A Holistic Approach to Immune Health

A Holistic Approach to Immune Health

Lucy Browne, a qualified Nutritionist, Health and Bodycare trainer and team leader for Planet Organic, talks us through a holistic approach to immune health that appreciates the interconnectedness of different body systems, the influencing factor of our external environments, and the importance of optimising physical resilience for long-term adaptability and protection against invading pathogens.


As many of you may already know, a more conventional approach to immune health uses targeted nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and antimicrobials, such as honey, ginger, and echinacea, that directly influence immune function.

In comparison, a holistic approach appreciates the interconnectedness of different body systems and the influencing factor of our external environments. Furthermore, physical resilience refers to the body's ability to adapt to change, maintain strength and stamina and recover quickly and efficiently when faced with any imbalance. Optimal physical resilience is essential during this unprecedented period of change and uncertainty. Therefore, this article describes a holistic approach towards physical resilience that supports the nervous, endocrine, immune and digestive systems ensuring long-term adaptability and protection against invading pathogens.

The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin). The nervous system constantly responds to changes in our internal and external environments to maintain a sense of balance. When the nervous system is out of balance, we experience negative mental states such as anxiety, depression and insomnia, weakening the immune system. In contrast, when the nervous system is in balance, we experience positive mental states such as serenity, cheerfulness and restorative sleep, strengthening the immune system.

The endocrine system, specifically the adrenal glands, produce hormones that give the body a boost of energy to help overcome periods of acute stress. The adrenal glands are also responsible for maintaining healthy sleep-wake cycles, ensuring physical rejuvenation and recovery. However, our adrenal glands are designed to deal with acute stress, and therefore, when stress becomes chronic, the system crashes, resulting in fatigue, insomnia and poor immunity.

The immune system uses two primary defence mechanisms, innate and adaptive immunity, to recognise, attack and destroy invading pathogens, offering protection against microbial infections.

Innate immunity refers to the first line of defence, which includes the gut barrier. When a pathogen breaks through the gut barrier, it enters the bloodstream, triggering the second line of defence known as adaptive immunity.

Adaptive immunity is more sophisticated in that it uses specific white blood cells that produce antibodies to kill invading pathogens. Antibodies bind to the surface of pathogens, alerting the immune system to mount an attack. In addition, our adaptive immunity becomes increasingly advanced throughout life due to stored immunological memory, which refers to the ability of the immune system to respond more rapidly and effectively to previously encountered pathogens.

Active immunity (vaccinations) introduces weakened pathogens to a person not to become sick but to stimulate the production of antibodies. In addition, vaccines work by storing immunological memory, which ensures that our immune system will respond more rapidly and effectively when that same pathogen reappears later in life.

The digestive system, specifically the gut barrier, is the body's first line of defence. A healthy and tightly reinforced gut barrier prevents pathogens from entering the bloodstream. In contrast, an impaired gut barrier allows pathogens to enter the bloodstream, triggering the immune system, causing chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes chronic stress, which in turn causes negative mental states and vice versa. This vicious cycle depletes our nutrients and energy, compromising our physical resilience, making us more susceptible to microbial infections. We have carefully selected five healthy habits and eight innovative science-based supplements that support a holistic approach to immune health.

Strengthen the nervous system with healthy habits:

Sleep: We recommend getting eight hours of restorative sleep daily. Master your sleep and learn more about the effect of caffeine and alcohol on sleep with Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker each

Relationships: We recommend daily social interactions with friends, family or work colleagues. Remember, your relationship with yourself directly influences your nervous system. Try The Self-Love Journal to set challenges for healthy growth, plan nourishing meals and practice self-care activities.

Self-Love Journal each

Emotional wellbeing: We recommend dealing with painful emotions and cultivating pleasurable ones. Learn how to use positive neuroplasticity to change your brain and emotional wellbeing with Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson.

Hardwiring Happiness 200g

Meditation: We recommend meditating for 20 minutes twice daily.

Exercise: We recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise (especially yoga) every week.

Strengthen the endocrine system with adaptogens:

Adaptogens are plants, specifically herbs and roots, that counteract the ill effects of stress on the body. As the name suggests, adaptogens help the body adapt to change by instilling a deep-rooted sense of internal stability, especially during physical and psychological stress. Four Sigmatic Adaptogen Blend 60g.

Viridian Maxi Potency Adaptogen Complex 90 caps

Viridian Maxi Potency Adaptogen Complex Veg Caps 90 caps

Strengthen the immune system with medicinal mushrooms:

Beta-glucans and triterpenoids are the active compounds of medicinal mushrooms that confer profound immune-boosting benefits. Beta-glucans activate both innate and adaptive immunity, awakening our entire defence system. Triterpenoids are potent antioxidants known to combat chronic inflammation. Medicinal mushrooms also have natural antimicrobial properties that protect us against invading pathogens. The combination and interaction of many mushroom species create a unique synergy of immune-boosting benefits, which is why we love our functional mushroom blends:

Glow Bar Immunity Shrooms 80g:

Glow Bar Immunity Shrooms 80g

Strengthen the gut barrier with liquid probiotics:

Probiotics regulate innate and adaptive immunity by strengthening the gut barrier, preventing invading pathogens from entering the bloodstream. Our functional liquid probiotics also contain antimicrobial herbs and adaptogens for extra protection.

The Really Healthy Company Micromax 1L

The Really Healthy Company Micromax 1L