How to use Herbs and Optimize Gut Health to Support the Immune System

Posted on October 20, 2020October 20, 2020Categories gut healthTags
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By Dr. Marina Buksov, PharmD, Herbalist, Health Coach (

Our health culture today is filled with so many cold medicines, over the counter capsules, medications, and there is an overload of information about different perspectives with what supports the immune system. Let’s take a step back and really learn what the immune system is, what systems impact it, and remedies that date back to our ancestors that have been shown to support a strong immune system in the long run. 

What is the Immune System?

The function of the immune system is to identify what cells in our body from our individual organisms from the outside pathogens. If it signals something is not us it is responsible for protecting us and defending against any pathogens. It is also responsible for cleaning cell damage and waste and surveying cells that may not be functioning like they should (they destroy precancerous cells via apoptosis, for instance).

Our immune system is constantly seeking a state of homeostasis, or optimal balance. If it detects something abnormal, it can go one of two ways: it can overreact (think auto-immune conditions such as thyroiditis, Lupus, diabetes, allergies, etc.) or underreact (which can look like cancer or being prone to infections). 

Innate immune cells are cells that we are born with. These innate cells are non specific and will protect us from anything. The second step of our immunity requires acquired/adaptive cells (B and T cells), which are specialized and store information learned over time from infectious agents we have already been exposed to, such as viruses and bacteria. Some of these cells create  antibodies to better target the pathogens and defend us; they also store memories of how to mount an effective response should we ever come into contact with the same infection again.

Vaccines work in much the same principle. They expose a small dose of a pathogen to give your body the chance to quickly build a specific immune response and produce antibodies for long-term protection in case of subsequent exposure. 

Role of “the Gut”

Gut integrity plays a huge role in immune health and is known to be one of the biggest physical barriers guarding us against pathogens. The digestive system is key to keeping a very delicate balance to maintain overall health and bodily functions. This is often the first place to look to for a disharmony when other systems are off, including our immunity.

A healthy gut is filled with a variety of microorganisms that make up what’s called our “microbiome.” In fact, there are actually more bacterial cells than human ones in the average person, according to the most recent data (currently estimated to be in a ratio of 1:1 – 1.3:1). The greater we can encourage the biodiversity (variety of species of microbiota making up the gut flora) to flourish, the better we can optimize gut and immune health.

How to support the gut: 

  • Ingest probiotics (live bacteria) – via supplements or fermented food, which host this live bacteria that our gut needs.
    • Fermented foods such as: Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha, Yogurt, Pickles, Soy Tempeh.
  • Provide prebiotics – which are essentially a food for gut bacteria to result in that biodiversity and maintain balance.
    • Herbal Prebiotics: starchy roots (contain inulin), such as dandelion, burdock, elecampane, marshmallow roots

Herbs for Immune Support

Immunomodulators are what helps “train” the immune system to learn a diversity of different compounds and identify which are our cells and which are “non-self.” This training helps bring our  immune function to homeostasis, and reduce occurrences of allergies, autoimmune conditions and frequency of colds/flus. 

Examples of herbs that have this ability:

  • Licorice Root 
  • Medicinal Mushrooms (mycelium, fruiting bodies)

-Reishi -Maitake -Shiitake -Chaga -Turkey Tail -Cordyceps 

Mushrooms also contain the specific Beta-1,4-d-glucan branched polysaccharides with lipid components, which train the immune system to recognize specific antigens such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS) of gram-negative bacteria. A diversity of mushrooms as dietary supplements are the best way to make sure your body is equipped with the best building blocks for maintaining proper immune function.

Adaptogens are plants which help balance our body back to a normal state of homeostasis. In other words, they help to normalize levels of chemical messengers, such as hormones, when they’re either too high or too low. Adaptogenic herbs help balance our endocrine system, in particular our adrenal glands, which are responsible for responding to stress.

Just so we’re on the same page, let’s take a second to define stress. Stress is anything that stimulates a person and triggers a response, such as an impulse, a hormone release, or an extra burst of energy expenditure. Most people refer to stress as an abstract concept to describe feelings of overwhelm, but it can also be a purely physiological definition. Feelings of anxiety and worry about the future, extra weight, pregnancy, lack of sleep, and lack of nutrients can all result in a load of stress on our bodies.

Lymphagogues are herbs used to help “move” the lymphatic system, thereby speeding up the natural detoxification pathway for any impurities in our blood. Remember the second line of immunity made up of B and T cells, mentioned above? These cells are concentrated in lymph nodes, or hubs, along the lymphatic tract – which lies right beside our main circulatory pathways.

The best way to stimulate the lymphatic system to function optimally is literally by movement – as in physical activity and exercise! While our heart pumps blood to the rest of the body, it’s movement which helps move blood, and lymph, back up to the heart. Massage, or dry lymph brushing, are also ways to help physically stimulate our lymphatic cells (though it’s not safe for everyone, so please consult with a healthcare professional!).

Finally, let’s talk about lymphatic herbs, or lymphagogues. They are best taken at the first sign of colds/flus and also after illnesses, to help move out any lingering toxins. Examples of these are:

  • Echinacea root, stem, flower
  • Figwort stem, leaves
  • Burdock root
  • Red clover blossom
  • Chickweed flowers, leaves, stem
  • Cleavers tops
  • Poke root (very potent, very low dose herb)

Stay healthy during the upcoming flu and COVID season, and comment below with other favorite immune tips and hacks!


  1. “Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ®): Integrative, alternative, and complementary therapies – Health Professional Information [NCI].” Health Information.  UW Health. 9 Apr 2020. Contact Dr. Book here for an introductory chat.

How to Take a Detox Bath

Posted on September 17, 2020December 27, 2020Categories gut healthTags
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Have you ever taken a detox bath? If not, you really should try taking one. It can be very helpful to take a detox bath every once in a while. That said, how do you take a detox bath?

There are several different ways to make a detox bath work for you, including some I’ve probably never heard of. Here are the ones I’ve tried and the ones I’ve heard of most people doing for maximum benefits.

  1. Put 5-10 drops of essential oils in bath water and soak for 20-30 minutes in the bath. The best ones for detoxing are citrus oils such as lemon, orange and grapefruit and cilantro. There are also blends that include these that you can use.
  2. Do the same as number one, only add in 1-2 cups of epsom salts. If you have any kind of muscle discomfort, then adding in epsom salts is a must.
  3. Do a mud bath. There are to ways you can do this. First you can use actual mud from a garden, yard, or gardening store. Second you can use a detox clay form of mud like a Redmond’s clay. This is a good option if you have a higher level of toxins you are wanting to remove from your skin and organs.
  4. Take a normal bath with just water and use a detox clay on your face and arms to help target the detoxing from these areas of your body.

Which of these detox methods have you tried before? Share with me in the comments below.

The Ultimate Guide to Good Gut Health: Fixing a Leaky Gut

Posted on July 11, 2020July 11, 2020Categories gut healthTags
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What is a leaky gut?

A leaky gut is a term used in functional medicine and nutrition to describe what happens when your gut isn’t completely healthy and when you have gut issues that are effecting other aspects of your health such as autoimmune conditions.

How to you increase your gut health?

5 Steps to Better Gut Health– Start with this article that gives you some good steps to get started.

I’ve also found that for most people making healing your gut a priority is the best way to improve it. Start by thinking about and focusing on the impact that the food you eat, the water you drink, the products you put on your skin and so forth are having on your digestive health.

What are leaky gut symptoms?

There are a variety of symptoms with an autoimmune condition being the most common. You cannot have an autoimmune condition and not have leaky gut.

Here is an article that talks about more leaky gut symptoms.

What health problems are caused by leaky gut?

There are lots of them with allergies, digestive issues and autoimmune disorders being at the top of the list.

Here is a post to help you better understand if your allergies are being caused by leaky gut.

From my personal experience, I have to say that if in doubt, if your health problems are being caused by leaked gut, then just assume they are and working on getting and maintaining good gut health.

So what can you do to fix your gut and have good gut health?

The food you eat is the number one key.

Here are the best foods for gut health.

You also want to avoid the worst foods for gut health. These include things like gluten, dairy, GMO foods, processed foods, sugar, and sodas.

That said, making sure that you always eat the right foods for gut health can be easier said than done.

Here are some tips on how to create a meal plan to fix leaky gut. The basic concept behind it is to focus on eating mostly fruits and vegetables with some meats. You may or may not be able to handle seeds and nuts especially in the beginning. Grains should be completely avoided and you should also be getting plenty of probiotics. Most people will need to add in a probiotic supplement.

Another factor that can play a role in the health of your gut, is heavy metals and toxins. A lot of us have problems with these even if we aren’t aware that we have them. If you are worried about this and think it might be a big problem for you, you can ask your doctor to do a blood test for it. You might have to pay for it out of pocket though as a lot of insurance companies won’t cover it.

Here is some advice on how to do a gut health detox. You also want to make sure to go slowly if you have chronic problems and avoid trying to eliminate everything at once.

Be aware that most traditional medicine doctors will ignore the root of the problem and attempt to fix your problem with anti-acids and other drugs. This is the absolute worst thing you can do and can make an already leaky gut worse.

How to fix a leaky gut naturally.

If you need help working on this, I am more than happy to help. I have a lot of experience in this area. Book a wellness consult with me and let’s talk about how I can help you.