How to Strengthen Your Immune System

What is your Immune System and its function?

Your immune system is a large network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and chemicals.  This system works together to protect you from foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) that cause infection, illness, and disease.  The immune system includes:

  • Skin, Mucus Membranes, and Other First-Line Defenses: Your skin is the first line of defense in preventing and destroying germs before they enter your body.  Skin produces oils and secretes other protective immune system cells.  Mucus membranes line the respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts.  Germs stick to mucus, and are moved out of the body.  Tiny hairs in your nose catch germs.  Enzymes found in sweat, tears, saliva, and mucus membranes as well as secretions in the vagina all defend against and destroy germs.
  • White Blood Cells: Serving as an army against harmful bacteria and viruses, white blood cells search for, attack, and destroy germs to keep you healthy.  There are different white blood cell types.  Each cell type either circulates in your bloodstream or resides in a particular tissue, and each cell type has a specific mission in your body’s defense system.
  • Lymph Nodes: You have hundreds of lymph nodes all over your body, including in your neck, armpits, and groin.  These small glands filter and destroy germs so they can’t spread to other parts of your body and make you sick.  Lymph nodes contain immune cells that analyze the foreign invaders, then activate, replicate, and send the specific lymphocytes (white blood cells) to fight off that particular invader.
  • Bone Marrow: Stem cells in the spongy center of your bones develop into red blood cells, plasma cells, and a variety of white blood cells and other types of immune cells.  Your bone marrow makes billions of new blood cells every day, and releases them into your bloodstream.
  • Stomach and Bowel: Stomach acid kills many bacteria soon after they enter your body.  You also have good bacteria in your intestines that kill harmful bacteria.  The good bacteria in your gut are essential to a healthy immune system.
  • Spleen: Your spleen stores white blood cells that defend your body from foreign invaders.  It also filters your blood, destroying old and damaged red blood cells.
  • Tonsils & Adenoids: Located in the throat and nasal passage, tonsils and adenoids can trap foreign invaders as soon as they enter your body.  They have immune cells that produce antibodies that fight throat and lung infections.
  • Thymus: This small organ in your upper chest beneath your breast bone helps mature a certain type of white blood cell whose task is to recognize and remember a specific invader so that an attack can be quickly mounted the next time that same type of invader is encountered.

Why is the immune system important?

When your immune system is working properly it prevents germs from entering your body, and destroys them or limits their harm if they do get in.  Your immune system can tell which cells are yours and which substances are foreign to your body.  It learns about germs after you’ve been exposed to them, developing antibodies to protect you from those specific germs.  When your immune system is not working properly, it can’t mount a winning attack against an invading germ, and an infection develops.  You need a healthy immune system to create white blood cells to attack and kill bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi.

What weakens the immune system?

Diet affects the immune system to a great extent.  “70% of the immune system is located in the gut,” said David Heber, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA Health.  “Nutrition is a key modulator of immune function.”

Immune cells in the gut interact with the microbiome, the diverse array of bacteria and fungi that live in the gastrointestinal tract and are directly influenced by an individual’s diet and lifestyle.  The foods we eat affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells.  Those gut bugs are healthiest and support strong immunity when their hosts (that’s us) consume plant foods that are high in fiber.

“The microbiome and the immune system are critically intertwined,” says Jonathan Jacobs, MD, PhD, a professor of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.  “What’s present in the gut determines what education immune cells get.  Dietary diversity and microbial diversity go together.  The typical Western diet, which is high in animal proteins, sugar, processed foods, and saturated fat, results in less-diverse gut bacteria and promotes inflammation and chronic disorders.  Healthy gut bacteria subsist on complex carbohydrates and fiber that our own cells are unable to digest.  Those fibrous sources are plant foods, from apples and broccoli to yams and zucchini.”

What BOOSTS the immune system?

Just like the rest of your body, your immune system needs nourishment, rest, and a healthy environment to stay strong.  Certain lifestyle changes can BOOST your immune system and help you avoid illness.  To keep your immune system healthy, you should:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Drink LOTS of water
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat nutritionally rich whole foods (fruits & veggies)
  • Focus on fermented foods
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Manage stress

How OHI program can help BOOST your immune system?

OHI’s program directly supports better immune system health in so many ways:

  • Cleansing and nourishing the body: Wheatgrass juice and a plant-based, organic, raw food diet at OHI set the foundation for a strong immune system.  A healthy diet is absolutely essential to a healthy immune system, and an eating plan that focuses on plants and fiber will help your immune system heal the body faster when it gets sick.  By eating a raw plant-based diet and eliminating sugar, your immune system is purged of toxins and has all the fuel it needs to produce white blood cells to fight off illness.
  • Include fermented foods: A fiber-rich diet supports your gut’s microbiome, and fermented foods packed with live bacteria are great for your gut health.  OHI’s Fermented Foods & Recipes class and Sauerkraut Instruction class are terrific ways to learn how easy it is to make fermented foods like sauerkraut and seed cheese.  YUM!
  • Regular exercise: The gentle exercise and stretch classes stimulate the lymphatic system to eliminate toxins, boost the immune system, and contribute to the healing process.
  • Reduce stress: The Mental Detoxification and Emotional Detoxification classes are absolute musts to help reduce stress.  Developing a mindfulness practice of gratitude, affirmations, visualization, journaling, and living in the present all contribute to a healthier stress-free life.  And OHI’s weekly Wednesday Release Ceremony gives you a transcendent moment to purge your life of whatever stresses have been plaguing you.

Overall, the immune system is integral to your body’s efforts to stay healthy.  The more we can do to support a healthy immune system, the stronger our body will be when under attack from bacteria and viruses.  So eat your veggies, include fermented foods, drink your water, and get lots of sleep, and you’ll be doing your part to NATURALLY boost your immunity!

Our caring staff members are eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

“6 Ways to boost your immune system naturally before you get sick,” Allina Health, www.allinahealth.org

“5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System,” Gundersen Health System, www.gundersenhealth.org

“6 Immune System Busters & Boosters,” Web MD, www.webmd.com

“If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut,” by Sandy Cohen, March 19, 2021, UCLA Health, www.connect.uclahealth.org

“How to boost your immune system,” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, www.health.harvard.edu

“Immune System,” www.myclevelandclinic.org