaged red blood cells.
Although you may not hear much about the spleen, it is considered an important organ in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Specifically TCM pairs the stomach with the spleen for digestion and also maintains its pivotal role in providing warmth and vitality, supporting immune function and the mental energy to produce industrious and creativity in work.”
Excess stress, cold foods and excessive amounts of processed foods containing salt/sugar, refined vegetable oil, artificial colors and sweeteners and even typical allergy foods (dairy, gluten, soy) and cold weather can negatively affect the spleen.
In 1973, “Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis” was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180.abstract. It found that the ingestion of 100 grams (roughly 3-1/2 ounces portions) of carbohydrate as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and pasteurized orange juice all significantly reduced (a 50% reduction) the white blood cells (neutrophils) ability to destroy bacteria for up to 2 hours after ingestion.
Conversely, adding maitake mushrooms, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19515245, to your meals might improve spleen health. Maitake or other medicinal mushrooms contain high amounts of beta-glucan, which may increase the amount of immune cells which stimulate the immune responses in your spleen. Adding proteins are important too. As it aides in manufacturing antibodies and interferons (protein produced by the immune system in response to an infection).
What Can I Do to Keep My Spleen Healthy?
There are specific lifestyle habits that will help support a healthy spleen.
- Move your body. Activity will keep blood and fluids flowing to the organs of the immune system. The exercise supports filtering waste and toxins out of your body through the gut and the skin. Massage therapy or foam rolling can also help to detox the lymphatic system.
- Relax and reduce stress
- Eat small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals. Better choices include:
- warm foods (soup, cooked vegetables, Chili, stews, curries, tea)
- fatty proteins like fish (salmon, sardines, halibut), beef, chicken, turkey or lamb.
- avoid dairy products except for organic butter and raw goat’s milk (cooked or steamed preferably)
- Try Supplements that Support Lymphatic;
-several essential oils are beneficial for improving the body’s ability to drain swelling, fight infections, increase blood flow and reduce pain:
- frankincense oils.
Combine several drops of oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil, and massage them over the spleen two to three times per day.
-herbs and spices
- black and chili pepper
-more supplements that can help improve liver health, circulation and fight inflammation include:
- omega-3 fish oils
- burdock root
- digestive enzymes
- activated charcoal
- milk thistle
Take Home Message
As Part of your ability to fight a cold, flu or any bug that attacks your immune system, take steps to strengthen the organs that fight to keep you healthy. Take care of your spleen. Eat warm foods and small frequent meals. Be active to keep blood flowing. Relax and get a massage with peace of mind, knowing both you and your spleen are happy and healthy. Next week more about the immune system’s “health system”.