Balancing and Healing Your Immune System

Healing Autoimmune Thyroid Disease Starts with the Immune System

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You can do many things to support your immune system balance and health. istockphoto

Your immune system's function is to protect you against bacteria, pathogens, microorganisms, cancer cells, and other things that can be a danger to your health. Autoimmune diseases are evidence that the immune system is not functioning properly, and that instead of focusing on the appropriate targets, it is attacking your own organs, tissues, glands and cells.

For those with autoimmune disease, including two common thyroid conditions: Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease -- there are some important ways you can help support and balance your immune system.

IMPROVING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

When you have an autoimmune disease, like Hashimoto's or Graves' Disease, you may wonder whether it's actually a good idea to try to "boost" the immune system. After all, an autoimmune disease seemingly represents an over-response of the immune system to its own organs and cells, so why would you want to give the immune system, even more, ammunition?

Some people erroneously believe that a healthy immune system goes into "overdrive" with autoimmune disease, becoming overzealous. This is incorrect. The immune system is actually dysfunctional in autoimmune disease.

When you have an autoimmune disease, you may find that you are more susceptible to infection, you catch colds and flu more easily, and you take longer to recover. These are all signs that the immune system is not functioning optimally.

So, it's important to do as much as you can to help your immune system work as best as it can.

Ultimately, immune support should be done under the guidance of a good holistic or naturopathic physician, who can help identify your unique deficiencies, and devise a customized immune-enhancing program for you.

But, here are some general guidelines to familiarize you with the idea of immune balancing.

1. Take Antioxidant Supplements

You may want a good overall antioxidant vitamin supplement. You also want to make sure that your antioxidant mix includes beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium, and vitamin C.

2. Consider Immune Enhancing Supplements

There are a variety of immune-enhancers available, and some of the best known, recommended supplements include:

Some lesser known, lesser-studied products that are also popular with some practitioners and patients for immune enhancement include:

3. Improve Your Nutrition and Diet

Follow an immune-friendly diet. Some guidelines:

  • Eat as little processed foods as possible
  • Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils and products made from them. (This includes margarine!) When you need to use oils, switch to olive oil.
  • Eat fewer high-glycemic carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, sugary foods
  • Reduce dairy, and if you do eat dairy foods, switch to organic versions, and be sure to include yogurt
  • Eat plenty of ocean fish
  • Focus on fresh whole foods as much as possible, such as fresh vegetables
  • Try to eat an immune-enhancing food every day. These include garlic, maitake mushrooms, broccoli, and sea greens (like dulse, chlorella, and spirulina). (Note: be careful with too much raw broccoli or sea greens, as they can be goitrogens. Cooking, however, removes most of the antithyroid goitrogenic properties.)
  • Try to avoid pesticides and hormones by choosing organic produce, meats, and dairy products whenever possible
  • Be sure to take probiotics or eat probiotic-rich food.

4. Get Sufficient Exercise

Appropriate exercise is actually an immune enhancer. It creates immune-enhancing chemicals and increases oxygen, which helps fight antigens more effectively. Don't overdo it to the point that you're exhausted, but incorporate regular exercise into your daily program.

5. Practice Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Relaxation techniques are immune enhancers. A positive mental attitude makes a big difference in how the body fights disease. Creative visualization establishes belief and optimism. Biofeedback or massage therapy to reduce stress.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is really a basic foundation of immunity. Two people can follow the same exact program, but if one is getting insufficient sleep -- and for most Americans, that means less than eight hours a night -- they will have reduced immunity against disease.

7. Incorporate Mind/Body - Spirituality into Your Wellness

Whether it's organized religion, prayer, meditation, or mind-body approaches such as yoga or tai chi, your mind and spirit are in communication with your immune system. Having a rounded spiritual sense and positive outlook on life can enhance immunity.

NOTE: Be sure to consult your own physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.

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