Have you or your children been sick within the last twelve months? If the answer is yes, you will want to read on!

When we are sick with flu or a cold, our immune system has been compromised. This is all a natural system where a battle takes place to regain true health. If you frequently get sick, we know your immune system is weak and it needs to be strengthened.  How??  A healthy dose of nature provides the solution.

The ‘germaphobe’ society today of excessive washing, anti-bacterial and antibiotic use is in fact making us sicker than ever. There are two huge problems associated with excessive cleaning. First, medicines like antibiotics are indiscriminate killers. They kill the bad and the good. For example, have you ever noticed that you often get sick again only a few months after taking antibiotics? They are like a nuclear bomb to the gut. There are rare circumstances where antibiotics might be necessary, but they are regularly over-prescribed, especially in the Middle East.  In the race to get well, we take anything indiscriminately to get well.   In fact, many neutral studies have shown that those who avoid antibiotic use when sick, recover almost as fast as those who do take them. Secondly, excessive sanitizing means your body does not get exposed to a wide range of bacteria. Your bodyguards, leucocytes, often referred to as white blood cells, don’t get to see any action. Like a soldier who is not battle-hardened, they become weak.  Ever travelled to country with lower hygiene standards than your own.  You got sick because your immune system wasn’t hard enough to defend you.

Like the military, our immune system is made up of several soldiers. The first is the rapid response unit or imminent immune system. They deal with immediate issues like a scraped knee and capture foreign invaders. Secondly, we have the special ops guys or adaptive immune system.  These guys are intelligent and memorize former opponents. They neutralize offending organisms with stealth precision. Unfortunately, many immune systems today do not get to see enough front line action. A lack of exposure to dirt, nature, animals and the floor is killing us softly. 

It may be somewhat of a surprise to many that conditions such as asthma, allergies and even autism are affected by our immune system. They are the result of inflammation and autoimmune function. We see much lower rates of these conditions amongst the people who have been regularly exposed to a wide range of bacteria. Children with dogs have a stronger immune system. As do those who grow up on a farm or in the country.  Human children even have a natural instinct to consume random organic matters off the floor. This often results in a parent scolding the child and retrieving the item.

Alongside dirt, the immune system in the strengthened by the production of vitamin D. The extreme heat of the Middle­ East summer means many of us will stay safe indoors for excessive time. This means little sun and eventually a vitamin D deficiency. The production of vitamin D is initiated when one’s skin is exposed to sunlight. The epidermis then converts cholesterol into vitamin D. This is then distributed to cells around the body.  Vitamin D is also crucial for cell growth, bone strength, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of type I diabetes. A 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine study showed that 77% of Americans were vitamin D deficient. A common dogma that the sun is bad has lead to many people avoiding the great outdoors. Regular smart exposure, i.e. not burning, is the easiest way to get enough vitamin D. This might be 15 minutes for one person and 60 minutes for another.  Everyone is different.

For both dirt and sunlight, the dose really does make the poison. Get none at all and you are in serious danger. Get too much and you can get sick. Find a balance but remember, a fear of the sun and dirt leads us to making poor decisions.

Here are my top three tips to strengthen your immune systems:

  1. Enjoy daily sun exposure without burning. In the summer months take early morning or afternoon walks.  You’ll get sweaty but that won’t kill you.
  2. Get dirt under your nails every week. This might be gardening, playing ball in the garden or swimming in the sea.
  3. Avoid using anti-bacterial wipes and washes on a regular basis. Germ phobia wont enable your immune system to get stronger.