More specifically, how do circulation and immune function interact?
At any point, the average healthy adult has approximately 4.5 to 5.5 liters of blood circulating through their body. There is a reason it is often referred to as 'lifeblood' in novels and movies. Without this precious liquid traveling through your body, you could not exist. The blood carries nutrients and oxygen at a pace of about 5 km/h to be delivered to various tissues, and then carries waste products and toxins to the organs of elimination including the lungs, skin, liver and kidneys.
Like any tissue though, blood can become infected, which begs the question; if the blood is responsible for transporting toxins and cleaning other tissues, what cleans blood?
When your vehicle gets extremely dirty or salty as Canadians experience each winter, they are brought to the car wash for a much-needed bath. The body has evolved a similar system for blood whereby the fluid passes into a network of lymphatic vessels and nodes.
What is the lymphatic system?
While estimates range, it is thought that at any time, 10% of the blood in our bodies is actually present in lymph. Without proper lymphatic function, our bodies would be far more prone to potentially life-threatening conditions. When the blood enters the lymphatic system, it travels through checkpoints known as nodes that contain antibodies and immature immune cells that are then trained to recognize any foreign pathogens in the blood. This is how they learn to respond to larger future infections. The blood is screened and cleaned before it is released back into the body. One could see dozens of potential problems such as those that might arise if the circulation was sluggish as one example.
How do I improve circulation?
This is the million-dollar question isn't it? There also isn't one specific answer! Remember earlier when the ingenuity of the body was highlighted? That is because the body has signal proteins and receptors that respond to every little signal from slight temperature changes to minute increases in muscle tension.
When you engage in slow breathing exercises, you have a significant impact on circulation. Studies have shown that dropping your breathing rate to 6 per minute resulted in improved venous return and improved motion of the blood vessels. This might lead you to assume that rapid blood flow can be detrimental for your circulation, but exercise has shown us otherwise. The physiological reactions that occur during exercise elevate blood pressure and narrow blood vessels. That narrowing increases the pressure in the vessels and how fast the fluid passes through with some studies showing the flow of blood increases almost fourfold!
Now imagine for a minute that you had a wonderful workout and decide to reward yourself with a sugary treat. While this won't harm you once in a while, if it becomes a routine, the sugar can actually reduce the elasticity of blood vessels which impairs circulation. That is why it might be more beneficial to sip on some water which increases the amount of fluid in the body and (slightly) dilutes the blood, taking some of the burden off of the lymphatic filters.
What are some herbal remedies to help support circulation, and by extension, immune health?
Herbal remedies can also help to improve circulation, especially one known as Ginkgo biloba made from the leaves of the tree. It contains active compounds known as ginkgolides that exhibit vasodilatory impacts on the blood vessels. This serves to open them up, making it easier for blood to pass uninhibited. A human trial may elucidate the herb's mechanism of action as supplementation with ginkgo in those with heart disease led to a 12% increase in nitric oxide, a compound that dilates blood vessels. Another study showed similar results in healthy elderly individuals. Early research also notes that it can restrict venous permeability in the sense that less blood leaks out of vessels and is directed through the proper lymphatic network.
Are there any other options?
Despite all the research on ways to increase circulation and improve immune function, sometimes it is just not enough and you might need some support from clinically-proven products like Echinaforce. This herbal formulation was birthed in Switzerland almost 70 years ago and continues to demonstrate unrivaled efficacy in preventing and treating viral and bacterial infections.
Check out our other articles including 7 surprising signs that indicate you could be stressed without knowing it to learn how stress can impact your immune function or How cold weather can affect your circulation for more tips.