Episode 064 – 7 ways to support your immune system this winter, understanding immune flexibility, immune resilience, how we self sabotage thus depleting our immune system and more – with Mel Aldridge
Mel Aldridge from Alliance for Natural Health International is back. You will recognise her form episode number 043. On this episode she’s here to literally help us survive winter. Because with any seasonal change, people typically get catch something and feel unwell or get sick.
But this year (2021) is slightly different. In that, the media have suggesting we’re going to get covid, the flu, the cold and maybe something else yet to be discovered – all at the same time. This level of induced fear in itself can cause stress and illness.
So Mel will be talking about what we all can do to best prepare our bodies and immune system, so that we not only stand a fighting chance, but we come out unscathed.
To help us get to this outcome Mel spoke around the following topics:
- How do we deplete our immune system thus rendering it less effective
- 7 different ways to support your immune system, not just for winter, but all year round.
- What is immune flexibility and how to work it
- What is immune resilience and how to nurture it
- Why do we feel terrible when we catch a bug or virus
- What role does stress play in causing a depleted immune system
- How you can deep dive and learn about metabolic resilience and weight loss to transform your wellbeing
And a lot more in-between.
Enjoy this fast flowing episode where the expert Mel Alridge prepares you for winter.
Useful links and resources mentioned on the episode:
Alliance of Natural Health International: https://www.anhinternational.org
Food consciousness conversation: https://www.anhinternational.org/news/august-acceleration-food-consciousness-and-community/
Upgrade your Immunity PDF: https://www.anhinternational.org/resources/documents/upgrade-your-immunity/
Mel’s course – “Resetting metabolic health and resilience using food and evolutionary pathways for effective weight management”: https://healthelearning.online/teachers/melenilaldrige1/
Build your immune system as nature intended: https://www.anhinternational.org/news/build-your-immune-resilience-as-nature-intended/
Harms: Hello it’s Harms and welcome to another episode of the Seekardo Show.
Today we have with us the brilliant Mel Aldridge from Alliance for Natural Health International.
For those that remember Mel joined us on episode number 43 which if you missed I highly recommend scrolling back and listening to the episode that was a health deep dive.
Back to today’s show she is here to help us literally survive winter because with any seasonal change people typically get sick or catch something.
But this year is slightly different in that the media have suggested we’re going to get Covid, the flu, the cold and maybe something else yet to be discovered, all at the same time.
Jokes aside, on a personal note, I’m someone who typically gets ill around this time a year. In fact, as we record this I am just recovering myself, but this is where Mel comes in and you won’t know this, year-on-year even a simple cold literally just wipes me out for a couple of days. Whereas this year was actually different because for over a year now consistently, myself and my family we’ve been taking care of ourselves and supplementing in the exact Way, Mel has recommended.
I’ve got to say this year was the first year where the cold was just annoying instead of being all consuming, and wiping me out so personally a big thank you, Mel, and I’m excited to hear what you share with us today.
Ro why did you feel this was such an important conversation to be having right now?
Dr Ro: I think the world is coming back out there is a lot more contact with other people now.
I myself am back out doing live events and it’s lovely to do that and so are our kids going back into schools and getting colds which they maybe didn’t have last year. There’s a lot happening and I think for me several reasons one is just that we needed to get Mel back on because she’s just got such a great message to share a depth of experience and this is a time when people are searching.
But my biggest concern is that the big message that we are getting from the media and the news is we need to be making sure we take the right tablets, we medicate. We take the right jabs and vaccines and all these things.
What I don’t still feel I’m seeing enough of is a voice that says okay, let’s look after you, look after your resilience.
Let’s build that wall of protection around you, such that you are actually internally and emotionally and physically, knowing that you’re in control. What you choose to do with other medication and drugs, et cetera is your choice, but I just think on a human level we have the ability to look after ourselves. If you could just remind our listeners a little about your background.
My first question is what creates immune deficiency?
Why do people become low in their immunity because often people don’t realise it’s a lifestyle-related thing as well.
Mel: Thank you so much for the invitation. It’s just amazing to be back. Harms, I am thrilled that you haven’t been knocked out.
That’s fantastic because they are saying that this is the worst cold ever and people really have been under the weather. I think some of that has really got to deal with the isolation that a lot of people have been under.
Our immune systems are constantly moving, learning, flexible systems that you need to be presenting it with all the time. It’s like when you’re trying to get fit. If you don’t keep working your muscles you lose your fitness incredibly quickly and your immune system is just the same.
Lockdowns have been one of the worst things for people’s immune systems because isolation where you’re not constantly coming into contact with external agents, be they pathogens or viruses or microbes or your immune system being able to sense, it’s a sensing organ.
That is one of the things that creates insufficiency because you’re not using it.
I think it’s amazing that people are back out again and I’m going to be a bit quite controversial here because I also am someone who won’t use hand sanitiser because I really respect my microbiota and I’m aware of just how much power your microbiome has.
A lot of people I think don’t realise that 70 to 80% of your immune sufficiency and your ability to have a resilient immune system actually lies in your gut and it comes from your microbes.
We have microbes on our skin. We have microbes in our bodies. We have microbes literally all over us and one of the things that we haven’t been doing or seeing a lot of people is, swapping microbes and I know that’s an eek subject for a lot of people but you know this is how we evolved.
Dr Ro: It’s so true we’re not doing that.
My kids are grown up with climbing around, walking in the woods and all of the stuff that is so natural and yet there’s other children that have grown up in a sanitised environment in the city where everything is cleaned. I do hear parents talking about the kids getting sick quite often.
Mel: One last point on hand sanitiser is that if you’re in a situation where you really need it please think about making your own.
Aloe vera with some essential oils and a bit of alcohol is going to be a bit more respectful to your skin as well then using some of the chemical ones that can be really quite hard. I’ve seen children with their skin really ripped apart. I’ve been in the field of healthcare but from the integrative side of the fence for over 30 years now.
I came to it, like many practitioners through my own healing journey and I know that we’ve gone into that in some depth in the earlier podcast but I work through many, many different areas of health and healing all through diet and lifestyle medicine but I have a degree in nutritional medicine.
I have a postgraduate qualification in clinical psycho neuro immunology, so you’ll understand why we just call it CPMN for short.
That really was a revelation to me to understand the evolutionary pathways and a lot more on evolutionary biology as to how we’ve developed and suddenly you understand just why our bodies work as a whole.
One of the things I’d like to discuss today is some of the evolutionary reasons if you like, for why your immune system needs to have certain things in place in order to function at its best. For many people, some of these elements are not there but are simpler than you would think they would be to put them into place again.
Dr Ro: What are some of the characteristics or behaviours that lead to a dropped immune system?
Mel: I’d like to talk in terms of immune flexibility and immune resilience because it’s all about how your immune system is able to adapt and to respond.
When you have a rubber band that’s fresh, new, you can stretch it to whatever length and it will snap back again. When it starts to get a bit older, if it gets damaged and has been sitting in the sun, it degrades when you stretch it and you know our immune system is pretty much like that.
Sometimes we need to have an immune response that modulates to what it is trying to do. If you have a really serious pathogen, if you have some food poisoning your gut will open up and the big guns of your body’s immune system will come in and it will hit it hard in order to wipe it out because survival of you is more important that.
If you just have something minor, you don’t want that level of response because actually one of the reasons why we feel so ill when we’ve got a cold or having an immune response is from the collateral damage from your immune system actually dealing with the pathogen.
The fallout from that is pretty intense and that’s generally what makes us feel pretty rough so you can understand that you want your immune system to be able to mount the most appropriate response and this comes to learning really.
When we are born we are gifted with our innate immune system, which if you like to think about it is more of a scattergun effect, but then we also have another arm to our immune system, which is our adapted immune system and this is more like the sniper.
This is the part of your immune system that learns as you grow.
Your immune system is constantly having to differentiate friend from foe, from even the glass of water that you drink to the food that you eat and to the person that you meet in the street and you shake their hand to the handrail that you touch.
To be able to go out into nature and breathing and all those microbes your immune system is constantly sifting and sorting and learning.
It learns self from nonself and it learns what to take out and what level of response to mount depending on the level of danger presented and obviously when it gets scrambled as many, many immune systems are doing now this is when you go down the path of autoimmune disease, which is also the route that I went down because then the body starts to attack itself, and it’s not keeping that differentiation.
Dr Ro: The innate immune system that comes back from our own history, own genetics, history through our parents and grandparents am I correct?
There will be some level of resistance built up previously through our history for one of a better word.
Mel: This becomes really important for people to take care of themselves, especially if they’re going to then go on to have children. We know that we pass down toxins and environmental problems as well as let’s not forget the emotional side. We pass all these on through the ancestral lines.
Think about your future kids and the state of your health.
I will say that even now, the science is all telling us and here we are nearly two years into the pandemic and the signs are showing us that natural immunity is the most efficient and the most resilient and our best protection, which is a no-brainer really when you think about how we’ve evolved. In fact, we’ve actually survived on this planet.
And you know for most of our evolution the only things that we had for our medicine cabinet was what we were eating, which is why food is always our first medicine and it’s a very, very powerful medicine and there are a lot of elements in food that are powerful immune modulators. We had our ability to rest.
We had sleep, we had an ability to move and this is where I don’t like using the word exercise as I’m thinking too many people conjure up images of actually going to the gym, but I do want to introduce the concept of movement because our bodies are made to move.
If you don’t move you’re not engaging gravity and I don’t understand why there is not more talk about this because NASA scientists have known since the mid-90s that our relationship to gravity is a huge predictor and promoter of health. They know that astronauts in space after three days have the same symptoms that we have with sedentary chronic disease.
Harms: The lifestyle you’re describing which will help support immunity is completely the opposite of the modern lifestyle.
The opposite of the office worker sitting down all day will go from home to work to home and typically via concrete, TV and then straight back and continue sedentary habits. I think that’s a core challenge.
Mel: But you can build things in Harms. We have a palaeolithic gene.
Our genes are stuck with our hunter gatherer ancestors to a large extent, and yet we have whizzed on in modern life but our genes haven’t caught up.
The message I want to give your listeners is that we have to go back to basics.
If you want a resilient immune system that is responsive and able to mount an appropriate response at the right time for you and the other thing is that in part of that appropriate response means turning off at the right time as well which is what happens with chronic long-term inflammation is that the response never turns off.
I’m going to bring this back to your very first question because if you never managed to finish your immune response then you always have your immune system upregulated in the background, chunking away like a generator that never, ever turns off and goes to sleep and this is what creates a situation where you have a level of low-grade inflammation.
This low-grade inflammation is what underpins all chronic disease and it is intimately linked to our metabolism, so this is where I come back to food again because there are ways of being able to use food as medicine that involve what you eat, when you eat, how frequently you eat.
Dr Ro: Low-grade inflammation. Just explain that in a nutshell.
Mel: Our immune system has developed with us all the way through evolution.
It has been our main protection and it has got us to where we are now because survival of the species is always prime and is always critical.
What happens with the immune system is that we may be way more advanced than our ancestors, but the immune system is still the same.
It functions in a very similar way and it doesn’t differentiate between physical wounds that you’ve just had from fighting a saber tooth tiger to an emotional wound to stress to anxiety, to the fight you just had with your partner that is now going on for weeks on end because you haven’t resolved it.
All of these are considered to be wounds as far as the immune system is concerned, and they up regulate. So whether you are emotionally in pain for something and you’re emotionally down your immune system is going to rise to that challenge and it sees it as a wound.
This is why we say that stress is just so insidious because stress is regulating your immune system constantly.
In our culture we have a story about crying wolf where you keep putting alarm bells and you keep saying, there’s danger and then in the end because the system has been upregulated for so long it doesn’t respond.
Because it’s underpowered and then this is where I have to bring in metabolism here and I need to talk about metabolic resilience because, your metabolism is basically your ability to create energy in the body, and because everything comes down to energy on this planet and in our bodies as well. If you don’t have sufficient energy you can’t actually have function because everything takes energy.
The immune system takes a huge amount of energy when it’s upregulated, which is why you go into what we call sickness behaviour and you don’t want to see people and you want to go to bed and you need to sleep a lot because what is happening is that the organism is conserving a huge amount of energy, because all that energy that you’re conserving is being channelled to the immune system because the immune system is being upregulated that’s fighting a pathogen.
So if you then are in a situation where your wound has not turned off because it actually isn’t a wound from a pathogen like a cold it is a wound from stress and you look at the stress that people have been under for such a long period of time now, that level of stress, those wounds are actually creating an upregulated immune system that is chunking on in the background.
So your generator is not turning off which is then going to drive your desire for eating more and being driven to the foods that are not going to be good for you.
High calories, high in sugar, starchy carbohydrates and obviously then we’ll be looking into alcohol and other ways of being able to actually try and skim the tension of the stress.
This is how this vicious cycle starts to go because the body is saying I need energy, I need energy it starts to shut down various body processes to conserve energy, so other things in your body don’t work as well. Your gut being one of them and then you just start craving carbohydrates and food that isn’t good for you because your body thinks that it doesn’t have enough energy to function.
Here you are now creating metabolic dysfunction and this is not this is not a conversation about weight management, but obviously that is going to be linked to because the more carbohydrates and starchy carbs and sugars that you’re drawn to, the more your insulin is triggered and insulin is a storage hormone.
Insulin will tell your body to keep storing, storing, storing for the lean times because this comes back to our evolutionary pathways again where we didn’t have access to all of this, we are built for famine and not for feast.
When we think that there’s going to be famine coming, we store more and we crave more in terms of higher carbohydrate.
For those in the northern hemisphere as the nights draw in and as the temperatures start to drop we immediately want to start eating different things because we are literally storing. You have to always think about your body in terms of our palaeolithic genome really, because if we start to then put things back in place again that speaks to our body in that way it is miraculous how we can start to feel and how we can start to bring in more resilience and flexibility.
Having metabolic resilience means that you are then in the best way to have resilience in all of your other body systems and your immune system and your metabolism are so intimately linked because the immune system needs loads and loads of energy.
Dr Ro: To summarise in simple terms stress levels high, poor sleep, starting to then revert to if you’re not already doing it, crappy foods, not getting enough movement.
Those are good indicators that you don’t have a good immune system.
Mel: I am really not talking about going and flogging yourself in the gym on the treadmill because actually that can have a real counter effect and be more triggering for inflammation.
We are built to be outdoors, so please can I just make a call here for getting outside. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, going for a walk, doing the gardening, running up and down the stairs, washing the car.
Our hunter gatherer movements were all about living and life and they weren’t about exercise and treadmills, so we just need to bring more activity back into our life again to get this pull of gravity on all our muscles.
Dr Ro: Even the upper body actually picking fruit or anything like that. So our body doesn’t get used the same as it used to.
Harms: One of the challenges with this kind of sophisticated world we live in or what we believe we’re living in is everything has to be complex, but what you’re describing is really simple.
For the weightlifters and you know I go to the gym one of the challenges we face is we go to the gym exert all this energy and actually come home and then stay non-mobile till our next gym workout. Whereas what you’re suggesting is you just move throughout the day, be in the garden, in the woods and be at your desk as well, but just be constantly moving.
Mel: That’s fair to say, get up every couple of hours and move around and just going back to what you said Ro about gathering about picking fruits is that when we exercise in a fasted state we produce lactoferrin which is a very powerful non-inflammatory molecule that dampens inflammation because of course every time we eat your immune system and your gut is having to sense in a friend from foe.
So when it does that every time you eat and drink you are up regulating the inflammation in your gut and then if you don’t have periods of time where you’re not putting anything in, that inflammation doesn’t come back to ground zero.
Our bodies are so exquisite we always had to move in order to find food.
These periods of fasting and I’m giving clues here as to how to fix your metabolic resilience which will have a massive knock-on effect for you on your immune resilience. Because we had periods of time where we didn’t have food we had to exert ourselves to find food to get food and so in that exertion our bodies released all of this lactoferrin in case we were going to get damaged while we were in the process of finding food and we already had our immune molecules ready to go.
But lactoferrin is so dampening for inflammation, so even doing something minor like if you’re fit you can do some squats and a few press ups because believe it or not, you get more lactoferrin released from using your arms in your arm muscles than you do necessarily from your leg muscles.
Even if you can’t, I think everyone could do a few press ups against the kitchen counter.
Dr Ro: The kids laugh as I do that around the house.
I was squatting today when I was brushing my teeth, it’s simple things like that that just keep that body movement and it’s not complicated.
Can we just touch on some quick wins from a nutritional sort of perspective?
What would be two or three big wins that you think they could jump onto fairly quickly?
Mel: It’s always food first.
Food was our very first powerful medicine.
We want to have a lot of plant foods in our diet. I’m not necessarily saying everyone’s got to be vegan or vegetarian, not by any means at all because I work a lot with these evolutionary pathways and certainly some people really just are not able to engage their body systems when they’re not having some animal protein, but it is always about quality and sustainability and animal husbandry as well.
As to you what you take into your body on that front, but eating a rainbow of colours every day actually delivers a whole suite of phytochemicals of plant nutrients into your body, which are not just cofactors for lots of processes in your body, but many of these fighter nutrients are also antioxidants.
They’re also protective. They are there to be our medicine really, and so food is always first.
Please think about your gut.
I’m unequivocal on this and the fact that I do not believe that gluten containing products, I don’t think gluten is human food. It drives gut permeability which drives low-grade inflammation, which is the basis of chronic disease. It keeps your immune system upregulated in the background and takes a huge amount of energy.
The immune system we call it the selfish immune system in CPI because when the immune system is upregulated all of the energy that you are taking in is channelled towards that and it is not there for problem solving, for higher executive function and your thought process for all your other body systems and for actually dealing with life. You just don’t function as well.
Dr Ro: Every time you eat stuff like that you feel that heavy, fuzzy, brained, non-productive feeling afterwards.
Mel: We’re talking about going out and living like that for months on end. Sometimes years on end and this is when we start to really reap downstream effects that we don’t want in terms of chronic disease.
So taking care of your gut. Sleep is critical. We have to regenerate, pitch dark room, no gadgets, no buzzing electricity round you, phone on aeroplane mode or totally off.
This is really important, ideally going to bed at night time and getting your circadian rhythm into the earth. Some shift workers can’t do this so they really need to work hard to make sure they’re in pitch dark. You need a decent level of sleep. You need at least three hours to start getting some brain regeneration going and some brain clearing.
So really and seven to nine hours is what most people need to function properly.
The last two things to put in here is that I am a great believer in using food supplements to support your good diet and to support all of these things so that you can actually drive certain pathways and when you are immune challenged, either because of the season because of what’s happening around you, you may not be in the best of health yourself. Then supplements become a really useful thing.
Vitamin C, D3 and zinc and then there are other elements as well, so this is all on top of doing the right thing with our food with our sleep with our movement and then lastly, there are a couple of low tech gadgets that are incredibly inexpensive and are really worth having in the house. One of them is a salt pipe.
You can just put a couple of drops of Lugo iodine into the mouthpiece, shake it and sniff it and then you get all of that benefit of the protective mechanism of the iodine being able to go in. Iodine is a great disinfectant and you’re just sniffing it and if you do end up getting ill you can repeat this every couple of hours.
I really recommend this for everybody to have a USB rechargeable nebuliser. You can put a couple of drops in a teaspoon of water in the well. You can use saline solution from your pharmacy.
If you’re in a country where you can use silver hydrocoele you can put that in the well as well, and then you literally just turn it on and you nebulise that through your mouth and nose and breathe in that whole teaspoon that you put in there.
It is a phenomenal way of getting some protection into your respiratory passages and just supporting your natural immunity.
Dr Ro: That’s something they can do on a daily basis?
Mel: The salt pipe you can certainly do on a daily basis or every few days. The nebuliser I would keep until you’ve got a specific immune challenge and get on to it immediately because we can all feel in our bodies when our immune system is kicking into action. There’s an article that I wrote last March, which is all about modulating your immune system and using herbs and supplements if you also are unwell and it’s just really to say, look at what nature has to offer nature.
Nature has nurtured us all the way through evolution and it still is. So if we can just make use of that and really look at nature’s pharmacy it gives us another very powerful string to develop.
Harms: I want to talk very briefly about a phrase you mentioned which you said is extremely important metabolic resilience, just pair that with something you would like to share with our audience.
Mel: Thank you Harms, this is a huge area of passion for me.
Previous Metabolic dysfunction has underpinned my health journey and I am so desperately wanting to get information out to people so that they don’t have to go through the huge decade journey back to health again.
I’ve been working on a course, and there’s a new charity a new healthy learning charity that started in the UK that are really wanting to put out accessible, practical, ten-hour taster courses for people they call them discovery courses and my discovery course in metabolic resilience has just gone up about 10 days ago.
It’s now available. You have three months to do it. It is just £100 for charity and we want to make this accessible for people so that you can have learning in your own home and so I would say if what I’ve talked about is interesting to you than I’ve gone in this course I’ve gone much more into the evolutionary pathways.
I’ve really explained how to practically do all of this so that you can get your body back on track again and lower your background inflammation.
The upside of that is that you will have natural weight loss with that, but you will also increase the resilience of your immune system as well.
It is practical, so you will learn in the end to put your food protocol together and what to eat and I do also link in the emotional side of it because it is just so incredibly important to be connected to yourself in that way as well.
It’s a full e-learning program. You just go on, you buy the package and then you just go through it in your own time. It’s five hours of contact time and five hours of home study, practical things as you would expect with me when you’ve heard me ram a lot into this it might take you a little bit longer.
Dr Ro: Actually just even what you fitted in this time it has been unbelievable. Thank you so much Mel.
Mel: I hope people enjoy the course because I know that this information on metabolic resilience and if you started to really get your body back into this place and start talking to them in the language they understand so many other things are going to be resolved including having a more resilient immune system.
Thank you so much for having me back.
Harms: Thank you once again. Thank you Mel for joining us. That’s myself, Ro and Mel signing off. We will see you in the next episode.
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