On the frontline: Using nature to bolster the body’s defences Thursday 28 July 2011 PDF Print The human body comes under constant attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, radiation, allergens and pollution. Stress (emotional or physiological) also provides challenges to maintain a healthy body. Normally we are protected by the body’s natural defence system, however sometimes we need a bit of extra support. GP Roger Henderson explains what your body’s most important defences are and advises how we can give them a helping hand. Ears Cerumen or earwax is healthy in normal amounts and serves as a self-cleaning agent with protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. The absence of earwax may result in dry, itchy ears. Most of the time the ear canals are self-cleaning; that is, there is a slow migration of earwax and skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening. Old earwax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear canal to the ear opening where it usually dries, flakes, and falls out. Dr Henderson says: “Under ideal circumstances, the ear canals should never have to be cleaned. However, that isn’t always the case. The ears should be cleaned when enough earwax accumulates to cause symptoms or to prevent the need for an assessment of the ear by your doctor.” Nature’s remedy: Olive oil ear drops can help with safe and effective earwax removal. With no known side effects, Cerumol’s latest treatment contains high quality medicinal grade olive oil, shown to effectively and safely disperse earwax and help prevent waxy build ups. Cerumol Olive Oil Ear Drops come with a dropper for easy and convenient application and are available from Boots, Sainsbury’s, Wilkinson’s and high street pharmacies without a prescription, priced at £3.85 per 10ml bottle. For more information visit www.cerumol.com. Nose Both phlegm and nasal mucus are produced in the respiratory system. Nasal mucus is produced at the back of the nose, while phlegm is a term used to describe the mucus from the rest of the respiratory system. Mucus is vital for good health, helping to protect the lungs and prevent tissues from drying out. It's a water-based liquid that contains proteins, carbohydrates, salt and some cells. The proteins include antibodies that kick start the body’s defences against invading disease causing agents such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Antiseptic enzymes are also produced that can directly kill bacteria. The sticky properties of mucus can also protect the lungs, enabling it to trap particles of dust, dirt, bacteria and pollen that could otherwise cause irritation and infection. Once the particles are firmly isolated like this they are disposed of by coughing, sneezing and nose-blowing. It is estimated that a healthy nose will pump out more than a pint of mucus a day, although the amount can vary. Hay fever sufferers may experience a runny nose as the body attempts to flush out the problem pollen that's triggering the effect. Dr Henderson states: “A condition like Rhinitis occurs when the body’s immune system responds to an allergen such as pollen by releasing the inflammatory chemical histamine, which instructs the mucous membranes to increase their mucus production.” Nature’s remedy: Menthol, a compound found in mint plants, has soothing properties and can relieve nasal congestion. Pine needles in boiled water can also help to unblock the nasal passages with a natural vapour and contains antiseptic properties to aid relief. Allens Pine & Honey Balsam helps to relieve the symptoms of coughs, colds and bronchitis. Priced at £2.99 for 150ml, available from pharmacies nationwide. Skin Histamine is the chemical your body produces when you're having an allergic reaction. Although there is always some histamine in your body, a mosquito bite, for example, causes your body to release more histamine in the area of the bite, making your skin red and itchy. In extreme cases, histamine levels in someone who is allergic to a bee sting or a particular food like strawberries can be elevated so high that it causes dangerous anaphylactic shock. Dr Henderson says: “Adrenaline is the only chemical that can quickly eliminate histamine in a person. ‘Antihistamines’ work to block some of your body's histamine receptors, but they do not entirely remove histamine.” Nature’s remedy: Applying lemon juice, lime juice, or rubbing the inside of a banana peel on a bite can help to relieve the itchiness. Mosquito Milk is an extremely effective insect repellent made with extracts of plant oils, such as Geranium, known for their efficacy against insects. These extracts are combined with a low 20% DEET (diethyl toluamide) content. Available from www.chemist direct.co.uk priced at £6.49. Glands The human body is designed to prevent and fight infections naturally. The immune system, defence system or defence mechanism of the human body does this for us. The lymphatic system in particular is a very important part of the immune system and comprises of lymph nodes which are distributed throughout the body. Lymph fluid is transmitted through these lymph nodes, where the bacteria or other foreign bodies are held and are later destroyed by white blood cells. During this process, lymph nodes can enlarge and become swollen. Swollen glands are a very normal occurrence and the typical areas where the nodes enlarge are armpits, groin, under the jaw, behind the ears and neck. Dr Henderson says: “When the glands persist and are painful, it could be due to and infection, so consulting a GP is a must. If the swollen glands do not subside and result in more complications, it could point to more serious conditions like tuberculosis or even cancer.” Nature’s remedy: As an antioxidant, Vitamin C may help to protect DNA, lipids and proteins from oxidative free radical damage. Vitamin C also plays a role in non-haem iron absorption and collagen formation, as well as normal function of the immune and nervous systems. Zinc supports immune system function, DNA synthesis and cell division. Effervescent tablets allow for that fast absorption of nutrients into the blood system. Holland & Barrett - Effervescent Vitamin C and Zinc, £3.19 for 20 tablets, available from Holland and Barrett and via www.hollandandbarrett.com. Eyes Rheum is a thin mucus naturally discharged as a watery substance from the eyes during sleep and gathers as a crust in the corners of the eyes or on the eyelids. It is formed by a combination of mucus discharged from the cornea or conjunctiva, blood cells, skin cells, or dust. While awake the blinking of the eyelid causes the rheum to be washed away with tears. However the absence of this action during sleep, results in a small amount of dry mucus accumulating in the corners of the eye. A number of conditions can cause an increase in the production of mucus in the eye. In the case of allergic conjunctivitis, the buildup of rheum can be considerable, often preventing the sufferer opening the eye upon waking without prior cleansing of the eye area. Dr Henderson says: “The conjunctiva (a clear membrane that covers the whites of your eyes) can also become inflamed because of day-to-day irritants, leaving your eyes feeling sore and red. Medicated eye drops can act as an effective decongestant soothing the irritation and reducing redness.” Nature’s remedy: Increasing intake of vitamin A and consuming plenty of vegetables and fruits through the diet will help to tackle the problem of excessive eye mucus. Murine Irritation & Redness Relief eyes drops are formulated to clear redness and soothe eyes which have been irritated by, for example, dusty atmospheres, wind, swimming, smoke, air pollutants and close work. It has a fast acting and long lasting action. £3.67 (10 ml) Licensed, Pharmacy only. Gut Gut flora consists of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans. Though people can survive without gut flora, the microorganisms perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused energy substrates, training the immune system, preventing growth of harmful, bacteria, regulating the development of the gut, producing vitamins for the host (such as biotin and vitamin K), and producing hormones to direct the host to store fats. Dr Henderson says: “Waste material in the colon impairs our ability to absorb vitamins and minerals which can prevent the immune system from working at its optimum level. The cleansing of toxins by these microorganisms can also help with your energy levels.” Nature’s remedy: Amongst its health benefits, Sun Chlorella ‘A’ acts as an ‘intestinal broom’, cleansing the bowel by clinging on to toxins like mercury, lead or pesticides in your intestines and then eliminating them as waste. Sun Chlorella is priced £21.95 for 300 tablets (a 20-30 day supply) and is available from www.SunChlorella.co.uk, free phone 0800 008 6166, www.victoriahealth.com, www.NutriCentre.com, www.bodykind.com, Revital stores, www.revital.co.uk and good health stores. ENDS Notes: Cerumol has been treating millions of ears for more than 50 years and is a tried and trusted pharmacy brand. The range also contains Cerumol Original which contains Arachis (peanut) oil. Cerumol is effective for the loosening and removal of ear wax, however, surgical syringing may still be necessary to remove deep, compressed wax. If after using Cerumol your symptoms have not improved, you should visit your GP. 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