Emily Sarkies, a Senior Naturopath for Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary in Koh Samui, Thailand, has been practicing for over a decade, with recent further studies in Naturopathic Functional Medicine for complex and chronic conditions. Emily has always had a strong affinity to work in alignment with nature to promote wellbeing. She has traveled the world, exploring the diversities of natural health care within traditional, rural, and urban settings, including Yoga philosophy in India, voluntary practice in Laos and Vietnam, clinical practice in London and then Melbourne, cultivating a special focus for Medicinal Herbalism and the mind-body connection.
We’re all looking for immune-boosting therapies and treatments. What’s your advice on how one should begin?
We can always begin by slowing down, to reconnect with our sense of self-care. When immune-compromised or vulnerable, we often lose sight of those things that simply support us: hydration, breathing, nourishment (in food and life), sleep, exercise, being in nature, and having a sense of stillness in our day, to check in and reconnect. We can learn to listen to our bodies, acknowledge our limits, and surround ourselves with those that share similar health-promoting values.
What are the cornerstones of building one’s immunity?
Key elements of self-care towards immune adaptability (and positive changes for life) can include:
Boosting your intake of vegetables: Aim for at least 5 different vegetables and two servings of fruit daily. Choose produce that is in season, preferably organic and a variety of colors (especially dark green and dark orange), supporting sources of key immune enhancers: Vitamin A, C, E, and Zinc while being rich in prebiotic fibers.
The ability to deeply embrace difficulties as opportunities for positive change requires strength, balance, and inner-reserves—to face life’s challenges with confidence and adaptability.
Promoting lifestyle balance: Stress can contribute to immune vulnerability. Acknowledge limits (reduce sugar, alcohol, and caffeine intake; set a bedtime), also allow time and patience for adequate recovery and healing. Prioritize space for adequate restoration and nurture towards preventative care: meditation; laughter; being in nature. Encourage regular and appropriate exercise, and reach out to your support network (they surround us in abundance).
Supporting a healthy microbiome: Our microbiome (intestinal flora) orchestrates our immune system—when it is healthy and optimal, so is our innate immune response. Gut health can be supported by all factors mentioned above, as well as seeking further Naturopathic guidance.
What are the five best immune-boosting foods, and why?
1: A whole food-based diet: Ultimately, we can get a much varied and natural source of nutrients from consuming more whole foods, which are free from anything that may further impede our immune response: refined sugar, additives, trans fats, preservatives, artificial flavors. As nature intended, whole foods retain a wide array of their nutrients and “prana” or vital force which occur naturally in their correct ratios to synergistically benefit the immune system.
2: Antioxidant-rich plant foods: Namely vegetables and fruits diverse in color and especially rich in phytochemicals (polyphenols and flavanoids) that combat oxidative stress, modulate inflammation, and specifically decrease upper respiratory tract infections and illness duration. These can include: berries, apples, cherries, citrus, turmeric, ginger, green tea, cacao/dark chocolate (in moderation).
3: Fiber and fermented vegetables: Our microbiome (intestinal flora) orchestrates our immune system—when it is healthy and optimal, so is our innate immune response. One of the best ways to promote good bacteria in our digestive tract is with fiber and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, natto, and kefir. Some of these can be easy to make ourselves, to conveniently begin adding a little to our meals each day.
4: Brassica and Allium family vegetables: Again, antioxidant-rich, these foods help to make glutathionine and vitamin C and also support healthy detoxification, cellular energy, and modulate inflammatory responses. Examples are Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower and garlic—with extra-antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
5: Our good fats: Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids have significant immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory activity, important for protection of every cell in our body. An example is the Mediterranean dietary ideals of sustainably sourced oily fish (sardines, herring mackerel, salmon, tuna) or vegetarian sources of seeds, nuts, olives, avocado. Additionally, avoiding foods that deplete our immune defenses is just as important: refined sugars and processed foods; preservatives and additives; any food that we are allergic or intolerant to; over consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
What are the best spa and wellness treatments to help boost one’s immunity?
We have formulated a specific “Immunity and Resilience Program” here at Kamalaya to holistically support immune modulation, recovery and strengthen our own innate capacity towards adaptation (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Our immune program is guided by our Naturopath Team and tailored to one’s individual needs. Treatment support could entail: nutritional guidance to promote immune health, pathology review and functional testing, nutraceutical remedies, Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, bioresonance therapy, mindfulness training, infrared sauna, lymphatic drainage, chi nei tsung, restorative massage treatments, and opportunity to further cultivate tools to balance stress and the nervous system, enabling the body to be in its best state to rest, detoxify, and heal. Nurturing, fresh, organic whole foods and herbs are prescribed to encourage a healthy microbiome and in turn, immune resilience.
The environment Kamalaya provides surrounded by tranquility and nature, tropical climate and the opportunity to “digitally cleanse” also supports the programs goals: to reconnect (within) and create a more positive association with our individual health journeys. We provide space for recovery and healing but also tools for long term and preventative care.
What is the future of immune-boosting therapies and programs at the spa?
As we take a holistic approach at Kamalaya, supporting the body as a whole, we have always had elements of immune care as part of everything we do. Spas have the capacity to provide an immersive experience, where sometimes the best support can simply be switching off, reconnecting within, and allowing yourself to be nurtured.
Times of challenge are often powerful catalysts for growth. The ability to deeply embrace difficulties as opportunities for positive change requires strength, balance, and inner-reserves—to face life’s challenges with confidence and adaptability. Holistic Spa programs can offer all of this and the capacity to keep evolving with consumer needs.