Mega-dosing Vitamin C isn’t the only (nor best!) way to boost your immune system. We should be thinking about supporting our immune system all year long, not just during cold and flu season.
Here are 3 surprising ways to help your immune system fight off whatever comes its way:
1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory system. It has its own microbiome, and when certain bacteria overpopulate, it can cause tooth decay and gum disease, which in turn causes inflammation in the body. Gum disease is a gateway for bacteria to enter into your bloodstream and your gut microbiome. Poor oral hygiene is associated with higher risk of heart attack, heart disease and pneumonia.(1)
Inflammation and bacterial infections caused by poor oral hygiene put a daily burden on your immune system, making it less effective to deal with incoming threats.
To combat this and keep your oral cavity in tip top shape, I recommend brushing after every meal, and doing what I call the four step process at least once a day:
1 – Brush with a natural toothpaste
I’m fond of charcoal or clay based toothpastes, which help clean and whiten the teeth without harsh chemicals. Some are even designed to help remineralize the teeth – aka fill in cavities. My top picks include this charcoal toothpaste, dirty mouth toothpaste or clay & charcoal tooth powder
2 – Floss
I prefer this tea tree oil floss since it’s thick, strong, naturally waxed with beeswax, and has antimicrobial properties thanks to the tea tree oil. Any floss will, do, though.
3 – Use a Natural Gum Cleanser
After flossing, I swish a little water with 2-3 drops of Gum Serum in it, which is made from a blend of 11 essential oils that combat bad breath and dirty gums. Conversely, you can put 1-2 drops of tea tree or clove essential oil in a little olive oil or coconut oil and swish that instead.
4 – Take a Dental Probiotic
Finally, to seal my oral care routine, I take Pro-Dental – a probiotic that dissolves in your mouth, leaving your breath fresher than it’s ever been, and your teeth and gums clean and happy. I leave this on my nightstand and take one every night. It has significantly improved my oral health. Use code HYPERMARIA for 25% off your entire Hyperbiotics order. (I love their charcoal toothpaste and advanced probiotic, too.)
For a fascinating deep dive into the impact oral hygiene has on your health, a breakdown of how conventional dental products can cause more harm than good, and how you can reverse cavities by remineralizing your teeth, listen to this podcast episode: Is brushing your teeth harming your health? with Trina Felber RN.
If your gums bleed when you brush them or floss, don’t freak out, but, it’s time to step up your routine STAT.
2. Balance Your Gut Microbiome
About 70 percent of immune tissue is found in the gut. If your digestion and gut health is compromised, your immune system will be too. If you experience regular gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, or loose stool, these are all signs that your digestive system needs a little TLC. It’s important to get to the root cause of the issue with a visit to your gastroenterologist and a comprehensive stool test. There are a number of possible causes for any of these issues, but a lack of sufficient “good” bacteria and an overabundance of “problematic” bacteria is often to blame, at least in part.
To balance your microbiome, and therefore, bolster your immune system, here are 4 crucial steps:
1 – Remove inflammatory foods
Any foods that spark inflammation, contribute to leaky gut, or that you can’t digest properly should be removed. This inexpensive stool test will be able to tell you which foods your body can and can’t break down efficiently. In general, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar spark inflammation and disrupt the gut microbiome in most people, and should be removed.
2 – Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
It’s important to eat a high fiber (read: lots of vegetables) diet, which not only sweeps the colon and improves regularity, it also provides food for the good bacteria in your gut. Moderate amounts of high quality protein and healthy fat should also be included. Remove or eliminate refined sugars and processed foods, which disrupt the microbiome.
A Plant-Based Paleo diet is the best starting point for most people. It contains an abundance of vegetables, and moderate amounts of protein and healthy fat. It eliminates grains, beans/legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed foods, and can then be tweaked depending on your individual needs. This 28-day Plant Based Paleo Meal Plan is a great start.
3 – Repair the Gut Lining
If you have a leaky gut – which you can determine through a stool test – it is important to repair it. Removing the foods that cause leaky gut – mainly gluten, beans, legumes, and dairy – will make a big difference, but you’ll also want to add in foods that can heal the gut lining – like bone broth and collagen-rich foods. Many functional medicine doctors recommend supplementation with l-glutamine powder as well, which has been shown to repair the intestinal wall lining. To start, try half a teaspoon in a tall glass of water first thing in the morning, and wait 30-minutes before eating.
4 – Add in a High Quality Probiotic
Taking a high quality probiotic supplement – one that contains multiple strains naturally found in the gut and that is strong enough to resist your stomach acid to make it to your gut – can be extremely beneficial. It can reduce or eliminate common digestive issues like gas and bloating, increase regularity, and boost the immune system. I take and recommend Pro-15 and Pro-15 Advanced Strength. (Use code HYPERMARIA for 25% off).
3. Reduce & Manage Your Stress
When we’re stressed, we become more susceptible to infections, because the immune system’s ability to fight off pathogens is reduced. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes – the immune cells that destroy invading viruses and bacteria, and protect your body. (2)
Stress also has an indirect effect on impairing our immune system, if we turn to coping strategies like eating a lot of sugar, which in itself impairs the immune system, smoking, or drinking.
There are multiple ways to manage stress, but the most effective I’ve found include:
1 – Change Your Perspective
No event in and of itself is stressful. It’s our perception of the event that makes it so. This book has helped me and so many of my clients rewire how we react to stressful situations. I did an entire podcast episode about this, which you can listen to here: Stress Less & Be Happy More
2 – Meditation
Many of us have a love hate relationship with meditation. We know it’s good for us and we want to love it, but “we’re not good at it” or don’t know how. This podcast episode with master meditation teacher will change that: Stress Less & Accomplish More. You can also check out her book – which for me, was the key to learning how to meditate and establishing a regular practice.
3- Movement – Yoga, Exercise, Dance
Moving your body doesn’t cost a thing, you can do it anywhere, and you will feel infinitely better. Stress gets stored in our bodies – which we discuss in this podcast episode: Release Physical Pain by Releasing Emotional Pain. A regular exercise routine gets your blood pumping and endorphins flowing, and you’ll find you’re in a better mood more often. It doesn’t have to be intense or over the top. A simple yoga class does the trick, too. Even a walk outside is beneficial – bonus points if you do it in a park surrounded by trees, which is shown to increase the production of lymphocytes – particularly the very important Natural Killer cells.
Have you noticed that regularly engaging in any of these activities have improved your immunity? Share in the comments below.