Boosting immunity (continued!)

In the last two issues we’ve looked at the way specific diet and lifestyle choices can boost your immunity in the cold winter months, when the chances of going down with a cold, flu or infection increase significantly. This month we’ll take a look at how taking your sunglasses off, keeping your feet warm, giving your skin a brush and avoiding passive smoking can all boost your immunity.


Take your sunglasses off

Even on cloudy days when the sun seems hidden, a daily dose of natural daylight provides you with a mood-boosting shot of vitamin D, an essential vitamin for healthy bones, a strong and hardy immune system and a good night’s sleep.


Make sure you get at least 20–30 minutes of natural daylight every day, preferably without your sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses in, because you get most of your vitamin D from sunlight through your eyes. If you are away somewhere where it is very warm, then go out and get the sun exposure (without sunscreen) in the cooler part of the day. And when you’re outside remember to breathe deeply. This helps the lymphatic system to move your protective immune cells around the body.


Good dietary sources of vitamin D are eggs and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna. But by far, the best source of vitamin D is through sun exposure. When your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, your body starts to manufacture vitamin D.


Of course, the idea of sun exposure runs against the current popular anti-ageing theory that you should completely avoid sunlight to reduce your risk of premature wrinkling of the skin and skin caner. But sun exposure is not only good, it’s essential. As mentioned in a previous issue of Natural News it is now known to be an important factor in prevention of breast cancer and also heart disease.  But sun exposure is also important for children. In parts of Northern England rickets has reappeared because children aren’t playing outside in the sunshine enough. Rickets is caused by vitamin D deficiency.


Keep your feet warm

To give yourself the best chance of keeping healthy when it’s cold, wrap up before you go out, remembering to keep your hands, head, nose and –  especially – your feet warm and cosy.


Folklore suggests that chilling the surface of the body through wet clothes, feet and hair causes common cold or flu symptoms to develop. But past research has dismissed the relationship between chilling and viral infection as having no scientific basis. In 2005, however, researchers from Cardiff University – with the aid of bowls of ice water and people’s feet – appear to have shown that this is one piece of folklore that may indeed be true: being chilly really can encourage a cold to develop.


We get more winter illnesses in Britain than in any other country in Europe. The reason for this may be that we under-dress. Researchers visiting European cities found that when the temperature drops, people put on hats, scarves, gloves and anoraks. We don’t. We stand around shivering waiting for buses and trains, and that is really bad news. When you shiver, your core temperature has dropped so much that your body believes it’s an emergency. The blood gets much thicker, which causes heart attacks and strokes, and the immune system is weakened, so you pick up bugs more easily.


It’s important to point out that although exposure to cold and damp weather may hamper the immune function of the respiratory system, if there is no exposure to a virus, then it’s virtually impossible to get a cold. However, if you are cold and damp and come into contact with a virus, your risk of catching an infection is higher. So to give yourself the best chance of keeping healthy when it’s cold outside, wrap up warm. And put on a couple of extra socks. According to the Common Cold Research Centre, cold feet lower the effectiveness of the immune system and enable viruses to flourish. It might also be a good idea to wear a pair of socks to bed, as research also shows that warm feet increase your chances of a good night’s sleep.


Give your skin a brush

Dry skin brushing is another way to stimulate your lymphatic system and boost your immunity.


Your lymphatic system is a network of tiny fluid vessels throughout your body that transport toxins, bacteria, viruses and dead cells to lymph nodes. It’s the job of your lymph nodes to break down, deactivate and purify these waste products so they are more easily handled by the organs of elimination, the liver and kidneys. A milky white fluid called lymph carries impurities and waste away from the tissues, and passes through gland-like structures spaced throughout the lymphatic system that act as filtering valves. The lymph does not circulate in the same way as the blood does, so its movement depends largely on the squeezing effect of muscle contractions. That’s why exercise is so great for stimulating lymph flow.


When your lymph isn’t circulating efficiently, you’re more likely to succumb to infection and feel unwell. You’re also more likely to have dark circles under your eyes, puffiness and a pale complexion (all signs of a sluggish lymphatic system). Exercise is the most effective way to stimulate the passage of lymph through the nodes, but it can also be stimulated through dry skin brushing.


The skin is your body’s largest organ and when it functions efficiently, it eliminates two pounds of waste products daily, so its ability to excrete toxins is crucial. When the skin ceases to function properly, an increased burden is placed on the lymphatic system and other excretory organs. Dry skin brushing removes the top layer of skin, which helps the skin excrete toxins and other acids in the body.


The technique for dry skin brushing is simple. With a long-handled, firm, natural bristle bath brush, beginning at the soles of the feet and working your way up the legs, torso, back, hands and arms (in a circular motion and always toward the heart), brush away the dry, top layer of dead skin.


Daily dry skin brushing for 2–4 minutes is easy to fit into your morning grooming regime. It’s a great opportunity to remove dead skin cells, help remove toxins excreted by the skin, and boost your immunity by improving blood and lymphatic circulation.


Don’t let smoke get into your eyes

If you smoke, you need to quit – and if you don’t smoke, avoid smoky areas. Everyone is aware of the potential catastrophic impact on health of smoking. It is better not to start at all, but the sooner a smoker quits the better.


Because the damage caused by smoking is cumulative, the longer a person smokes the greater the risk of developing a smoking-related disease, such as lung cancer or heart disease. Quitting not only saves money, but also has added health benefits. Within one year of quitting, the risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker, and within ten years, the risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker. In Britain, about 120,000 people a year die through smoking – that’s more than 300 every day.


If you don’t smoke, the dangers of passive smoking, or spending time in areas where people smoke, are also well documented. Passive smokers also have an increased risk of lung cancer and poor health, so protect your immunity, health and well-being and stay away from smoky areas.


If there’s a smoker in your house, do one of two things: try to get them to quit or have them smoke outside the house. If you are continually exposed to second-hand smoke take additional vitamin C in supplement form as smoke causes excessive amounts of immune-boosting vitamin C to be eliminated from your body. Your health depends on it. (see Vitamin C Plus on the Resources Page).

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