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Naturopathic Tips for Preventing Adrenal Depletion and Improving Immunity for Post-Floods Recovery
There is a lot of talk these days in the media and from functional medicine experts on how to ‘boost’ the immune system naturally using supplements and health practices such as relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene, stress management, proper movement and exercise and so much more. However, a piece that I see missing from the puzzle is the connection between the immune system and HPA-axis. In other words, balancing our stress or adrenal response.
The bottom line is that when stress is increased in the body, immunity then goes down. If you came across a bear in the woods and were also infected with a virus, the body sees the more immediate concern as running from the bear. The stress hormones from the adrenal glands effectively shut down the immune response. This makes sense and is protective during short-term stressful events; but day-in-day-out chronic stress will ultimately suppress immunity and isn’t doing our health any favours.
In my Naturopathic practice, I suggest taking supplements and using a mixture of lifestyle tools to provide adrenal support in order to correct any current HPA-axis dysfunction or prevent any down the road - in addition to supporting the immune system. This will also help to support the immune system should someone be exposed to a virus any time soon.
The problem stems from the never-ending stressors that exist in our modern world. We face typical sources of stress around money, jobs and relationships. However, there are a lot of other signals that the body perceives as stress as well.
These are some key stressors to consider in the recent flood recovery:
- Exposure to toxins – air pollution, water pollution, plastics, chemicals, mould exposure, processed foods, beauty products, perfumes, personal hygiene products and so much more.
- Dehydration - make sure you drink at least 1-2 l of filtered water a day. Use electrolytes if you need to.
- Nutrient deficiencies - nourish your body and mind
- Negative thoughts, including negative self-talk - speak to your beloved ones
- Worrying about the future, reliving past stress - practise presence
- Light and noise pollution - seek quiet outdoor areas to rest and reset
- Lack of sleep - rest, rest, rest
- Lack of sunlight - spend time in nature
- Chronic infections - heal your gut, seek professional advice.
To boost your immune system is to sooth the stress and eliminate stressors.
Here are a few tips - how to boost your immunity:
Eliminate toxins exposure, especially mould: When most people think of air pollution, they typically think of smoke or smog, but mould may be more of a threat than most other types of air pollution. Mould tends to grow in hidden areas, releasing mycotoxins into the air and causing a variety of mould toxicity symptoms. Hidden mould may be causing or contributing to many of your symptoms and may even be aggravating adrenal fatigue. If you find mould in your home, it’s best to call in a professional, because it can be difficult to determine just how extensive the problem might be. By the time mould is obvious, what you can see is usually just a small part of the problem. Whether you do it yourself or you call in a professional, it’s important to treat it properly and professionally. For more information on how to treat mould, please see our Safety Cleaning and Flood Support Kit.
Include plants in your diet: The adrenal glands like good nutrition. This means including nutrient-dense plant foods as part of your daily diet to provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Try to include a variety of colorful local produce each day such as:
- Dark leafy greens – kale, collards, arugula, parsley, etc.
- Oranges and other citrus fruits
- Berries – blueberries, kiwis, blackberries, etc.
- Cherries – especially dark red (they are quite anti-inflammatory!)
- Nuts and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and almonds
- Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and plantains
Balance blood sugar: Another dietary strategy is to be sure to keep blood sugar balanced throughout the day. This takes some of the pressure off of the adrenal glands and helps with any symptoms related to low blood sugar that can be common with stress. I suggest including protein and fat with each meal and not skipping meals.
Prioritise sleep: Just like the adrenals love regular, nutritious meals - the adrenals also like a regular sleep-wake schedule and getting enough, quality sleep each night. Good sleep and a regular circadian rhythm helps to support immunity as well.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as conscious breathing and meditation support the parasympathetic nervous system response which is the opposite of ‘fight or flight.’ These practices not only calm stress in the moment, but also help to build resilience against stress. Research shows that meditation regulates the stress response, calms inflammation and helps to maintain a healthy microbiome. This is good news for the immune system, too.
Vitamins to Boost Immunity and Nurture your adrenals:
Here are some of the key adrenal support nutrients and herbs that I often include in my practice as part of a personalised functional medicine plan for my patients. By nurturing the adrenals, the immune system also benefits.
B Complex: The body burns through B vitamins in a stressed state and if they aren’t replaced fast enough, you’ll notice that metabolic health suffers. By taking a B complex, you provide a steady stream of B vitamins to the body for adrenal system support and therefore immunity. If you have symptoms of HPA axis dysfunction, you may notice improvements in energy and mental clarity with B vitamins and I consider this foundational support during times of stress.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C might be a nutrient you are already taking to boost your immune system in the face of viruses. Did you know that the adrenals have the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body? By replenishing vitamin C, you not only support the immune system, but also your body’s ability to respond to stress.
Adaptogens: Adaptogens are a group of herbs that support the HPA axis and help the body regulate the stress response. In essence, they help you adapt to your environment. These herbs include ashwagandha, eleuthero, licorice, tulsi, rhodiola, reishi, ginseng and others. Herbs can be used as single herbs or in combination and the timing can be based on your unique cortisol test. Each of the adaptogens above addresses a different aspect of the cortisol pattern, so it’s important to tailor the product with your pattern. Bach and bush flower essences such as Rescue remedy or Emergency essence comes in handy here, too.
Probiotics: Since stress impacts the microbiome and there is a profound connection between gut health and brain health, supporting the gut is incredibly important during times of stress. What’s more is that 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut, so you influence immune health as you correct imbalances in the gut. If you suffer from chronic digestive problems, now is the time to heal your gut and reach out for professional support.
Special thanks to Jana our in-house Naturopath at Santos Organics for writing this article.