Did you know? A fever is caused by your immune system, not the invader. When the immune system gets overwhelmed, it alerts the brain, and the hypothalamus triggers a temperature increase to create an environment that’s harder for viruses and bacteria to survive and thrive.
Did you know that allergies are tied to your immune system? Yep! Something like pollen or a specific food enters the body, and the immune system interprets it as a pathogen and launches a response. It creates antibodies to attack the pathogen, which it sees as a threat. That’s why you see symptoms like coughing, wheezing, itchy eyes, etc.
Unfortunately, as a culture, we tend to pay attention solely to our immune system health during the fall and winter months. However, it should be our focus EVERY season so we can happily stay above that wellness line - all year round. So, this post is gonna walk us through the basics of how the immune system works, help us recognize signs of a weakened system, and discover 5 major ways you can support it.
How does the immune system work?
If you want to strengthen your immune system, you should first have an idea of how it works. So, let’s learn a few of the basics.
The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. Its primary job is to keep you safe and healthy.
There are two main parts to the immune system - the innate immune system, which you are born with, and the acquired immune system, one that adapts and learns as you age. They are both closely linked and can work together when an immune response is needed.
The innate immune system is the body’s first line of defense. It is primed and ready to fight at all times and consists of things like the skin, eyelashes, and mucous membranes that line the skin’s openings and internal tracts. These all create physical barriers to invaders like parasites, toxins, viruses, pathogens, fungi, and harmful bacteria.
There are many types of white blood cells within, or leukocytes, that work to defend and protect the human body, constantly on the lookout for invaders to kill. If the innate immune system gets overwhelmed, it triggers the hypothalamus in the brain to increase the body’s core temperature (fever) and calls on the adaptive immune system* to help us fight.
The adaptive immune system is much slower to respond to threats and infections than the innate immune response because it’s only activated when exposed to pathogens. The cool thing about this system is that it uses an immunological memory to make cells (antibodies) to protect your body from a specific invader. In other words, once it’s been exposed to an invader, it REMEMBERS it so it can provide long-lasting defense and protection against recurrent infections.
This entire process is happening all the time without you knowing it! How crazy is that?! Well, it happens without your knowledge when you’re healthy. You'll know it's at work the second you start seeing symptoms arise. So keep in mind that although symptoms may be uncomfortable, they’re proof that the immune system is hard at work, bringing your body back into the balance it craves.
*NOTE: For babies less than one-year-old who don’t have an adaptive immune system yet, antibodies can be received from their mother via breastmilk or donor milk.
What are the signs of a weakened immune system?
We’ve talked about HOW the immune system works; now we are going to dive into some more practical information. What are the signs of a weakened immune system?
- Your stress level is always high. This means your adrenal glands (your stress and energy glands) are shot and your cortisol gas pedal is pressed to the floor (stress hormone). You’re spending way too much time in flight or fight mode, leaving you exhausted. Your immune system will suffer greatly if you aren’t subsequently allowing your body to spend time in rest and repair mode.
- You’re always sick. When a person falls ill, the body’s adaptive immune system typically creates antibodies and learns how to defend itself against that intruder if presented with it again. If your body seems to “catch” everything that’s going around and continually does that cyclically, your immune system could need some serious attention.
- You have regular stomach issues. Did you know that nearly 70% of your immune system is in your gut? Yep! There’s actually GOOD bacteria present there that support a healthy digestive system - and immune system. If you’re noticing things like diarrhea or constipation becoming part of your normal routine, chances are your immune system isn’t functioning optimally, and your gut health needs work.
- You don’t heal quickly. When your body is injured - like a cut, bruise, or burn - nutrients within the blood rush to the area to help it heal. Quick healing requires healthy immune cells. If your immune system isn’t being properly cared for, your blood may not have the nutrients it needs to rebuild and regenerate like it should, leaving the wound susceptible to further injury or infection.
- You battle frequent infections. If you’re noticing things like 5 ear infections in one year, pneumonia twice a year, several cases of sinusitis a year, or finding yourself constantly needing antibiotics, you could have a weakened immune system in serious need of some assistance.
These are just some of the signs of an immune system in distress. You must listen to your body and keep mental tabs on how it acts and responds to the world around it. Now for some ways to HELP your immune system…
5 Major Ways to Support Your Immune System
Echinacea is a great herb to keep on hand. You can typically find an herbal tea that contains it if that’s easier for you. A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that echinacea showed maximal effects on recurrent infections, and preventive effects increased when participants used echinacea to prevent the common cold. Elderberry is another plant often used for its array of health benefits, including its ability to fight colds, the flu, allergies, and inflammation. The ginseng plant (roots stems, and leaves) is also quite beneficial for immune system support and can play an important role in antibody production.
Bone broth is an excellent food option for supporting both your immune system AND digestive system. The collagen and amino acids within can help heal tears in the gut lining, which in turn helps the immune system function properly. Ginger is another fantastic food to incorporate on a regular basis. It's known for its ability to help cleanse the lymphatic system and rid the body of toxins and waste. It also helps the body maintain a healthy inflammatory response. Green tea is filled with antioxidants and amino acids that can help you fight germs and stay well. You might also want to keep foods rich in vitamin C, like citrus fruits and bell peppers, on hand; they provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Foods rich in beta-carotene, like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, kale, apricots, spinach, and collard greens, have also been shown to be high in antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and fight oxidative stress.
3. Essential Oils
Now, when it comes to essential oils, I only trust one company - the one with the Seed to Seal quality promise - Young Living Essential Oils. I know I am getting premium essential oils that I can trust from the seed all the way to the sealed bottle. When it comes to using essential oils to support your immune system, I will first and foremost recommend you get a trustworthy reference book. Let me know if you don’t own one, and we will get you hooked up. Regarding what we can compliantly share, I recommend you check out the Vitality line Young Living carries. You can ingest them! Many of them contain antioxidants and can support various body systems, including the immune system. Here are some of the top immune-supporting & cost-effective oils to try: Cilantro Vitality, Clove Vitality, Cumin Vitality, Lavender Vitality, Lemon Vitality, Nutmeg Vitality, Orange Vitality, Oregano Vitality, Rosemary Vitality, Tangerine Vitality, Thieves Vitality, and Thyme Vitality.
I also trust Young Living to provide us with quality supplements. They’re all backed by their Seed to Seal quality commitment and infused with premium essential oils to increase their bioavailability in the body. I would recommend you look at their main probiotic - Life 9. You want to fill your gut with good bacteria that help you digest nutrients while boosting the detoxification of your colon and supporting your immune system. You may also want to look at Super Vitamin D, as most people in our society are very deficient in vitamin D, one of the essential nutrients to sustain human health. Research it! There are two other Young Living supplements that would be great to consider - Master Formula and Super C - but we will talk about those next!
Last but certainly not least, it has to do with how you live your life on a day-to-day basis. Do your best to manage the stress in your life. Stimulating the vagus nerve (the longest cranial nerve in your body) can help you relieve that stress. So how do you do that? Well, it’s really pretty simple. You can gargle water, hum, sing, meditate, get adjusted by a chiropractor, laugh, exercise, or immerse your face in cold water. Next up - get quality sleep! Get at least 7 hours a night, and you will have a better chance at keeping your immune system running optimally. You may also want to consider your water and air quality. Tap water is typically laden with chemicals you don’t want to be consuming. Drink filtered water and go outside to breathe in fresh air!
Master Formula: Powerhouse Full-Spectrum Supplement
Speaking of implementing quality supplements into your routine, let’s talk about one that’s packed with ALL kinds of good things - Master Formula. It is a full-spectrum supplement that provides vitamins and minerals that can help support bone density and health, brain function, cellular protection, digestive health, energy levels, eye health, heart health, immune support, and skin health. Master Formula’s food-based ingredients are delivered in three ways for a synergistic complex that supports digestive health, helps neutralize free radicals in the body, and provides gut flora-supporting prebiotics. Plus it has premium essential oils packed within. Yes - it’s THAT good!!
All you do is take 1 packet (1 liquid capsule, 1 caplet, 2 capsules) daily with water. You could also take it with 1–2 oz. of NingXia Red if you prefer.
Super C: Health, Vitality, & Longevity
Another great supplement to take a closer look at is Super C. It supports normal immune, respiratory, and circulatory function and is fortified with rutin, citrus bioflavonoids, and minerals to balance electrolytes and enhance the effectiveness and absorption of vitamin C. The added premium essential oils may also increase bioflavonoid activity.
Super C's ingredients also help strengthen connective tissues and promote overall health, vitality, and longevity. Because your body cannot manufacture vitamin C, consuming this powerful antioxidant daily can benefit you. To reinforce immune strength, take 2 tablets daily. For maintenance, take 1 tablet daily. It’s best if taken before meals.
I told you it was a good one! Make sure to keep it in your wellness stash all year round.
Thank you so much for setting aside time to peek inside the immune system with me and what Young Living has to offer you for supporting it. Don't forget our online community is here and ready to come alongside you in this journey to better wellness with tons of resources!
If you'd like to dive deeper into this topic, I've linked a few of my resources below. I also have a printable guide for you to snag by clicking here.
Snag all the oils and supplements we discussed here. You can also find my favorite veggie capsules and other accessories for clean living here.