How to Build and Support a Strong Immune System

Avoid stress, eat well and be well

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

The pandemic has brought greater attention to the importance of maintaining a strong immune system.

While receiving vaccinations helps improve immune response to communicable illnesses like the seasonal flu and COVID-19, supporting immune system health is also important for lowering risk for these and other illnesses.

Here’s what area experts recommend:

• “Massage at its base is stress relief.

• “It improves circulation and the quality of sleep you’re getting. Any time the body is at rest, at a molecular and cellular level, it works better. All of those things will boost immune systems, especially the way our busy lifestyles are. Moms and dads work so much and kids are over-scheduled. Rest is not emphasized enough.

• “Essential oils are part of my business. It’s about the benefits of the plants. Essential oils are the ‘blood’ of the plant. When you get the oil from the plant with distilling, all that the oil does for the plant, that’s what it’s going to do for you. Eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, clove, frankincense, lavender, oregano, all of these all support immune health. Young Living has an FDA-approved Vitality Line which you can ingest. They have a white label. The oils themselves are the same, but the FDA requires a visual cue. You should always follow the manufacturer’s directions when using oils.”

— Danielle Strally, RN, licensed massage therapist, Wellness By Danielle, Geneva.

• “Supplements are important, but I focus on food and the way of living. Food I recommend you should try taking every day is turmeric. Take it every day, as much as you can tolerate. Garlic, ginger, cinnamon and blueberries you should have every day. Fiber is very good. Fiber helps the immune system and reduces inflammation. Some people may be sensitive to fiber. Mushrooms are good to eat.

• “Drink water regularly, not just taking too much at one time, but all day; drink water. The one simple indicator is when you go to the bathroom, the urine should look like water.

• “Olive oil should be part of a healthy diet. Use olive oil as a condiment. Sautéing is good. Frying isn’t and sugar is not good.

• “Stress damages the immune system. Some people think negative things about the future, like something bad is going to happen but no one has seen the future. Always have positive thoughts that good things are going to happen. Others think about old lies about the past. The past is gone. Dragging through the negative parts of the past causes stress. Control the thoughts. It can be difficult, so we can think good things and bad things. If any negative thoughts come, think of good things.

• “Go walking to help manage stress and think happy thoughts. Take a deep breath.

• “See a professional if you cannot control thoughts.

• “The home environment: make it like a temple, mosque or church: clean and relaxing. Use as few chemicals as possible and keep it dust-free.

• “Supplements can helpful. Some people ask, ‘Why supplements?’ but they’re concentrated nutrients from food. Vitamin D has shown good effects at boosting the immune system. Even at hospitals they use vitamin D. Vitamin C is known for many years and zinc has shown as an important supplement. Echinacea has shown to improve the defense.

• “If someone has a chronic problem, it needs to be stabilized; like high blood pressure or diabetes or autoimmune conditions. Chronic conditions, if not taken care of, can damage the immune system. These are the most important things regarding what we’re facing right now.”

— Physician Az Tahir, practicing holistic, natural and functional medicine in Rochester.

• “Take basic vitamins and minerals. Keep up with your vitamin D, zinc and vitamin C. A lot of people are looking for quercetin to support immune health.

• “We’re also looking at n-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), a really great precursor to our master antioxidant, gluthathione, as it protects our lungs.

• “Traditionally, elderberry, echinacea, mullein and garlic: all of these can be used safely and effectively. Particularly those on a medication should run it by your pharmacist and doctor to be sure there’s no contraindications.

• “Any foods with vitamin C, like fresh citrus, and garlic and onion, are wonderful.

• “Keep the sweets down as much as you can. Sugar can undercut the immune system.”

— Greg Deutschbein, ambassador of wellness at Lori’s Natural Foods Center in Rochester