This article is written in partnership with Flora Health—they’re dedicated to creating premium health products from sustainable, organic ingredients, and we’re honored to work with them. ~ ed.
We’re living through something we’ve never experienced before, and it can feel scary.
Driven by the panic and loss of control we feel, many of us are doing extreme and irrational things…and not just with toilet paper.
You may have noticed from the “sold out” notices online that folks are buying up every supplement under the sun that promises to “boost your immunity.”
While this overreaction is completely understandable, most of these supplements have hardly any real evidence behind the claims they make.
There’s another, more important reason we shouldn’t be “boosting our immune system,” and a few simple things we should be doing instead.
First, it’s helpful to first understand a little about:
How the Immune System Works
As Dana Green Remedios, product specialist at Flora Health, explains, essentially, the job of the immune system is to correctly differentiate between what is “self” and “not self.” It must be able to identify what is a pathogen or toxin that we want to block, versus a beneficial compound that should get absorbed.
This vital function is what allows our bodies to mount a strong defense against bacteria and viruses but also, importantly, not overreact with damaging, even deadly results.
Learn more about the roots of Flora Health:
To give you peace of mind and make your healthy habits easy to stick to, Flora is offering Elephant readers a special discount of 15% off all their natural health supplements when you use code ELEHEALTH at checkout. Stock up for your health >>
The Microbiome Plays a Lead Immune Role
You may have heard that the bacteria in our gut make up 70 to 80% of our immunity. While the exact amount is still uncertain, we know they play an enormous role. That is because probiotics (or friendly bacteria) are the educators of the immune system.
They help our bodies determine what is self and what is harmful by communicating with our immune system and modulating our immune response. (1.)
“An Overactive Immune Response can be as Risky as an Underactive One.”
Freaking out and throwing every supplement under the sun at our bodies in an effort to “boost” our immune systems to superhuman levels could be doing us more harm than good. Here’s why:
“Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome plays an essential role in the body’s immune response to infection and in maintaining overall health. As well as mounting a response to infectious pathogens like coronavirus, a healthy gut microbiome also helps to prevent potentially dangerous immune over-reactions that damage the lungs and other vital organs. These excessive immune responses can cause respiratory failure and death. (This is also why we should talk about ‘supporting’ rather than ‘boosting’ the immune system, as an overactive immune response can be as risky as an underactive one.)” ~ Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London (2.)
A healthy immune system is a balanced immune system: not underreacting, and not overreacting either.
Robust Gut Health: the Cornerstone of Robust Immunity
The best natural protection against viruses or bacteria is optimum gut health and supplementing selectively to modulate our immune systems.
7 Natural Ways to Support your Health
2. Manuka Honey
6. Floradix Iron
7. Udo's Plant-based Omegas
This is good news if you’re feeling scared and like everything’s out of your control right now, because here’s one thing you can control, immediately and directly: the health of the trillions of microbes living inside your gut, collectively known as your microbiome.
We can improve our gut and immune health in a matter of days, simply by following a few basic protocols:
1. Eat real. Eat diverse.
The diversity of our gut microbiome depends on the quality and variety of our diet. Our microbiome diversity naturally declines as we age, making it even more important to eat as healthily as we can, and supplement our diet with selected, quality nutritional supplements.
Right now, getting diverse, nutritious foods may be harder for many of us with our farmer’s markets closed, and people panic buying, causing supermarkets to run short on fresh fruits and vegetables. But frozen fruit and veg can be just as healthy as fresh. Canned fruit, beans, and pulses are also great options. A handful of raw, unsalted nuts a day is beneficial.
Avoid alcohol, too much salt, sugar, and processed foods as much as possible. Try your hand at making fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, or kombucha at home. They’re easier than you think and provide great natural support for the microbiome.
The experts at Flora health also recommend supporting a good diet with selected supplements shown to be beneficial to your immune health. They have a wide range for a variety of health needs, but here are two good ones to start with:
- Elderberry is one of the few natural supplements scientifically proven to directly modulate the immune system. A clinical trial of airline passengers showed nearly 30% fewer cold incidents and half the number of sick days with significantly milder symptoms for those who used elderberry extract. (3.) A 2019 meta-analysis of four studies involving 180 people concluded the elderberry extracts substantially reduced respiratory symptoms caused by the influenza virus. (4.)Elderberries have anthocyanin antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Anthocyanins, while less well-known than other antioxidants can help protect cells against oxidation as well as protect tissue from damage. They may also interfere with viral replication so that viruses can’t take root and spread as easily, meaning that, while elderberry can’t protect you from getting a virus, it may certainly lessen the severity and duration of infection. Flora Health offers a unique, preservative-free, organic blend of elderberry, echinacea, and licorice, which also have immune health benefits. It’s 100% natural and has no added sugar; just mix it with water.
- Because iron deficiency is associated with more frequent illness and impaired immunity (5.), taking a good quality iron supplement is also prudent right now, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian. Floradix Iron & Herbs is the best-selling natural liquid iron supplement in North America for good reason. Formulated for easy absorption and assimilation, it’s also gentler on the digestive tract than other iron supplements. Besides the immediate risk to the health of your immune system, an iron deficiency can also cause shortness of breath and affect your ability to sleep well and exercise effectively, which further impacts your well-being, creating a knock-on effect for your gut health.
2. Support with Gut Healing Supplements
In Functional Medicine, there is a gut health protocol called the 4Rs, which stands for Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, and Repair.
We first need to eliminate bad bacteria that are upsetting the delicate balance of the gut and causing us to crave the kinds of foods that keep them alive and us unhealthy and unhappy.
Eating better, as outlined in point #1 can go a long way on its own, even without any supplements, to flush out this unhealthy bacteria, then restore and maintain a healthier gut balance. However, if we want to go a step further, a gentle cellular detox can help our body to remove water-soluble wastes, detoxify the bowels, and cleanse via the liver to rebuild a healthy baseline.
Flor-Essence is a herbal formulation which includes natural cleansers like red clover, watercress and burdock (6.) whose tannins are proven immunomodulators (7.), as well as other natural herbal extracts that support a safe and effective full-body cleanse while supporting the body as a whole, ensuring no stress on any one organ.
The bacteria in the gut are always changing and influenced by what we eat on a daily basis as well as our daily routine. Even small changes like not getting enough sleep or eating more processed snacks and sugar over the weekend can disrupt our gut flora.
These alterations in your habits can create inner shifts that may trigger new cravings, as the disrupted microbiome starts to ask for sugar and alcohol, using chemical messengers that make it harder for you to get back to good habits.
This is where a good quality probiotic like those made by Flora Health can help restore a balanced and healthy microbiome, and keep it that way, even when our diet and lifestyle are not that balanced and healthy—and let’s face it, we’re not always able to do all the right things every day.
Flora Health makes gut health maintenance easy with their subscription service. When you subscribe to get your probiotics monthly, you save an extra 10% too!
3. Rest & Relax
Other than our diet, the way we eat and live in general is the biggest influence when it comes to our gut health. In fact, some health experts say that just getting into a relaxed and mindful state before and during a meal can help to transform the nourishment we get from even unhealthy food. This is also a key part of the 4 Rs, particularly the last: Repair. (8.)
Outside of mealtimes, it’s also important to find healthy ways of managing our stress, get enough exercise, and a healthy dose of soil microbes. Yep, digging in the garden is proven to improve your gut health, and it’s a great de-stressor, too!
Breathwork, meditation, and visualization are all simple, calming practices accessible to most of us, regardless of our economic status. There are many guides and tools available for free online, and here on Elephant, to get you started.
Connection is also vital for our gut-mental-immune health, whether reaching out to other people, virtually or from a safe distance for now, or snuggling our pets. We’re wired for togetherness, so stay in touch with your community in isolation. And ditch the texts, phone calls are in again!
A Good Defense is the Best Offence
There are many indications that health issues with no cure are likely to become a lot more common in the future.
Therefore, prevention is best. Establish good habits. Wash your hands. Eat nutritious, good quality food, live as balanced a lifestyle as you can while following local regulations, and take some time to relax, properly. Watching Tiger King doesn’t count. Avoid nutrient deficiencies, get moderate exercise, and air out your house.
To give you peace of mind and make your healthy habits easy to stick to, Flora is offering Elephant readers a special discount of 15% off all their natural health supplements when you use code ELEHEALTH at checkout.
Stock up for your health >>