Our immune systems are made up of billions of cells, designed to fend off invaders and keep things balanced, so what happens when these cells get out of control?
Without proper functioning of our immune system we suffer from frequent colds, allergies, asthma, skin conditions and even autoimmune disease. So how does our immune system get out of control? Let’s look at some of the main causes of immune based issues.
Immune dysfunction can start right back to when you first entered this world. During a natural birth, babies pick up beneficial bifido bacteria from their mothers birth canal, which starts to build the delicate immune system via the digestive tract. This process is bypassed during a caesarean birth, where the baby is born via surgical removal from the abdomen.
In the last 10 years the Australian caesarean delivery rate has sky rocketed from one in five to one in every three births. This means that currently a third of Australian children are missing out on this immune building process.
Most people know that breast is best, however Australian breastfeeding rates have been shown to be as low as 14% after 6 months according to studies.
The very first thing that is produced by the breasts is colostrum, a rich mix of immunoglobulins that is designed to prime a baby’s immune system. Studies have shown that breastfeeding exclusively for at least 6 months reduces the risk of asthma, allergies, eczema and immune related illnesses such as tonsillitis, ear infections and bronchitis.
Most mothers attempt breastfeeding, although many have issues. It is thought that poor education and support with breastfeeding has lead to the low numbers of breastfeeding that we see in children today.
There are solutions to help bottle fed babies build their immune systems, and a good naturopath can help even the smallest of babies to have better immunity. For more information contact Katherine and ask her how she can help.
You may have heard of the hygiene hypothesis, where an over-zealous approach to germ control has lead to a weakened immune system. Bacteria, fungus and parasitic organisms have co-inhabited with humans for all of time. They are present in our homes, our gardens and even in the air we breathe.
As we grow up, these organisms challenge our immune systems, helping it to improve its defenses. This is the reason why babies put everything in their mouths!
With a high use of antibacterial agents (take for example the many ads telling you to protect your family from germs), and the growing number of parents who are afraid to let their kids play in the dirt, we are seeing an increasing number of people with a reduced immunity, and the creation of super germs. It is interesting to note that the most dangerous organisms to our health are picked up in hospitals, where germ control is at the highest level possible.
Childhood illnesses and the hygiene hypothesis
Like environmental organisms, it would appear that childhood illnesses also have a key role in developing our immune function. Studies have shown that contracting conditions such as measles, hepatitis A and tuberculosis significantly reduces the risk of developing atopic diseases such as allergies, dermatitis and sinusitis later on in life. Why? Because these conditions help to challenge our immune systems, leading to the development of a stronger and more advanced immunity.
This then poses the question – are we over vaccinating our children? Gone are the days when parents would take their child to play with another child that has chickenpox, hoping that they would contract it too. Children are now being vaccinated against chickenpox, which means their immune systems have one less challenge to deal with. Vaccination is carried out for more conditions now than ever, and allergy rates are also higher than ever, perhaps there is a correlation?
Poor dietary choices
You are what you eat as the saying goes, so it makes sense that your diet has a huge impact on the proper functioning of your immune system.
We all know that vitamin C is needed for immune function, but did you know you also require good levels of zinc, bioflavonoids, vitamin A, iron, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E, Omega 3, B vitamins and protein?
To get a good level of all of these things you need a varied diet with lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Want to know more about immune boosting foods? Read the article here.
Stress – the immune depressor
Once we are adults the biggest thing that affects our immunity besides our diet is stress. Stress can come in many forms, from a high workload, long hours, emotional issues, anxiety and poor sleep. Often there is more than one stress that can effect you at a time.
Stress has been shown to directly suppress immune function. What does this mean? It means that you will be more prone to picking up everything going around the office, and take longer to get over it than usual.
As well as suppressing immune function, stress has been shown to contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions. With autoimmune disease, your immune system gets confused and stages an attack on different parts of your body. Some examples are rheumatoid arthritis (joints), Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid), Crohn’s disease (intestines) and psoriasis (skin).
For stress busting techniques, read the article here.
Did you know that while you are sleeping your immune system is working harder than while you are awake? This means that not getting enough sleep can lower your immunity significantly.
A good quality sleep should be 8 hours a night for an adult.
You should fall asleep within 10 minutes, sleep right through to the morning and have dreams that you remember on rising. If this doesn’t sound like you, get help today, naturopathy works well to quickly improve sleep, which will benefit immunity as well as your general energy levels and well being.