The purpose of this post is to help you maintain the natural immunity you are born with and limit the habits we as a society have accepted that have compromised our ability to deal with and fight every day common germs
Building a strong immune system is as important today in our modern times as it has ever been. Our modern lifestyle has moved us away from our natural physiological immunity. Our attitudes and fears toward germs have led us to try to control all these perceived threats by sterilizing our life and interaction with our surroundings.
But in our effort to eliminate all these perceived threats from germs we have weakened our collective immunity . We have dampened our immune response to germs by aggressively trying to avoid them in the first place..
We need a strong immune system to fight viruses and colds, to ward off infections in the air, in our food and on our skin. As the world becomes closer and germs travel further it’s never too early to start considering how to maximize our natural immune capabilities.
Our health and longevity have benefited immensely from modern medicine. Medical discoveries including antibiotics, diagnostic tests, surgeries , and certainly sterilization techniques of surgical equipment and environment to prevent hospital infections .But by taking all these benefits out of context , by sterilizing everything in our everyday lives , we have weakened our native immunity.
When the news and social media cries wolf regularly, common diseases seem like an epidemic breeding fear in parents. We all become overprotective in order that our children avoid all germs and common infections. But there is a real danger in making our environment too sterile. We will not have the individual or community immune resources to fight emerging epidemics.
Until recently our personal habits including hygiene, diet, less exercise, poor sleep, too much screen time, and the way we raise our children was not recognized as having a negative influence on our immunity . But we now know these are key factors in lowering our immune potential.
Key points to maintaining your natural immunity
- Too clean– need to go back the old fashioned idea of getting your hands dirty to build a good childhood immune system
- Getting sick is key to staying healthy- avoiding germs early in life leads to a weaker immune system and you won’t have the immune reserve when you need it the most
- Go outdoors and bring the outdoors in- our indoor environment has become too sterile and we spend too much time in it.
- Eat healthy organic unprocessed foods for your immediate and long term health as well as for your intestinal and immune health
- De-stress – sleep,exercise, mindfulness. Learning how to cope in today’s world are key to a strong and healthy immune system
- Move– exercise, physical activity, and plain movement is as important as anything else in building a sound immune system
Starting at birth-enhancing the immunity we were meant to develop
Delivery- the rampant rise of c-sections has not helped babies develop as strong of immune systems from the very beginning as they were intended. Natural vaginal deliveries are the way we were intended to be born and present the first opportunity for exposure to good bacteria and an immune enhancing environment vs the sterilized environment of the surgical suite. Studies have shown that children born vaginaly have a beter early immunity and seem to deal with early illness better.
Breastfeeding is superior in every way as a source of nutrients than formula . When it comes to immune enhancing ability there is even less of a contest. Breast milk gives direct immune protection with immunoglobulins passing through the milk to the baby. This helps them fight infections as well as protective benefit for intestinal system. In addition the act of breastfeeding is beneficial due to the direct oral contact with mom’s skin by inoculating the baby with mom’s skin flora for a developing immunity.t The warmth and social contact with mom have the benefit of close maternal bonding which is known for stress reducing and immune building.
Bottle feeding – new evidence shows that we are sterilizing the bottles and nipples too much not allowing our baby’s any opportunity to come in contact with any immune building potential from the environment.
Personal hygiene -All our sterilizing has also killed the protective bacteria from our skin, mouth, hair, intestinal system, and nasal passages.
Baby . Parents generally have a tendency to over wash their baby’s. Unless your baby runs a marathon they really do not need a bath every day. They benefit from a strong skin barrier, beneficial bacteria, and protective oils on the skin. These are all reduced with too frequent bathing with soap. Baby’s need this protective skin barrier to guard from rashes, irritations, and infections.
Children and adults – truth be told -we should not be constantly showering and bathing. We are removing valuable protective barriers from our skin including oils, and bacteria. We are also drying out and breaking down intact skin with constant water, soap ,and scrubbing with abrasive agents and perfumed soaps. Our largest organ is our skin and our most important protective barrier for our body against the dangers of world.
Compromise- during work and school days particularly sweaty dirty outdoor day’s you can’t get away without bathing . But on weekends and when spending your time primarily indoors every once in awhile it’s ok to forgo a bath.
Too much hand washing and hand sanitizer removes all the good bacteria from our skin. Not to mention the chemicals in the sanitizer. We do not get the opportunity to interact with the good immune enhancing environment we were meant to when we constantly wipe it away with chemicals.
There are a number of times that it is essential to wash your hands. For instance after using the bathroom, especially public restrooms or when you are near others with a cold or flu. Good hygiene habits are not synonymous with constantly sterilizing your hands, it merely means to protect yourself from dangerous germs in a reasonable and sound way. Not all germs are the enemy.
Antiperspirant vs deodorant. Stopping sweat is not the best idea for both health versus deodorant which hides the smell but does not change the body’s response. It is natural for us to sweat and smell as part of a natural protection.
Too much deodorant prevents natural oil and protection of bacteria that usually forms in most warm areas. ( not to mention the danger of the aluminum in deodorant)
The sanitized house – spotless dirtless house is not always the healthiest.
Clean versus sterile- method of cleaning . Sterilizing with alcohol and bleach bringing toxic chemical to remove all sorts of useful dirt ( natural immune support) vs cleaning and making your house sanitary.
Cleaning all objects and surfaces relentlessly with harsh chemical can be couter productive. Use mild natural detergents and soap and water. Do clean well when necessary but relentless obsession of being spotless and sterile is lowering our immunity and not helping us face the outdoors
Put nature back in our immune system –
Bringing the outdoors in-
Taking off your shoes- many homes are trying to eliminate dirt both for aesthetic reasons and in an effort to keep outside dirt and germs at bay. But is this a good thing. Not according to studies that have indicated that too sterile of an environment has a negative impact for children trying to build a young immune system. Once again you need exposure to the elements and allergens earlier in life in order to build and enhance your system for the long run.
Removing shoes when you come in the house ( other than circumstances where your child was walking in mud or dirt or is allergic to the pollen they might be carrying in) – while keeping the house clean prevents needed environmental allergens and exposure to common environmental germs .
Get a dog
Your immune system is helped by having a dog . Studies have shown that a dog brings the outdoor environment in and improves a child’s immune system by slowly exposing them to all sorts of good bacteria from the outdoors.
Going outside in mother nature especially to green places and is immune boosting .
Allow your children to play outside in the green outdoors. Run kick play with balls .
Play in the dirt and sand like children should. Sure there are some germs in dirt but building up your immune system is worth the risk. If you wash their hands appropriately with soap and water you can maintain a good balance between outdoor germs and cleanliness
You are what you eat
Healthy local organic fruits and vegetable are the best version of food to enhance your immunity. Eat lots of organic fruit and vegetables avoiding preservatives .Washed well but do not sterilize. Want the good bacteria that comes with it – eating nature in a way in it’s healthiest form . Processed chemically altered foods are harmful to our bodies but especially to our intestines and digestive process. Processed foods with chemicals reduce your body’s immune fighting .
Intestinal flora needs to be maintained with healthy eating and natural- probiotics, high fiber, whole foods. Try to eat a good balance of raw ( but safe not on recalled list) fruits , nuts, seed, and vegetables). We are learning that our intestinal system is integrally involved with our immune system. And a healthy intestinal system is crucial to a good immune system. Eating organic, natural , unprocessed high fiber foods is the best way to maintain intestinal health
Introduction of probiotics may be helpful if you or your children have an altered intestinal flora but you must be careful in the brand and types you introduce. Many physician’s are now recommending probiotics to enhance immune health in people who do not have optimal healthy diets.
Having a goods night sleep is essential to maintaining a good immune system. Be sensible with the time you go to sleep. And keep your sleep patterns regular. A change of schedule and sleepless night could be the weak point in getting sick.
Exercise and movement
Stop playing video games and start using your brain while moving . Many studies show that movement improves blood flow and immunity. Exercise helps thin mucus and your ability to fight illness. It also has been shown to reduce stress.
Stress- It is important for children to learn how to deal with adversity . Teach them how to interact, respond, and resolve. Do not just distract with food and screen time. Talk things through don’t just do everything for them guide your children. It’s never too early to introduce your child to mindfulness.
Exposure to childhood illness and vaccines
In our new world, parents do not expose their child to germs and viruses from common childhood illness early enough. Diseases and illness are much worse when you first get them when you are older. Schools are making parents paranoid with all the caution regarding every common everyday virus that passes through during the cold and flu season. Childhood viruses have been around for centuries but only recently demanding unreasonable parents have forced the schools to become neurotic guardians of a germ free environment,quickly sending out a panic notice for every disease and virus . Parents feel it is a bad thing to go to school and catch the latest greatest bug. Even some schools make parents bring a note that the sibling of the ill child is free of illness before allowing them back. This approach is irrational since the viruses are the most contagious at the very beginning with the runny eyes, sneezing, and fever. Not at the end with the congestion and coughing symptoms.
A New study on childhood leukemia has indicated that if your children are not allowed to cultivate the germs and build their immunity at a young age they will not be prepared for the germs when they get older and will overreact to the point that these children have a higher risk of getting seriously ill. This is preliminary but a warning to all the parents and schools trying to eliminate every cold and viral germ from all children.
Fever is our friend ( see fever blog for information ). Not letting our children fight viruses with fever. A fever is a major way we develop our immune system and create immunity for future infections . Like training our system to fight future germs . Most parents generally do not allow their children to fight the gems with the body’s natural response including fever.
Too much anti fever medicine does not let us fight the germ with all our ability.
Vaccines do enhance your child’s immunity – I have never had a documented legitimate experience after a child gets the vaccine that they have a sudden lowering of their immune system or get colds more frequently. This is one of the arguments from parents who want to delay the vaccines . Vaccines are protective as well as good exposure and a challenge to the immune system to help it build stronger. When these unvaccinated children finally do get sick it is much more severe and complicated.
Socialization- interacting with others is beneficial in many ways but for the purpose of this article interacting helps develop your immunity directly by sharing germs and inoculating you with community germs.
Close relationships -sharing drinks, hugging, bonding ,and touching are beneficial on many levels to our immune growth as humans.
Homeschooled and isolated children are not exposed to the many good types of bacteria and germs at an early age to slowly build up a strong and resilient immunity. They are more likely to get complicated and severe responses to the common viruses when they are finally exposed to other school children.
Early testing like rapid tests for strep, flu, other infections leads to early treatment and although there are clear benefits to not letting us or our children suffer with a preventable illness we do not get to experience the germ and build up an immune response to fight this infection the next time.
Antibiotic overuse is a topic itself. But generally speaking antibiotics change your intestinal flora killing the good bacteria and have a negative impact on the intestines ability to respond to immune challenges.
It is important that we use common sense in approaching the fears we have in our changing world regarding treatment of illness especially viruses and infections. There is much we can do to improve our individual immunity . We are stronger than our fear tells us we are.