The importance of taking an integrated approach to immunity.
For many Hong Kongers, life is returning to normal. A new kind of normal. As we all prepare to go back to work, school and daily routines, we’re advised to remain cautious. The Covid-19 pandemic, which continues to rage across other parts of the world, has driven home the importance of protecting and prioritising our immunity.
Your immune system – the most powerful line of defence against Covid-19 and all other colds and flu- is impacted by so much more than clean hands and clean diets. We all know we need to care for our physical health at this time, but did you know your emotional and mental health play a significant role too? Amid the coronavirus crisis, we’ve all experienced varying levels of stress, sadness and a sense of isolation, which are proven to hinder immunity.
And that’s not all. Decades of research and our own thirty years’ clinical experience confirm there are seven key factors influencing your immunity superpowers.
Take a look at these different factors and see what they mean for you. Even the smallest steps to improve your health and wellbeing can make a big difference to your immune system, now and always.
The seven factors affecting your immunity
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious and uncertain, you’re not alone. Over the past few months, many of our clients report feeling mentally exhausted..
Your immune system and mental health are connected, so it’s important to explore ways to give your mind a break from the mayhem.
- Start the day the right way. When you wake in the morning, avoid reaching for your phone to read the news or skim through your social media feeds. Instead, take the time to connect to yourself and a new day – be it through journaling, prayer, a meditation practice, or stepping out into nature. If you tend to ruminate, schedule “worry time” at a set time of your day or week. This can gently train your mind and give a constructive time for worries.
- Go with ‘good enough’. We’re all trying hard to cope with the uncertainties and adapting to many changes around us. Striving for perfection in every area of lives is unrealistic at the best of times; now more than ever be kind to yourself.
- Do something you enjoy. Watch a movie, read a book, or go for a walk. Enjoy some escapism from the situation.
- End the day the right way too. Deep sleep is important for T-cells, which play a critical role in fighting colds and flu. Give yourself time to unwind by turning off your phone and avoiding screen time at least an hour before bed.
We’ve all been on our own rollercoaster ride of emotions. Elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can inhibit immune function. It’s imperative to acknowledge, accept and work with your emotions – whatever they are – to avoid becoming trapped by them.
- Meet your emotions. Anger. Sadness. Love. It’s important to remember it’s natural to feel emotions. Awareness of your emotions – even those you don’t want or that you’ve been conditioned to ignore, can offer you important insights, and, help them to pass. Physical movement, creativity (art, painting, journaling) can help to access and express your emotions.
- Talk more. Quality connections are crucial for positive health. Reach out to a friend to talk or, for confidential support, a counsellor or psychotherapist to help you work with your emotions.
- Calm the body to calm the mind. A quality magnesium (glycinate) supplement, adaptogenic herbs like ashwaganda and nervine herbs like lemon balm can help ease stress and replenish your nervous system. Homeopathy can help to restore emotional balance, as can Bach Flower Remedies.
Your vital energy is the subtle energy force that flows through and around your body at all times, promoting health and harmony. When it is in balance, you’re more likely to feel calm, confident, and centred. It becomes easier for your immune system to function at its best. Physical and emotional blockages like lack of proper rest and stress can deplete your vital energy or cause it to become stagnant, inhibiting your immunity.
- Clear energy blocks. Osteopathy, acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, crystal healing, Bowen and Craniosacral therapy can help to clear energy blocks and restore equilibrium to your body, mind and immunity.
- Move more. Osteopathy and acupuncture can help to release the stiffness and physical stresses caused by decreased movement and increased screen time in recent months. This can safely support your return to exercise and sport.
- Work on your subtle energy. Practices such as yoga, tai chi and chi gung are designed to work on our subtle energy and offer stress relief. A regular practice can help to offer certainty in uncertain times.
- Mindfulness or meditation. Give your body and mind a time-out with a calming and restorative mindfulness or meditation practice. Join our free weekly mindfulness session or check out some of our favourite resources here.
Toxins in your cosmetics and home cleaning products can impair your immunity, making it that much harder for it to do its job. Toxins in your food can also make you more susceptible to sicknesses.
- Eat clean. Eat organic produce as much and as often as possible. If this isn’t doable, use a vegetable wash to remove pesticides. Avoid the Dirty Dozen, the most contaminated fruits and vegetables according to the Environmental Working Group (EMW).
- Read the label. Commercial soaps, laundry detergents and household cleaning products contain synthetics, fragrances and chemicals that can lower immunity. Parabens are chemical preservatives found in many cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, as well as some processed foods. Look for paraben-free products and those with natural ingredients you can recognise. Opt for the highest-quality natural products and brands that you can find.
- Clean green. Clean your home with a blend of hot water, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Natural cleaning products, Thieves Household Cleaner and microfiber cloths are great options too. Wipe down the things you touch frequently, like your mobile phone and surfaces at home.
- Minimise mould. Mould inhibits your immunity and provides a breeding ground for viruses. Wipe walls and surfaces with a solution of Thieves oil and water.
When we connect to something bigger than ourselves – be it music, art, nature, religion, voluntary work, and more – we nourish our spirit and experience a greater sense of purpose. But when we’re focussed on getting through each day, our spirit may not receive the attention it needs. This can cause stress, sadness and a sense of being incomplete – all of which can take a toll on immunity.
- Breathe to feel better. Take a pause and focus on deep breathing. Turn towards your breath, get to know it and work with it to calm your mind and nervous system. You can learn more about deep breathing
- Be nurtured by nature. Step outdoors into nature and allow your senses to guide you as you go on a walk or a wander.
- Look to leaders. Look toward leaders, influencers and teachers that you find uplifting and inspiring. Connect with and learn from them as they share wisdom to see you through challenging times.
Nourishing relationships are proven to lower stress levels and improve immunity. Isolation can make us feel threatened because we don’t have a supportive network around us to keep us safe. This can activate our stress responses, which impact our immunity.
While real-life interactions are limited, you can rely on modern technology to connect with others near and far. Online, it is important to recognise what is healthy and what is toxic.
- Rely on reliable sources. Be discerning of the information you read online to avoid additional and unnecessary fear and panic. Many online spaces continue to perpetuate incorrect and alarmist information
- Choose your connections wisely. Be aware of the people in your online communities that trigger stress, and try to minimise unhealthy and unhelpful interactions.
- Phone a friend. The comforting voice of a trusted friend or loved one can help you to make it through your day.
Comfort-food diets, sedentary lifestyles, greater screen usage and less sleep (in part due to stress) in recent months may have lowered your and your family’s immune defences. By caring for your body, you’re caring for your immunity.
- Eat yourself well. Ensure your body is well-fed with nutrient rich food. Highly processed foods and those high in sugar are proven to compromise your immunity. Instead, go for immune-boosting foods.
- Supplement for extra support. For greater immunity support, take a potent vitamin C and D supplement and a good probiotic.
- Stay hydrated. Hydrating is as important to flush out toxins that build up in the body and to support a healthy immune system.
- Keep moving. Light exercise is another powerful stress reliever and immunity booster, helping the body sweat out any toxins. Yoga, tai chi and chi gung are also powerful means to keep moving, stay grounded and restore emotional balance.
- Sleep well. Ensure your bedtime is sleep-friendly. Ditch the digitals and keep your room dark and at a cool temperature.
We hope you find these proven tips a reliable source of support at this time. If you’d like our expert help to bolster your immunity, please connect with one of our naturopaths. Taking every factor of your wellbeing into consideration, they’ll put a personalised plan into place for you. If you’re feeling anxious or distressed, please connect with a member of our mental health team. Call 2523 7121 or connect with us here.