Faced with a constant barrage of external aggressors (bacteria, viruses parasites …) as well as internal ones (stress, smoking, unbalanced diet …), the body needs to protect itself in whatever way it can. It has thus established a highly-developed system of defence to neutralise potential invaders.
The first line of defence consists of neutrophils and macrophages which, through a process called ‘phagocytosis’, indiscriminately engulf foreign bodies (1). If the task they face is too great, the immune system brings out the ‘big guns’ in the form of white cells called lymphocytes which specifically target the pathogen to be eliminated (the antigen) (2).
It’s not difficult to see why we need to marshal our immune forcesas early in the day as possible, in order for our bodies to remain protected throughout the day!
Like all cells, white blood cells need energy to function at full capacity. This energy comes primarily from glucose and oxygen. It’s no surprise that respiration plays a key role in boosting immunity!
Breathing deeply helps improve oxygenation of cells. It also facilitates the movement of lymph through lymph vessels – and thus the elimination of waste products (3).
Even before you’ve got out of bed, try this abdominal breathing exercise :
By maintaining good muscle mass, you’ll be providing your white cells with a significant reserve of glutamine, a source of fuel these cells need when fighting infection.
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise is therefore a very good idea (4). The best option for giving your immune cells a big breath of fresh air is an early morning walk in the forest!
A glass of orange juice at breakfast? Excellent choice! Like kiwi fruit, blackcurrants and other citrus fruits, it contains vitamin C which not only plays a role in normal immune system function but also helps to reduce fatigue(5).
To increase your intake, you could also opt for a vitamin C supplement (such as Liposomal Vitamin C, a patented liposomal formulation for optimal absorption).
You may prefer the jacuzzi but a cold shower appears to produce more health benefits, naturally increasing production of lymphocytes, the body’s ‘immune memory’ (6). It also has an energising effect on the circulation. Two good reasons to give it a go!
Indigenous to north-eastern China, astragalus is a major ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine where it is used as a ‘Yang’ tonic. The plant’s roots support the body’s defences in fighting external aggressors and also help maintain good physical and mental resistance(7-8).
Sometimes drunk as a tea, astragalus is is also available in the form of a convenient liquid supplement (such as Astragalus Extract, standardised to 16% polysaccharides).
With its origins in Chinese medicine,Qi-Gong is a gentle practice combining posture and breathing exercises aimed at rebalancing the body’s energy flow. Certain movements work in particular on Weiqi, the energy of the immune system, thus preventing weaknesses in the body’s natural defences (9-10).
When you get up in the morning, you can activate the Qi of the lungs for example, by crossing your arms over your chest, with your fingers on your collar bone. Take a deep breath in, then fully exhale, making a quiet humming sound as you do so.
A member of the large Asteraceae family, purple echinacea(Echinacea purpurea) is a hardy, daisy-like plant with pink petals. Much prized by native Americans, it is today a favourite of European herbalists as it supports healthy functioning of the body’s defences (11).
It features in some excellent synergistic supplements such as Immunity Booster, based on organic echinacea and acerola cherry extract, a source of vitamin C.
As a cofactor in numerous biochemical reactions (including antibody production), vitamin B6 supports normal immune system function and helps reduce fatigue(12).
An essential vitamin, it must be obtained from the diet: good sources include offal, meat, fish, brewer’s yeast, pulses and wholegrains.
During periods of physical or psychological stress, our immune systems tend to become weaker. They are thus more vulnerable to harmful external agents, paving the way for free radicals which make our cells ‘rust’ (13-14).
So how about starting the day with a good dose of positivity? Yoga, meditation, music, colouring in: give yourself some relaxing ‘me’ time in the morning before you face the day’s challenges!
Also known as vine of Peru, cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) gets its name from its hook-shaped stipules. A feature of the Amazon pharmacopoeia for millennia, it is able to support immune function, due in particular, to its high alkaloid content (15).
Certain supplements (including AC11, a patented cat’s claw extract standardised to 8% carboxyl-alkyl-esters) now offer all the benefits of this key traditional medicine plant.
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