Hi, friend. There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about “immune boosting”—and I want to address the question: can we really boost our immune systems?
The immune system defends the body against infection. Broadly, it can be divided into two parts: innate, and adaptive.
We are born with innate immunity. When our bodies detect an infection, our innate response quickly tries to flush out the invader (which is what we experience when we get a fever or produce mucus, for instance).
Adaptive immunity is gained throughout life, however, both through vaccinations and as we are exposed to disease, by producing antibodies that can destroy the invader.
We can’t really (scientifically) “boost” our innate immune system.
Our adaptive system, however, can be influenced by external factors—as is the case with vaccinations.
I think the “problem” with this debate is more in the language and intention than the action itself.
Perhaps we need a perspective shift.
More often than not, when people get focused on “boosting” their immune system, they are looking for a silver bullet of health that can protect them. If human bodies were such machines, then calorie counting would also work, and everyone could lose weight easily. *womp womp*
This is not the case, however.
We are intricate organisms, and the truth is, without a healthy foundation within our functioning bodies to begin with, external supplements to boost our immune system or reduce inflammation aren’t going to do much to help.
Perhaps, while we cannot "boost” the immune system, we can do our best to “support” it.
Mostly, this will be through lifestyle factors—all of which you already know, but I’ll list them anyway:
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
- Regular exercise
- Adequate quality sleep
- Stress reduction
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Minimal to moderate consumption of alcohol
- Hand washing
If we are not prioritizing the things on this list above, and we are trying to boost our immune systems, then we aren’t taking a clear look at what’s happening.
Reducing inflammation and “boosting” our immune system through supplements such as vitamins, minerals, adaptogens, etc. is all fine and dandy—and can surely support our immune system health and goals—but they cannot lay the foundation.
Taking supplements without focusing on a foundation of health is, perhaps, searching for an easier way out.
I don’t blame anyone caught up on this search—that “simple” foundation is far from easy to achieve—again, if it were easy, we’d all be doing it.
Remember a few weeks ago when I discussed inner and outer wisdom? If not, review that post.
In this instance, our healthy foundation of those bullet points above allows access to our inner wisdom. Supplements and add-ons that can also “support” our immune health contribute to our outer wisdom.
Without the inner wisdom as a guide, we cannot accurately and authentically make use of such outer wisdom tools.
I am not telling anyone NOT to take supplements (I myself take some), and I’m not suggesting we must check every box on that bullet point list before we explore other options (I’m imperfectly human and rarely check all those boxes each day)—but I am encouraging us to take a clear look at where we’re expending our energy and focus.
If we’re trying to escape that bullet point list (because it IS hard), then our efforts may be better suited at figuring out how we can take a look at those items.
And remember, baby steps!
Focusing on just one item at a time is more likely to get you to that foundation of health.
My point is that most of us know what we could/should be doing for better health. The problem is not a lack of knowledge or outer wisdom—rather, it is a connection to ourselves, and fostering such inner wisdom that we really need.
Which of the items on that checklist of “foundational health” have you spent the most time with and perhaps mastered? Which could you dedicate more time to? How could you do that?
Explore this by writing it down and making the commitment to yourself!
It’s simple, but not easy.
Light and love,