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If you want to stay fit and healthy over the Winter then it is well worth you and your family putting a strategy in place to strengthen your immune system before winter kicks in. Here are a few things you can do to build up your immune system today, including the latest on the super immune-boosting powers of mushrooms. Read on

No one enjoys being unwell. In fact, most of us desire a long, happy life – with illness and poor health kept to a minimum. That’s why it’s important to keep your immune system at its optimum. And we now need to be even more vigilant as more and more antibiotic resistant bacteria and hard to beat viruses rear their ugly heads. Read on to find out what you can do naturally to boost and maintain your immunity to keep you super healthy throughout winter and to find out about the latest and greatest on mushrooms and the evidence-based research behind their powerful immune-boosting powers

Our immune system to the rescue

To help us maintain wellbeing, our body has a complex immune system to protect it against infection – from invading microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites to the development of cancer. We are born with a small amount of inherited or innate immunity to protect us in the early days of life. As we grow, our immune system matures into an elaborate and highly specialised network, capable of recognising and engulfing harmful microbes and abnormal cells.

Unfortunately, our body’s natural protective mechanisms, repair processes and cell regeneration slow as we age or during times of prolonged stress and we become more susceptible to free radical damage. Health problems become more prevalent and we are left vulnerable to the viruses that cause the common cold and influenza, especially during the winter months. If unchecked, a lowered immunity can lead to serious and chronic health problems, such as cancer.

Recurrent or chronic infections – even mild colds – only occur when the immune system is weakened. Thus, a vicious circle develops: a compromised immune system leads to infection – infection causes immune system damage – which further weakens resistance. Only by boosting the immune system can we break this cycle.

There is no magic or instant cure of immune system disorders. What is needed instead is a comprehensive approach, including lifestyle, stress management, exercise, diet, and the possible use of supplementation and herbal medicines.

The effects of stress on immunity

There is growing research documenting the profound influence of the mind on physical disease. Mood and attitude have a tremendous bearing on immune system function. When we are stressed and emotionally upset, our immune system suffers. It is not only major life stresses that can depress immunity, but everyday chronic stress has a significant impact. Stress increases the levels of adrenal hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones inhibit white blood cell formation and function and cause the thymus gland to shrink, suppressing the immune function and leaving the individual vulnerable to infections, cancer and other illnesses.

Do I have a cold or do I have the ‘flu?

Symptoms                             Cold                                            Flu

Onset                                    gradual                                       abrupt

Nose                                     drippy                                          congested

Throat                                    scratchy                                      sore

Chest                                    mild cough                                  cough severe/lingers

Heads                                   mild headache                           more pronounced headache

Muscle aches                       absent                                         usually present

Chills/fever                            may have slight fever                  usually chills and fever

Fatigue                                 absent                                         present

Appetite loss                         absent                                         present

Nail those bugs!

The Magic of mushrooms

Eastern medical practitioners have known for more than 5,000 years that mushrooms contain powerful immune-boosting compounds and protective properties—today we can see the proof in an abundance of conventional research studies

Mushrooms contain powerful compounds that enhance and balance your body’s ability to fight disease and stay healthy. These fancy fungi are jam-packed with healing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components that destroy infections, slow down aging, and regenerate nerve cells.  

How? These natural protective ingredients work together to fight cancer, viruses, and inflammation to super-charge your immune system.

How? They modify cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers that can suppress white blood cells and make you more susceptible to getting sick (think colds and flu). Next, mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, which help bolster and maintain the structure of your cells (essential in having a healthy immune system).

Another benefit of mushrooms—they are delicious in stir fries, added to soups, used in making broth, and to top off your pizza.

Where to buy?

The most powerful varieties include Reishi, Shitake, Cordyceps, Maitake and Turkey Tail. Sometimes it isn’t easy to buy fresh but herb suppliers such as Mediherb and Metagenics make both concentrated liquid, powder or capsule forms of these mushrooms. These can only be prescribed by your Registered Naturopath or medical herbalist.

How else can I keep healthy this Winter?


  • Whenever possible give your baby a great immune system via a vaginal birth and breastfeeding
  • Get adequate sleep and exercise.
  • Eat well: lots of fruit and vegetables of different colours and varieties, not too much meat. Eat unrefined, fresh foods.
  • If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
  • Manage stress ( see )
  • Take plenty of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E and Selenium and Zinc.
  • Reduce inflammation with omega 3 fatty acids, Turmeric, Boswellia…
  • Take immune-boosting herbs:
  • to enhance the immune response – Echinacea, astragalus.
  • with an antiviral action – Echinacea or olive leaf.
  • that are antimicrobial if a secondary bacterial infection is present – goldenseal, thyme.
  • to reduce runny nose/watery eyes with astringents – goldenseal, sage, eyebright.
  • to decrease coughing with expectorants – elecampane, white horehound, goldenrod, mullein.
  • Soothe sore throats with demulcents – marshmallow.
  • Help eliminate infection with lymphatics – cleavers, pokeroot.
  • If you have the ‘flu diaphoretics are added to reduce fever – elder, boneset or yarrow. I suggest you visit a qualified medical herbalist (such as Sheena Hendon) to ensure you are prescribed herbs specific, suitable and safe for you as an individual.
  • Take a specific immune enhancing probiotic: it is strains of the beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus (in particular the strains paracasei, plantarum and rhamnosus are useful) that lives in the human gut and may help stimulate the immune system. Other strains are also useful for use during and after antibiotic therapy. Find out the strains you need from a Registered Naturopath because it is a waste of money going along to the pharmacy and getting a probiotic capsule without the specific strains needed for a particular job or symptom

If you are sick

  • REST!  Stay at home so as not to spread your infection.
  • Avoid hard out exercise
  • Avoid massage in the early stages of infection as it can enhance your symptoms.  Do have a massage once you start feeling better though as it helps with elimination of toxins and congestion.
  • Eat a light diet, avoiding dairy foods and red meat. Try soups and bone broths
  • Drink lemon, ginger tea with manuka honey.  Has a high vitamin C content, ginger is warming and manuka honey has antimicrobial action.

what next?Contact Sheena Hendon Health for more information or to book an appointment today x and supercharge your immune system today

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