5 Tips for Keeping Your Immune System in Top Fighting Shape
In a healthy immune system the white blood cells are directed to only attack foreign invaders. White blood cells are your personal army so to speak in that they are the cells involved in protecting you from foreign pathogens such as bacteria or viruses. There are many different types of white blood cells involved in the two sides of the immune system. One side of the immune system is called the Humoral immune system and its primary purpose when activated is to produce cytokines, which are our immune systems’ messengers as well as B cells which produce antibodies.
The other side of the immune system is called the cell mediated immune system. Its primary purpose, when activated, is to also produce cytokines and phagocytes which are cells that engulf foreigners like a Pacman, as well as produce T-lymphocytes. T-lymphocytes come in four main form: Cytotoxic T cells which have the job of inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death of damaged or infected cells, TH1 cells which activate macrophages and B-cells and tend to be more pro-inflammatory, TH2 cells which manage parasites and allergies and tend to be more anti-inflammatory, and regulatory T cells which help keep the immune system from over responding. inflammation and inappropriate production of antibodies.
Due to the overwhelming need for research on enhancing immunity, there has been a plethora of research produced these past two years giving us more guidance on the best things we can do to enhance and support our immune system. Here are my top 5 tips for keeping your immune system in top fighting shape:
#1: Maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity increases the risk for almost every disease known. In reviewing the data on Covid-19, obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for having the illness progress into severe disease. Almost all hospital admissions data indicate that between 75-99% of patients with severe COVID are either overweight or obese.(1) Obesity is a complicated situation, I believe it is often a society fail in access to education, resources and affordable healthy food, not to mention the occasional challenges against a genetic makeup. That being said, I believe the world missed a crucial opportunity through this pandemic to educate all people on the best thing each of us can do to stay healthy…get strong and lose the excess weight.
#2: Cut the sugar out and incorporate fasting.
Research indicates that ingestion of sugar can decrease the functionality of neutrophils for up to 5 hours!!(2) I know it is hard to believe, but sugar puts you at increased risk for both catching an infection and also not being able to clear an infection. On the contrary data on incorporating fasting indicated an enhancement of immune fighting properties. Bottom line is skip the sugar as much as possible, especially if you are sick, and incorporate some fasting to help boost the immune system.
#3. Get enough sleep!
Adequate sleep is required to produce anti-inflammatory cytokines, produce adequate antibodies and coordinate healthy T cell response.(3) Basically without good sleep you will be more inflamed, have high susceptibility to infection and possibly produce less antibodies (ever wonder why the vaccine fails for some people? Sleep is likely playing an important role). If you want to get the most benefit from both your immune system and your vaccines, get enough sleep!
#4. Make sure your vitamin status is optimal!
It becomes more evident every day that nutrients play a key role in optimal immune response. Vitamin D, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C and probiotics all play a crucial role in the immune systems ability to respond appropriately.(4) Other key nutrients are andrographis, Sambucus and Astragalus. Please make sure your vitamin D level is tested and optimal. If you are high risk for developing an infection, it is worth considering daily supplementation or occasional IV nutrients to enhance immune function.
#5. Find your happy place!
It has been proven that low mood and stress leads to a depleted immune system. Depression and stress both can produce pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as lead to a reduce quantity and activity of NK cells, neutrophils and lymphocytes.(5) Basically if stress is high and/or mood is low you will not have as easy of a time fighting infection or making antibodies. Now I know this is easier said than done, as this pandemic has created a significant increase in mental health concerns, but as much as possible try to find your joy, your balance, your friends and family and your passions again. A joyful and calm mind creates a happy immune system.