Your Immune System can sometimes fly under the radar while fighting to protect you against disease and infection, what we mean is that its constantly at work and if its doing its job well you won’t even know! But your immune health rely’s on certain conditions and nutrients to be met so it can work at its best. When our immune system is compromised and dosen’t have all its resources then we become symptomatic eg colds, flus, eczema, asthma, autoimmunity, cancer etc – some chronic and some acute.
How does it work?
Think of your immune system like your army ready with first line soldiers to protect any threat and other soldiers that come out only when there is specific types of threat. Our immune health works by detecting foreign agents including pathogens, viruses, parasites or toxic substances to distinguish what is the body’s own healthy tissue (self) and what is invasive (non-self). Immune cells come from the bone and migrate to the lymphatic system which acts like a transport for the immune cells to travel between the bloodstream and the tissues, where the white cells detect the invaders (pathogens). Inflammation is also the immune systems way of repairing injured tissue check out more on inflammation here.
What Affects Immune Response?
The state of your immunity depends on how its functioning whether over or under – active. Overactivity is related to allergies and autoimmune diseases and underactivity increases risk of infection and cancer.
Usually when we are feeling stressed and run down our immunity is compromised and we are more likely to have an underactive or weakened immune system which exposes the body to more infection and disease, aka viruses supress immunity heightening risk for frequent infections and susceptibility to other diseases.
Signs & symptoms of under active immunity:
- Recurrent infection, shingles, herpes
- Increased frequency of Colds/flu/temperatures
- Increased duration of Colds/flu/temperatures
- Glandular fever or other viruses
- Thrush (yeast overgrowths)
- Gut infections (gastroenteritis, Helicobacter pylori, SIBO, parasites, worms)
Do you ever question why some people are more susceptible to colds than others? Well, its not just about exposure to the various bacteria, viruses etc, its about the strength of the immune system.
The immune system is greatly impacted by an individual’s emotional and physical state, stress, dietary habits, sleep deprivation and nutritional status. Nutrient deficiency is the most frequent cause of a depressed immune system, vitamin A, C, D, E, K, zinc, B12 & protein in particular. Just one of these nutrients out of balance can greatly impair the immune system! The state of your microbiome also heavily impacts how well the immune system can respond and do its job. Gluten intolerance, hormonal imbalances, infections, food intolerances and enviornmental chemicals.
Too Much Of A Good Thing!
In addition, the other side to immunity is an over active immune response! People experiencing this will often have an autoimmune disease, inflammatory disease or allergies. This over activity is no better and interestingly you can have under and over activity occurring at the same time!
Signs Of An Over Active Immune System:
- Autoimmune disease of which there are over 80!
Keeping an eye on your immunity is essential to health it should be taken close care of because of its complexity. Starting with a healthy lifestyle having a balanced diet rich in a variety of wholefoods with minimal processed food, combined with exercise, sleep, less stress and supplementation where needed.
For Optimal Immune Function :
- Increase foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds (high in antioxidants)
- Limit refined sugars
- Adequate protein
- Adequate hydration
- Exercise and move (note over exercising impairs the immune system)
- Adequate sleep duration and quality
- Stress management (stress is inevitable and useful, too much stress & poorly management is an issue)
- Relaxation & rest
While boosters of probiotics, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins, echinacea, astragalus, ginger, garlic, andrographis, quercitin, tumeric are great for acute as well as chronic immune issues, its really important to identify the underlying problem and test appropriately. You will also need a skilled practitioner to determine which nutrient/herb is appropriate for you.
Yazdanbakhsh, M., Kremsner, P.G., and van Ree, R. (2002), Allergy, parasites, and the hygiene hypothesis, Science, v. 296, n. 5567, p. 490-494
Moyad, M.A., Robinson, L.E., Zawada, Jr, E.T., Kittelsrud, J.M., Chen, D.G., Reeves, S.G. and Weaver, S.E. (2010), Immunogenic yeast-based fermentate for cold/flu-like symptoms in non-vaccinated individuals, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, v. 16, p. 213-218
Moyad, M.A., Robinson, L.E., Kittelsrud, J.M., Reeves, S.G., Weaver, S.E., Guzman, A.I., and Bubak, M.E. (2009), Immunogenic yeast-based fermentation product reduces allergic rhinitis-induced nasal congestion: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Advances in Therapy, v. 26, p. 795-804