How your mind affects your immune system – and what to do about it.

Many of us are now struggling with the constantly changing parameters of the dos and don'ts of our daily lives as advised by the government and enforced by the police. Confinement at home, social distancing, financial struggles, and possibly the worst part of all, wondering where all this is headed. We have no time frame for how long it will all last. This leads us all to feel a lack of control over our daily lives. So how do we gain back some control? I guess we can say goodbye to normal (for now) but we can take charge of the health of our bodies and our home life. Has there ever been a better time to think about your health and the way we conduct our lives?

I want to give you some tips on how to get some kind of balance back into your life and to stop your mind from affecting your immune status. Current science now confirms that negative perspectives, thoughts, and emotions, can have a drastic effect on the health of your immune system. But let’s not get into that now. Let’s give you some tools and knowledge to help you in these ever-changing times to stop us all from going down the rabbit hole of pessimism and anxiety.

Food for your immune system

It's easy enough to get lazy and think "why to bother?", treating yourself with junk food, but this is a one-way street to thinking and feeling toxic. Remember, you are what you eat. ‘Treat yourself with kindness, as if you were a mother taking care of her small child. Eat a colourful rainbow of foods every day (no, I don’t mean Fruit Loops lol). You want food that is drenching your cells with stored sunshine (yes, vegetables, salads and fruits can do this) and vitality, the vitality of living food. Eat regularly as dips in blood sugar levels increase feelings of anxiety. Keep processed sugar to a minimum.

Whole grains contain B vitamins that are natural mood boosters. Try buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, and rolled oats. Oily fish, nuts, and seeds boost cognitive function. Fish contains amino acids and EPA/DHA which regulate neurological function. Nuts and seeds contain large amounts of the mineral magnesium which aids in muscle relaxation and can help with feelings of stress and anxiety. Foods that nourish your gut can help increase levels of serotonin, the feel-good chemical. Think fibre (prebiotics) and fermented foods (probiotics). Cold-pressed oils on salad and veggies provide further fuel for the brain and neurotransmitters, thus regulating mood. In a nutshell (no pun intended!) eat as much fresh food with as little human interference as possible and ditch the chemical-laden, processed stuff that may give you a quick sugar high but does nothing to support your health, mood or immunity.

Herbal immune support

Wonderful herbs. What amazing natural medicine, and lucky for us in Australia, an easily accessible pillar of health. I’ll name just five herbs that can help ease your anxiety and leave you feeling calmer.

Kava-kava: Excellent provider of feelings of calm and tranquillity. I find it works quite quickly. I wouldn’t recommend long term use as it has been reported that Kava could cause side effects in sensitive individuals.

Valerian: Doesn’t work for everyone but for most seems to work quite quickly to ease feelings of stress and nervousness. A well-known great relaxant.

Holy Basil: Can I be honest? This is not a herb I’m overly familiar with but I’m getting great feedback from other naturopathic colleagues that this herb is excellent for helping you cope in times of high stress. (I'm also reliably informed it is discussed in detail in the 'HM112' herbal materia medica subject).

Chamomile: Lovely chamomile, yellow like sunshine with the smell of newly mown grass. Freely available as tea in supermarkets and health food stores. Has a well-earned reputation for inducing feelings of calm and helping to bring restful sleep.

Withania/Ashwagandha: One of my all-time favourite herbs, Withania seems to have it all. Helps healing on so many levels. As a favourite adaptogen of mine, I highly recommend it.

*NB Check with your qualified herbalist or naturopath before taking any herbs as they may interact with prescription medications.

Essential oils for the immune system

There are so many beautiful essential oils to choose from, but I want to stick to three of the most commonly used and available ones you may already have in your home.

Lavender: One of the most popular oils. Has a great reputation as a natural relaxant. Don’t overdo your dosage on lavender though (3 drops not 20) as if not used in moderation it can make you hyper.

Eucalyptus: available in nearly every Aussie home, not only marvellous for the respiratory system but has a clearing effect on the nervous system, which makes it good for treating nervous exhaustion.

Tea Tree: Another Aussie staple used for millennia by indigenous Australians. Providing a cleansing hug to those weary nerves, the tea tree gives you a stronger outlook in tough times. Known by aromatherapists for uplifting the spirit.

Flower essences for stress and anxiety

You cannot go past Bach’s 'Rescue Remedy' or the Australian Bush Flower 'Emergency Essence'. Both are winning combinations of vibrational remedies sourced from nature. They give instant relief to feelings of panic, fear, anxiety and hopelessness. Available from most pharmacies, health food stores, some supermarkets and natural health practitioners. Easy to use and not expensive, at least one should be part of your home first aid kit.

Yoga, the breath, and quantum healing

Yeah, I know, yoga has a rep for that soy latte, lycra clothed peeps that can knit their own yoghurt. But, guess what? It really works. So, get your Zen on and jump into the world of online yoga classes, meditation, and breathwork. A half-hour or hour class can provide clarity, calm and purpose to your day.

Quantum healing is all about the mind-body connection and this new wave of medicine provides a worthwhile approach to the health of your mind and your body and ultimately the strength of your immune system in these strange days we find ourselves in.

Want to learn more?

This article has only touched on some of the amazing natural remedies for immune health and mental health. If you want to learn more about natural health, Switch on Health has several short courses and accredited qualifications that you will love, including Advanced Diplomas in Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Naturopathy and Homeopathy.

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