Wellness entrepreneur and supermodel delves deep into the wonders of the immune system, and shares the tools and techniques she swears by (plus the science behind them).
Growing up in beautiful Australia, I was rarely sick. On the odd occasion my siblings and I were feeling off balance, mum would send us to a chiropractor over a doctor. We had plenty of fresh air and sunshine and we were often by the sea, surfing and relaxing in nature. The environment was less toxic, no GMO or pesticides and the water was clean. We were also fortunate enough to have good, hearty soil which resulted in nutrient-dense vegetables.
I’ve since learned so much from my friend Zach Bush MD (a physician and internationally recognised educator and thought leader on the microbiome as it relates to health, disease and food systems) about the link between our soil and our wellbeing. Repairing this link is one of the most poignant and pressing issues of our time.
Why the soil matters for our health
Although the immune system is not housed in any one place per se, 70 per cent of it does reside in our gut. Naturally, the micro-organisms making up the gut microbiome are deeply affected by what we eat. Damage to the gut membrane – through our food and namely, toxic soil due to the widespread use of the pesticide glyphosate – causes inflammation and a breakdown in the gut's natural barrier function. Over time this becomes a serious issue for our immune system, making the cultivation of a healthy gut microbiome our life’s work.
“Without healthy soil, our produce not only will lack nutrients, but it will invite chemicals into our own biology and ecosystem. These chemicals will continue to break down the cornerstone of our health – our immune system – if we let them,” says Dr. Bush.
So the soil I once grew up with under my feet is sadly no longer and, decades on, chemical farming has infiltrated our food systems. This leaves regenerative agricultural practices, like Farmer’s Footprint (the US coalition dedicated to reducing chemical farming in order to help prevent chronic disease) the only true way forward, improving every immune system from the ground up.
Once I started modelling, I had no real reason to think about health beyond fitness. I would work out (I loved to run) and watch my weight. That to me was ‘health'. I certainly had no idea there were 11 systems of the body, from the nervous system to the lymphatic system and the endocrine system and everything in between. Keep in mind it was the nineties and the idea of self-care typically meant partying most nights! Regrettably, smoking was also very fashionable back then. When traveling, I would just power through without a thought about the state of my inner health, as there was simply no real time to think about it.
Getting healthy and raising healthy children
By the time I turned 40, I’d given up smoking and drinking, becoming the fittest I’ve ever been. I came face-to-face with what it truly felt to become well from within despite still having some way to go.
When I became a mother, I was intent on raising my boys strong and healthy. I wanted to give them the same foundation my mum gave me, naturally. So, I started working with naturopaths who showed me how to best cultivate quality health in my boys. Since then, the advice of London nutritionist Dr Simoné Laubscher has been an enormous help to my family. A lot of how we live is based on her 7 pillars of wellness, which include essentials like sleep, time in nature, sunshine, improving oxygenation, intuitive movement, quality supplements and reducing stress. And I think it worked because my boys have turned out beautifully!
Getting to know my immune system
Today, I’m much better acquainted with my immune system and can sense when it requires some love. I’ve often said, “When you’re well within, it shows on your skin,” but I’ve also found the opposite to be true. For me, feeling run down can result in rashes, hives, dryness, or dark circles.
During these times, I elect to heal naturally, choosing not to take antibiotics or pharmaceuticals. In my experience, sleep is the best healer and preventative. A 2015 study discovered that sleeping less than six hours per night made people almost five times more likely to get a cold compared to those who slept well for more than seven hours a night.
My system also responds favourably to vegetable juicing, using recipes from my friend Dr. Sara Siso, a holistic health practitioner, plant-based healer and raw food chef. I’ll juice for days when I’m run down, detoxing and fortifying my system from deep within. For the immune system, I love celery, cucumber, broccoli, romaine lettuce, lemon, lime, and ginger with our super greens, The Super Elixir™. Sometimes I might add a wheatgrass shot or two for extra effect.
Continue reading Elle’s monthly column over atGet The Gloss.