Naturopathy – Strengthening the Immune System

Why is a strong and efficient immune system so important?

Porque do desempenho do mesmo depende a nossa vida.

The different types of cells that make up this system are like a kind of soldiers that defend us against various types of external aggressors and have the ability to recognize and neutralize them. These cells respond not only to pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.) but also to defective cells, such as cancer cells. This is what ideally happens, when our immune system works well, its role is performed efficiently and what in some way could be a threat to our health ends up being resolved.

The problem is when our immune system is disturbed and no longer has the ability to function efficiently. Unfortunately, we live in times where there is no shortage of factors that in some way, some more, others less, disrupt the normal functioning of our immune system. And it is not difficult to name them: environmental pollutants, food additives contained in processed foods, pesticides used in the cultivation and production of fruits and vegetables, chemical substances that are part of the composition of cleaning, hygiene and cosmetic products, prolonged use of drugs, emotional and psychological stress, etc.

It would be difficult to name someone who nowadays does not live subject to several of these factors.

Naturopathy is based on the premise that when we remove what disturbs the functioning of our body, and when we treat it by offering it what it needs to function correctly, it achieves, on its own even, reestablish the balance. The intelligence that is natural to the human organism relies on various and complex mechanisms that always aim to seek balance.

The vision of naturopathy attributes extreme importance to the immune system for our health, as its good performance is decisive in the prevention and development of so many diseases that disrupt our quality of life.

There are, therefore, several aspects that, from the point of view of naturopathy, we must take into account if we want to maintain a strong and healthy immune system.

Food

The health and performance of each of our cells directly depends on the nutrients we provide to our body through the food we eat. I would say that one of the basic rules when it comes to food would be to abolish or avoid processed products that are found on supermarket shelves, packaged and labeled with a very long expiration date. It is difficult for these products not to contain additives in their composition, substances that do nothing for our health.

In addition, these products often contain generous amounts of sugar, deceiving our body with an intake of empty calories, that is, with a source of energy that does not bring with it nutrients essential for good health.</p >

A good diet should start with a preference for fresh foods, natural foods, foods that come from the earth or trees directly or almost directly into your kitchen.

Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, red cabbage, turnips, radishes, among others, are plant elements from the Brassicaceae family that have nutritional characteristics that give them excellent stimulating properties for the immune system.

The same can be said about onions, garlic and leeks should also always be included in the diet when the aim is to strengthen the immune system.

Fruits also generally provide us with a good amount of vitamins and minerals that are essential for the good performance of the immune system.

I highlight: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries and pomegranates, all of these fruits have a high content of anti-oxidant vitamins, A, C and E. Furthermore, they are also rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Papaya and pineapple are also two fruits with a powerful anti-inflammatory capacity as they contain enzymes, papain and bromelain respectively, which give them this property.

Of the citrus fruits, known for their generous amounts of vitamin C, I highlight lemon because it has a low glycemic index and is rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium. Kiwi is also an excellent source of vitamin C (more than oranges).

Probiotic foods are also very important. These are fermented foods containing bacteria that have a beneficial action on our digestive tract, contributing to strengthening our immune system. There are several probiotic foods, but I highlight miso (a soy by-product that you can use to make a comforting broth), kombucha (a drink prepared from a culture of beneficial bacteria) and sauerkraut (prepared from cabbage). .

It is very interesting to include these foods in your diet, however, probiotics can also be consumed in capsules, and you should be advised by a professional on the probiotic that best suits your case.

Due to the fact that the foods we consume today lack the desirable nutritional density they had a few decades ago, and also to the fact that the environment we live in today is challenging to the point of increasing the requirement for certain nutrients to In order for our body, and specifically our immune system, to function efficiently, it is often necessary to resort to supplementation of certain nutrients essential to this good performance.

To strengthen the immune system, some important vitamins are used in naturopathy, as well as some minerals, medicinal plants and other substances produced by nature, such as propolis.

I highlight what I consider most important:

Vitamin C:
Vitamin C has an immunomodulatory action and improves the reaction of immune system cells. It increases the oxidative and phagocytosis capacity of neutrophils and stimulates the function and proliferation of lymphocytes, thus helping to fight any infection.

Vitamin D:
Like vitamin C, vitamin D also has an important immunomodulatory role in our body. It plays a fundamental role in mobilizing immune system cells to combat any infectious disease.

In Portugal, only 3.6% of the population has vitamin D levels considered normal (above 30 nanograms per milliliter). Food (oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, etc.) does not provide us with more than 10% of the amount of vitamin D that our body needs. The other 90% comes from sun exposure (UVB rays). In most cases, it is important to take vitamin D supplementation as a complementary measure to strengthen the immune system.

Zinc and selenium:

Both contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system.

Echinacea:

It is a medicinal plant with a well-known action on the immune system, especially with regard to preventing and combating respiratory infections. It can be used in capsules (dry extract), in supplements in liquid form or from the dried plant itself to make infusions.

Ginger:

Several components of ginger give it anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It can be consumed fresh and used as a condiment in cooking, as sautéed vegetables or in the oven, in juices and smoothies or in infusions.

️Propolis:

Propolis is a natural substance collected by bees from flowers and trees. Its composition includes tree resin, essential oils, waxes and bioflavonoids. It has natural antiseptic properties and is recommended in cases of infection and/or inflammation such as: colds and flu, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, cough and bronchitis.

Author:

Diana Patrício, Naturopath and Homeopath

Healthy Living – a set of choices

Do we have power and responsibility over our health?

The most recent studies in the area tell us yes. From family doctors (Dr. Mark Hyman), neurologists (Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. David Perlmutter), nutritionists, psychologists and psychiatrists (Dr. Augusto Cury), naturopaths, among many other professionals (Dr. Joe Dispenza) in the area of health sciences. All of them, each in their own way, seek to inform and teach us that our health, whether physical or mental, largely depends on our daily choices.

Science tells us that cold is just the absence of heat, darkness is the absence of light. So can we define illness as the absence of health (and not health as the absence of illness!)? Since heat and light are the norm, health should also be the norm. Why do some people reach their 70s and 80s without taking medication and in good health, regardless of whether society calls them “old”, and others don’t?

I have treated men and women aged 87, 88 and even some over 90 years old. The oldest person I ever had the opportunity to treat, who had never been to physiotherapy and who told me that he was rarely sick or had pain, was 82 years old… and he went to physiotherapy because at that age he fell and broke his wrist, and needed treatment.

Despite this example, we all know people who are always complaining about pain, some of whom we can guess the pain they feel because it is reflected in their face and body, others not so much. We all know people who would just like someone to give them an idea of how to treat themselves because they are tired of suffering. I believe that we can reach 70 or 80 years of age and live without pain, live healthy. And I believe it because I’ve seen it!

To some extent, our health depends on our commitment to it, on how much we really want to be healthy, and on making daily choices that allow us to feel and live in a holistically healthy way. It is known that there are genetic changes that predispose us to certain diseases, but it is also known that our choices (the environment we live in, stress, diet, toxins and exercise) have an influence on our health and genetic expression (see more here).

One of the fundamental principles of naturopathy (Logan and Selhub, 2012) is: Vis Medicatrix Naturae, which means the healing force of nature. This means that your body is the true therapist, it has innate self-healing capabilities, what the therapist (physiotherapist or other) can do is facilitate this natural process, through traditional or alternative resources. From the point of view of integrative/holistic treatment, the person will become ill again if the underlying causes of this illness are not addressed.​​

It is not me or another professional who will take away your pain, who will make your complaints disappear. And you. Yes, that’s right… the therapist just helps you . Each of us is responsible for our health. Let’s be realistic… It honestly doesn’t make sense to think that you’re going to physiotherapy to treat your shoulder and neck pain and then a few hours later you’re stressed out in front of the computer, irritated because the provider didn’t respond to you, or because you feel overwhelmed with work. , ordering a pizza, sandwich or other fast food to eat between one phone call and the next, not allowing yourself time to take care of yourself.

With this new awareness, you can start taking better care of yourself today, making healthier choices for yourself. To this end, I leave you with two suggestions based on the authors mentioned above.

Suggested readings for self-knowledge:

The benefits and importance of Physiotherapy

Is physiotherapy only for when we have pain?

Sometimes it is thought that a shoulder problem is exclusively related to changes in the joints, muscles, tendons and/or ligaments in that shoulder; or that a problem in the left knee originates in the joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments of that knee, and so on. Despite this fact, nowadays, we know that this is not exactly how it works.

Physiotherapy increasingly advocates a more comprehensive view of the human being, based on biomechanical principles, anatomophysiology, and relationships with other areas of knowledge (naturopathy, acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractic, among others) .

When you see a physiotherapist to treat an inflammation of the shoulder tendons (commonly referred to as “tendinitis”), you may discover that the problem is not the tendons in front of the shoulder, but rather the shoulder blade and shoulder muscles. a dorsal spine that is too rigid or has limited movement, with “tendinitis” being a consequence. Or even that your shoulder pain actually originates in the cervical spine.

When you feel pain in your back and seek help, your treatment may include correcting a dysfunction in your foot or learning to stretch some muscles in your lower limbs. One of the methods that can be used for this purpose is Global Postural Reeducation created by Philippe Souchard, French physiotherapist, or his method with self-postures, the Stretching Global Activo.

Gray Cook, one of today’s greatest thinkers on topics like training and physical rehabilitation, defends a logic called “joint by joint approach”, that is, a joint by joint approach. This means that there are joints that are more prone to instability and that, for this reason, benefit from stability and motor control training; but there are also joints that are more prone to stiffness and, as such, that benefit more from mobility and flexibility training.

Now let’s look at some examples of this type of clinical reasoning:

Raquel (fictitious name) arrives at the office withcomplaints of pain in the hip and lower back region, which has been evolving for a few months, and reports increased difficulties in performing squats beyond 90º, for pain in the groin area.

The clinical history seeks to understand whether there have been injuries or complaints associated with this same joint, but questions are also asked regarding pain, injuries or discomforts associated with other regions of the body.

In Raquel’s case, there was previous trauma (grade II sprain – topic for another post shortly) associated with a sprain in the ankle joint – more than 2 years ago, with restricted mobility in dorsal flexion (the ankle bent less than the other).

In this Gray Cook logic, through dynamic assessment (with squat tests, squats with hands above the head and lunge) we were able to analyze movement restrictions, which were seen in the ankles, hips and dorsal spine.</p >

In addition to dynamic tests, specific tests are also carried out for the affected regions and based on these restrictions, the treatment plan is defined based on manual therapies, mobilizations and therapeutic exercise.

Today, Raquel continues with her treatment plan and makes regular visits to her physiotherapist with the aim of enhancing her health and well-being, and at the same time preventing new complaints by readapting her training plan.

If she has been injured and is thinking about returning to training, or if you have doubts about what she can do to resume training, speak to your physiotherapist. One of the added values of teamwork is precisely the communication between professionals, in this case between physiotherapists and personal trainers. When recovering from injuries, this transition phase between treatment in the clinic and readaptation to movement and exercise is crucial. To help you resume training, count on the help of our Personal Trainers.

Sara Costa.

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