Is it the germs or is it stress?

Top 4 Ways to Holistically Support Your Immune System

Your Immune System - A New Paradigm 

The Immune System - a popular and sometimes debated topic, especially over the last 4 + years when it comes to holistic approaches to health. When people think of the immune system, they often think of colds, runny noses, white blood cells, and medications to take to “fight off a cold” or fever. 

While some of these components of bodily expression may be related to immune expression, our immune systems are so much more than that. Our immune system is directly related to our recovery system, including the functions responsible for healing our injuries, bumps and bruises, and even more chronic health concerns. 

Our immune system is dynamic, complex, and goes beyond just white blood cell function. It includes our skin, our gut microbiome, our lungs, and most importantly - our nervous system. Many researchers are now referring to such relationships as Neuroimmune Interactions. You can read more about such studies here.

To summarize, your immune system is your defend and heal system. It’s responsible for healing the smallest cuts on our skin all the way to metabolizing and eliminating the most aggressive pathogens. 

Is it the “germs” or stress?

When our bodies are regulated and dealing with the demands of life appropriately (AKA stress), we don’t think twice about external agents, or what the culture refers to as “germs.” Our body fights off such invaders daily without us thinking twice. Most of our defense mechanisms are happening at a subconscious, cellular level. In fact, subtle exposure to microbes outside of our body via the environment can help stimulate healthy, normal immune responses in childhood and into later years. Perhaps our grandparents were onto something when they told us to play in the dirt. 

Too much or too little exposure can certainly create other imbalances that diminish our ability to adapt appropriately. 

Gut Microbes, 2020 found that nonpathogenic microbial exposures in early life may in fact promote the generation of protective immunity down the road. You can read more about their discoveries here. These types of microbes are often found in soil, on fruits and veggies that grow in the earth, our body, our own digestive system, and even in your pickle jar. 

However, when the demands of life outweigh our ability to adapt and respond, this is where one may experience what we call an “immune or health expression” aka symptoms. The more dis-stress we experience, the more sympathetic tone our nervous system creates and therefore the capacity of our immune system to heal or fight off foreign invaders decreases. 

The Paradigm Shift - Getting to the CAUSE 

So the question we have to ask is - is it the external “germs” that cause disease OR our own internal environment aka the quality of the “soil” of our physiology and biology? I’m not saying I know the exact answer to this, but as a holistic doctor, I choose to ask different questions in order to generate different results for my clients and practice members. I’m simply here to help you expand your perspective on what health really means and where it truly comes from so you can live more empowered on a daily basis. 

How do we improve our own “soil?”

I recently went through a pretty intense immune experience myself which is what inspired me to write this article in hopes to empower those who choose to read it. Growing up I got “sick” very often. Multiple ear infections, coughs, fevers, runny noses, and so much more. In high school I experienced a bout of mono for about a month but I chose to go to school anyway (don’t tell the Principal).  

One day in my early 20s, I woke up and said, “Enough is enough.” And chose to take a new path of health and well-being. I look back on those moments of “sickness” with gratitude because it’s what allowed me to have a perception shift as well as teach others that you CAN heal and that there IS another way to nourish your body, mind, and spirit. You don’t have to suffer. 

These are my top 5 ways that I “tend to my soil” - aka my bodymind and immune system - in no particular order:

1. Rest & sleep

Yes, I know it’s simple…but just because something is simple to do doesnt’ mean it’s easy. This is especially true when you live in a culture that attempts to go faster than what our nervous system was designed for. Even if you cannot sleep, more studies are discovering the power of NSDR, otherwise known as Non-Sleep Deep Rest. NSDR activities include meditation, breathwork, visualization, and being bored without high-levels of stimulation. In short, NSDR deactivates the sympathetic nervous system which is the “fight or flight” part of our physiology. As a result, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes more activated, which allows for what we call “rest, recovery, and digest” activity in the holistic healing world. NSDR is also known to increase dopamine levels and lower heart rate and blood pressure. You can read more about it here. 

2. Dietary Shifts

Digestion is one of many functions of the body that requires a lot of energy. Your body uses energy to breakdown food, which then hopefully gives quality energy back (depending on the kind of food you are eating). It’s common for someone to feel a decrease in appetite when there is an active immune response at play. This is because breaking down food takes so much energy and so the body will prioritize where such energy is being utilized. In our office we refer to this as the physiological hierarchy, or triaging. Your body when in an active immune response prioritizes defeating the foreign invader more than it does breaking down the chicken you had for lunch. If you find yourself in an active immune response and also have less hunger, choose easy to digest foods. This will help conserve energy while also getting the nourishment you need to be well. Some great examples are bone broth, soups filled with protein and cooked vegetables, cooked vegetables in general, simple carbohydrates (rice), etc. Cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods for most people. 

More specific immune supporting foods, herbs, and spices include, turmeric, garlic, onions, citrus fruits, bone broth, ginger, and fermented foods. Try to buy organic as much as possible to avoid additional toxins, hormones, and pesticides used in non-organic food. I recommend following this type of dietary shift until you start to notice your energy levels come back closer to normal. 

While I am not a nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor, I have a strong background in the philosophy of using food as medicine. Increasing zinc, vitamin D and C can also be of benefit in an active immune response. Please consult your naturopathic doctor for personal supplement advice. 

3. Perception Shift & Your Mindset about rest

Many of the clients I work with are high-level, high-achieving professionals and entrepreneurs. And with that identity can also come some guilt and shame about rest. I have been guilty of this in the past as well. I use to be terrified of slowing down, especially when I first started my practice. Intrusive thoughts would enter my head like:

  • What if my clients get mad at me?
  • Will everything fall apart?
  • Am I worthy of rest?
  • What if I don’t get everything done?
  • What will happen if I miss something?
  • Will the business still run without me?

Have you ever had these thoughts or versions of these thoughts? This type of mental fabrication can create increased stress hormones in the body including cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These hormones when elevated in the blood reduce white blood cell production which is necessary to fight off infections or foreign pathogens. 

If you’re looking to make a shift on a psychosomatic level, here are some new questions you can reflect on when it comes to rest and worthiness:

  • How does resting benefit my business/work/team?
  • How does getting well benefit my family?
  • How does me taking care of myself benefit my clients?
  • How would resting more benefit my energy when I return?
  • How does choosing rest and honoring my healing break the cycle of burnout that exists in the culture?
  • If I choose not to rest and take a day off, how is that a drawback to my work/business/family/partner/team/co-workers/clients/etc.

4. Nervous System Care

It’s OK to ask for help in times of stress. As network & neurologically-based chiropractors, we have the honor to work directly with system that controls your entire life - your nervous system. The state of your nervous system is directly proportional to how you heal, how you adapt, and how you function overall including how you respond to stress AKA immune responses. If you’re in a state of fight or fight constantly, how do you think your body is going to respond to viruses, bacteria, or foreign invaders?

We have a saying in chiropractic - focus on strengthening the fortress so that no invader can break you down (the fortress being your bodymind). 

If you or a loved one has been struggling with on and off immune challenges, autoimmune disorders, chronic disease, and/or other health challenges, please reach out to our team to see if we can help and provide hope. You can reach us at 651-756-1218 and/or

While I am sure there are 100s of other strategies that exist to boost your immune system holistically, these are my top 4 that have helped me adapt and heal time and time again. 

Yours in health and empowerment,
Dr. Mel and The Inspire Team 

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