15 Ways to Support Your Immune System, with Dr. Marissa Heisel & Krystal Trammell
The original version of this article was published in March 2020 on Dr. Marissa's excellent site, TransformationalEssentials.com. We have since edited this article several times as new research continues to be brought to light.
15 Ways to Support Your Immune System (Naturally!)
The tail-end of Winter often feels like a final sprint of fortitude for our immune systems, and this is especially true given the widespread worry about a major global health concern right now.
From “normal” colds and flu to a novel virus this year, our greatest weapon against illness is our own complex and wonderful immune system.
Our best efforts, therefore, are spent to protect and support your immune system, which is our body’s natural way of keeping ourselves healthy and strong.
It’s also worth noting that Dr. Joe Dispenza’s research clearly shows that being in a state of fear or worry can and does have a measurable adverse effect on our DNA by suppressing our body’s immune response.
So how do we balance reasonable caution, mindful prevention, and the very best hygiene practices that we can?
It’s time to get into ACTION to help yourself more confidently navigate the current state of global health affairs. The main goal is to optimize and support your immune system during this challenging season.
We are actively practicing each of these tips in our homes, with our families:
1 Wash your hands properly
This means for 20 seconds, vigorously, front and back, with soap and water. You can try reciting a poem, chant, or prayer to make sure you’re washing for the recommended amount of time. Singing the ABCs, or even the chorus of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” also fits the 20-second time frame. :)
Change your hand towels daily (or use disposables), and avoid hand dryers when in public restrooms. Studies show that hot-air hand dryers are not as sanitary as we may think!
2 Use hand sanitizer and quality soap
A good natural soap shouldn’t strip your hands of moisture, and won’t have a strong, perfume-based smell. Using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will go a long way toward prevention, especially for those times where you cannot help being out and about.
If shops have not yet been restocked, and you need to make your own hand sanitizer, you can fill a small spray bottle with rubbing alcohol, vodka, or rum. You can use any pure alcohol product with at least 60% alcohol content by volume. You may also include a bit of fractionated coconut oil or aloe vera gel, to help counteract the alcohol’s drying effect on your skin – so long as you make sure that over half of the mixture contains alcohol.
3 Cover your mouth & nose while sneezing/coughing
Don’t just cough into your open hand. Use a tissue and dispose of it immediately, and only sneeze into your elbow if a tissue is not readily available. Some viruses can live on clothing and remain contagious for up to a week - or longer.
4 Be aware of how and why to use face masks appropriately
Face masks are primarily meant to be used when YOU are sick, to protect others. However, if you’re going into an environment with a high potential for exposure to pathogens (like a hospital), or an area with compromised air quality (for example, on an airplane), wearing an N95 face mask may offer minimal benefit to you. Your length of exposure time does matter. Also, poor circulation and inadequate ventilation create poor air quality in many, if not most, indoor spaces.
While many people are wearing reusable cloth face masks, it's important to consider that these are NOT the same as N95 face masks, and come with additional risks with prolonged and improper use.
Ideally, a disposable face mask is used in an already-sterile environment (such as an OR), only worn for 30 minutes at a time, and then treated as biohazard waste + disposed of quickly and appropriately.
Instead, a face mask hanging from the rearview mirror has become a commonplace sight in 2020.
This means that people are re-using masks for far longer than is safe or sensible. A mask that's being re-used repeatedly gets musty, dirty, sweaty, and oily, and this creates the ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Nobody wants that on their skin or in their lungs!
Face masks also encourage mouth breathing, which interferes with saliva production and puts us at higher risk of cavities and gum disease (dentists are already seeing an uptick).
Many people put essential oils on their face masks, thinking to clean them - but in fact this is a terrible idea because the essential oils can break down synthetic fibers, so that you're breathing in extra chemicals!
If you are in a scenario where you must wear a single mask for many hours a day, you must also consider the negative impact this poses to your wellbeing, and take steps to mitigate these risks:
Don't re-use disposable masks, and make sure to change them often and dispose of them properly
If you're using cloth face masks, get enough (6+) that you can change and wash them frequently
Skip the essential oils ON your mask! Instead, rub Breathe, Arborvitae, or Stronger blend into your palms, and inhale deeply without a mask on
5 Clean your mobile phone, water bottles, and high-traffic areas of your home daily!
Our phones are the most ever-present accessory we use, and yet their cleanliness (or lack thereof!) is all too easy to overlook. You can use a damp cotton ball and gentle dish soap, or wet a microfiber cloth with soapy water. Wipe down the front, back, sides, and camera of all the phones in your house and then dry them with a microfiber cloth. Remove and clean your phone’s case, too–some are even dishwasher-safe! Adding a few minutes of phone-cleaning to your nightly routine is vitally important during this season.
While you’re at it, clean your reusable water bottles and coffee mugs semi-religiously every day, too. Don’t forget to clean the bottom of your purse or bag as well.
Also, make sure that everyone removes their shoes at the front door of your home–no exceptions. This may not be a Western custom yet, but I hope it will catch on!
It goes without saying, but a home that’s regularly cleansed and sanitized will go a long way toward making your home a more health-supportive environment.
6 Eat whole, natural foods
Every bite you take supports either wellness or illness, and this is especially crucial in a virus season.
Upping our intake of berries, citrus fruits, and alkalizing foods such as leafy greens will give our bodies nourishing, clean fuel.
Certain mushrooms like reishi and chaga can be brewed into a highly protective tea, or taken as a tincture.
Consuming quality probiotics via both supplements and naturally-fermented foods will help stoke our digestive fires to keep things moving along smoothly, and supports the vital connection between gut health and our immune system.
7 Limit sugar and processed foods
Conversely, a low-quality diet is a leading cause of inflammation. Pathogens are more likely to gain a foothold in a body that’s already burdened by a high inflammatory response.
If you’re craving sweets, try eating dried fruit, raw honey, or dates instead. Check your protein and water intake! Often when we crave sugar, we’re really lacking protein–or simply thirsty.
8 Prioritize your hydration
While it’s not the flashiest tip on this list, it’s worth noting that quality hydration makes a huge difference in every single aspect of our well being. From optimal cognitive function to radiant skin - and supporting your immune system - hydration matters! Make sure you’re drinking enough water (that’s half your body weight in ounces, daily), and that it’s from a trusted source. Sorry, but coffee, soda, and juice don’t count. If the water you’re drinking isn’t filtered and re-mineralized, it might be time to upgrade that, too.
If you’re looking for an electrolyte-type drink for quick rehydration, consider skipping the commercially-available ones and making your own from simple, natural ingredients: Fresh lemon juice, sea salt, and raw honey mixed into water create a lovely electrolyte-lemonade.
This can be further mixed with coconut water or freshly-brewed-and-cooled herbal teas, such as chamomile, peppermint, nettle, or raspberry leaf. It's easy to create any flavor, and the sea salt and living enzymes from the lemon juice supply plenty of electrolytes.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of an Epsom-salt bath for deep rehydration and replenishment. Stay in the water for at least 20 minutes, or until your bladder feels full!
9 If there has ever been a time to consider cutting back on alcohol, cigarettes, or vaping, this is it
The additional toxic load that these substances dump into our bodies is extremely detrimental to our health. Also, anything that compromises our respiratory function is a poor choice right now. (Yes, this includes extended and/or improper use of face masks!)
If the air quality in your city is worrisome, consider staying indoors more frequently. If you’re blessed with mild weather and acceptable air quality, it may be a wonderful time to open the windows and let in some fresh air, even for a few minutes each day.
10 Use a natural mouthwash
my family's favorite mouthwash
Natural mouthwashes are superior because they are typically free of alcohol, chemical sweeteners, and other harsh additives. Gargling with mouthwash after brushing (at least nightly) helps boost our oral health, and may help with the elimination of pathogens in the mouth.
11 Mindfully manage your stress and fear levels
The first step to keeping fear in check is steering clear of fear-mongering. This might involve turning off the television, gently redirecting or bowing out of anxious conversations, or unfollowing people on social media.
Prioritize time in nature, time spent moving your body and getting enough rest and sleep, as well. It might seem silly, but grounding in nature–putting your bare feet on the Earth, even for a few minutes at a time–has been shown to support your immune system, discharge positive ions and improve your sleep, stress levels, and overall sense of wellbeing.
12 Take quality supplements, including Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Colloidal Silver, and Quercetin
If you live somewhere very cold, add Vitamin K to the list. Zinc has been shown to powerfully block viruses from multiplying in the nasal and throat passageways. Quercetin is a plant polyphenol with strong immune-modulating and anti-viral properties. Also, Colloidal Silver has been shown to be beneficial for immune support. It's very simple to add to your water or spray in your mouth. While this list isn’t comprehensive, it’s a good start.
13 Add in elderberry syrup
Elderberry syrup has been shown to offer two-fold benefits, because not only does it prevent viruses from replicating in our cells, but it can also strengthen and support your immune system due to its high antioxidant content. Making elderberry syrup at home is easy! All you need are dried elderberries, fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and raw honey (optional). It can be taken as a shot, mixed into warm herbal tea, or even enjoyed as a yogurt topping.
In the time that’s passed since we posted this, we’ve noticed a lot of things online talking about cytokine storms. There is absolutely no evidence that elderberry syrup has ever contributed to cytokine storms. A cytokine storm is the result of an immune system gone wild. Elderberry syrup contributes to immune SUPPORT. The confusion seems to come from the fact that there are cytokines IN elderberry syrup, but that has nothing to do with what is commonly called a cytokine storm. Cytokines are immunologic proteins that help us ward off infections.
14 Move your body
Get outside. Walk-in nature, or on a treadmill. Dance, or take a yoga class. Even minimal exercise will help to increase endorphins and decrease inflammatory byproducts in your body, both of which help support your immune system function. Additionally, any body movement that causes us to breathe more deeply can increase blood flow and improve lung function.
15 See a chiropractor
Go for acupuncture. Get a massage. Spend additional time in nature, and doing things that bring you joy. Simply, do whatever you can to restore your nervous system to a resting (parasympathetic) state. That way, your immune system can do what it needs to do to mount a healthy cellular response.
At a time when medical care is supportive in nature only, the responsibility is ours to support a healthy immune and cellular response.
homegrown food helps support your immune system
It is up to each one of us to take care of ourselves and our families. It's also vital to think about those in our communities (and, dare I say, globally) who need us to practice good health in order to ensure EVERYONE’s continued health, and not just our own.
How can we help decrease the spread of illness, and give our medical systems the opportunity they need to keep up with this current threat?
While we shouldn’t let fear and panic take over our minds and hearts, this is also not a time to be flippant about hygiene, nutrition, or healthy habits–especially those that support your immune system and respiratory function.
When we choose to actively practice basic public health and hygiene measures, and utilize some of the holistic tips mentioned here, we will be better equipped to fight any type of threat to our wellbeing.
No one is suggesting that these tips will cure an infection, because that is a job for our immune system!
However, these tips will help to strengthen and support your immune system overall–and right now, that’s our primary goal.
Stay strong, and stay positive. I hope these tips offer you some confidence in supporting your family’s continued wellbeing, both now and in the future!