Our capacity to fight antigens is reduced when we endure protracted stress. That’s why an optimized immune system is one of the most important insurance policies we’ll ever rely upon. Maintaining a strong foundation when it comes to our immunity is important year-round, of course, but it’s particularly meaningful when life throws us a curve ball or two. Like with insurance, you typically don’t think about it, but when something happens, you’re very grateful you have the protection! With a robust immune response, we are more inclined to handle challenging situations, combat sickness or recover quicker if we come down with something after being exposed to bacteria, viruses or parasites.
Long-term, protracted stress is taxing to our immune system
The chronic, low-grade stress that is so common these days can cause immune dysfunction, accelerate aging and degeneration, and make us vulnerable to inflammation, pain and sickness. Although our body is well-equipped to deal with short-term stresses through the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight mechanism that kick-starts our adrenalin and helps us manage emergencies or immediate threats), the same is not true of long-term stress. Just like a car will eventually run out of gas even if it is just idling for an extended period of time, we’ll run out of gas if we don’t take steps to recharge our body. Over the long haul, protracted stress compromises our health. We need to look for ways to optimize our immunity by calming our sympathetic nervous system and shifting to our parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-digest response).
When we think of how our immune system works, it’s helpful to visualize our body as a castle. The walls of the castle – our skin, bone and connective tissue – work to keep antigens out in the first phase of immunity. Our mucosal membranes, genital urinary tract and eyes function like the moat in a castle. Meanwhile, an army of millions of cells inside our body maintain the fortress by preventing invaders from breaking through the walls of protection.
Balance is the key
Daily attacks from various antigens can be taxing for the protectors of our castle, especially if we are feeling run down or tired. An underactive or weakened immune system can make us more prone to infections and sickness. On the other hand, if our immune system is overactive, we can be left subject to allergies that can potentially trigger an autoimmune response. As in our castle analogy, an optimal immune system is a balanced one. And maintaining a healthy, balanced immune system is the prerequisite to keeping our defenses strong.
Among the most important things we can do is reduce the impacts of stress by deploying good nutrition and a positive lifestyle. Incorporating a “rainbow” of fruits and vegetables – organic where possible – will help support our immune system.
Lifestyle strategies can also reduce the impacts of chronic stress; including diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing), which can activate the rest-and-digest response, calming music and mindfully connecting breathing to movement – through yoga or going for a walk, especially in nature and green spaces.
Immunity optimization through supplementation
Above and beyond nutrition and relaxation-inducing activities, many of us can strengthen our defenses through supplementation, including the use of medicinal mushrooms. Incorporating B-vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin D3 and essential minerals such as Magnesium and Zinc is a worthy dietary goal, but it is not always possible to achieve sufficient levels without supplementation (up to 40% of Canadians do not consume enough Magnesium, as an example).
Medicinal mushrooms have proven to be powerful allies in the fight against stress. They work as immunomodulators; substances that bring balance or calm and activate the immune system, as needed. Medicinal mushrooms also share the remarkable qualities of adaptogens, which protect our bodies from all forms of stress, both physical and mental.
The PURICA line includes several immunity formulations, including the award-winning PURICA Immune 7, a blend of six organic medicinal mushrooms – Agaricus, Cordyceps, Maitake, Red Reishi, Shiitake and Turkey Tail (Coriolus) and the proprietary blend NutricolÒ (green tea and grape seed extract), along with PURICA Complete 360. Both rely on mushrooms that are potent, full spectrum, of the highest quality and easily absorbed. PURICA Complete 360 includes eight mushrooms and the ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha, another adaptogen.
The combination of good nutrition, lifestyle habits such as getting good sleep and natural supplementation can fortify our castles and help us stay strong in the face of the protracted stress that affects many of us.