What are you doing NOW to improve your health and immune system?
Isolating yourself from the rest of the world does not make your immune system stronger. Sorry to break the news.
Avoiding sunlight, movement, activities in the outdoors is an “essential activity”- even more essential as going to the grocery store, liquor store, Home Depot or Costco!
What factors can depress our immune system?
- Older age: As we age, our internal organs may become less efficient; immune-related organs like the thymus or bone marrow produce less immune cells needed to fight off infections. Aging is sometimes associated with micronutrient deficiencies, which may worsen a declining immune function.
- Environmental toxins (smoke and other particles contributing to air pollution, excessive alcohol): These substances can impair or suppress the normal activity of immune cells.
- Excess weight: Obesity is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation. Fat tissue produces adipocytokines that can promote inflammatory processes.  Research is early, but obesity has also been identified as an independent risk factor for the influenza virus, possibly due to the impaired function of T-cells, a type of white blood cell. 
- Poor diet: Malnutrition or a diet lacking in one or more nutrients can impair the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies.
- Chronic diseases: Autoimmune and immunodeficiency disorders attack and potentially disable immune cells.
- Chronic mental stress: Stress releases hormones like cortisol that suppresses inflammation (inflammation is initially needed to activate immune cells) and the action of white blood cells.
- Lack of sleep and rest: Sleep is a time of restoration for the body, during which a type of cytokine is released that fights infection; too little sleep lowers the amount of these cytokines and other immune cells.
- Reference: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/
STRESS and the IMMUNE system.
We know that short, acute stressors (cold therapy, HIIT training, and Infrared Sauna) can actually enhance immune system… but CHRONIC ongoing stressors as financial stress, pathogens, infections, inflammation and more hidden internal chronic stressors can diminish immune system function. CHRONIC STRESS creates a dys-functioning immune system.
Living life as a race with constant stress can decrease the function of our NK cells (Natural Killer cells) that act as our “First Responders” in our immune system army- our front line of defense.
You can implement stress reduction exercises into your day as I have done in my own life as yinyasa yoga (moving with the breathe), evening yin yoga, breathing exercises, meditation walks (nasal breathing), and writing in a gratitude journal each night. As we spend more time at home for our meals, work days and workouts- I make sure to get outside for a walk in the morning as the sunrises, afternoon “lunch break” and evening when possible…even if 10-15 minutes. We need to work on developing our self-care habits to reduce external chronic stress, as well as test for hidden internal stressors that are contributing, or a result of, “METABOLIC CHAOS®”.
We all respond to stress differently– I tend to be more anxious and quick to get stressed about little things so my stress response is always a work in progress and one of my “areas of opportunity”.
I know if you are like me, exercise is your main way to decrease stress as well as to boost energy levels and happiness. How much exercise is the right amount to create positive benefits…and how much exercise is too much …or too much that becomes an additional source of CHRONIC ongoing non-stop stress on the body (HPA Axis dysfunction)?
I call it the “GOLDILOCKS Effect”.
How much of a stressors do we need to create a positive response?
We know that exercise is a key element of “The WHOLESTIC Method” self-care program because it improves our cardiovascular system, circulation, blood sugar, blood pressure, and many more benefits but excess exercise (over training) can create dysfunction in our HPA Axis system and create a domino effect of breakdown including in our immune system.
How can we strengthen our immune system?
Start by improving the function of our “first line of defense” with nutrition and lifestyle habits… using the eight elements of “The WHOLESTIC Method” and fine tuning the amounts to find your (N = 1) with ‘The GOLDILOCKS Effect’ adjustments to find the right dosage of healthy stress.
We can choose what we prepare for meals as we spend more time eating at home as real, anti-inflammatory foods while avoiding GMO, processed foods and vegetable oils. We have a choice which products we use (environmental toxins) in our household and skincare products. We have a choice to walk outside or spend more time outside during the day to get fresh air, movement and cardiovascular exercise.
Health is a choice… most of the time.
Yes, eating healthy, avoiding chemical products and environmental toxins may cost more money but often we can find comparable prices and remember that your health is worth the expense.
Remember… “your health is your wealth”
Immune boosting lifestyle strategies we can incorporate today include:
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a low carb diet high – avoiding processed foods and factory meats.
- Improve your digestion by taking time out to reset and reboot into the “Rest and Digest” nervous system (PNS), then chew your food and take your time!
- Take digestive enzymes and spore based pro-biotic (Microbiome Labs) before your meals.
- Slow down and stop rushing during the day… maybe easier when at home but stop, pause, breathe and recalibrate as much as needed to reset and manage stress.
- Exercise regularly- not too much, and not too little!
- Maintain a healthy weight (and balance blood sugar levels)
- Move more during the day -spending more time outside morning, afternoon and evening
- Lift weights 2-3 times a week… if you don’t have weights then use your body weight!
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation (low-carb drinks 1-2 times per week with 2 glasses maximum).
- Get adequate sleep each night – creating a sleep hygiene routine and keep a schedule.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress by incorporation stress reduction and mindful exercises as yoga, meditation, nature walks and writing in a journal.
How can we raise our immune system to function at optimal level?
Immune Cell Lifespan: Cell autophagy “is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells, according to Priya Khorana, PhD, in nutrition education from Columbia University. “Auto” means self and “phagy” means eat. So the literal meaning of autophagy is “self-eating.”. (Wikipedia)
Apoptosis = death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development. Also called programmed cell death. (Wikipedia)
Lymphocytes = “an alternative name for white blood cells, are one of the cell types of the immune system of vertebrates. These cells protect the body from becoming infected by bacteria and viruses and also fight off bacterial and viral infections. There are three main types of lymphocytes: B cells, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells.” (Wikipedia)
I have read many articles on why we should not do prolonged fasting during stressful times as our world right now but intermittent fasting 16/8 is beneficial for CELL AUTOPHAGY as we work on our self care to optimize our health and build up our immune system.
Are you doing IF each day? 12-16 hours overnight fasting?
Autophagy is the act of “self-eating” that includes the removal and recycling of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process. This is how the body keeps in homeostasis -as long as all of the involved parts are in working order as the liver detoxification and elimination cycle (pre-wash, wash and rinse cycle!). We need to eliminate our garbage and then take out the waste (elimination pathways). The end result includes optimizing cell function, increased energy (happy mitochondria) and improve immune system (troops are fresh, fit and strong).
I think of the key players of our innate and adaptive immune system as members of our defense team/army – and the players have to be a certain age to keep playing on the team or making the cut to be in the Army, Airforce or Navy Seals. They have to qualify, stay in training and be able to past the tests… eventually they get older, damaged, injured and less dependable. The new recruits come in, start their training and take over for those retiring. Just as our body does with our cells… bring in the new and take out the old.
Cell autophagy can be activated via short intermittent fasting (period of not eating) as 12 to 16 hours and consuming anti-oxidant rich foods.
The Benefits of Autophagy
- Regulates cellular mitochondria, which improves energy production in the body
- Protects the nervous system and the immune system.
- Protects against metabolic stress.
- Encourages growth of new cells, especially those in the brain and heart tissue, enhancing cognitive function and protecting against heart disease.
- Helps improve digestive function by repairing and restoring the gut lining.
- Helps to protect our genes by maintaining the integrity and stability of our DNA.
- Genetic links have emerged between autophagy defects and cancer, providing increasing support for the concept that autophagy is a bona fide tumour suppressor pathway
- Click here to read more on cell autophagy benefits
What happens to our immune system as we grow up?
Why does our immune system function becomes less resilient as we age?
- Less resiliency results in more chance of infections, illness and disease- as respiratory infections, pneumonia and COVID-19 virus – correlation with less T-cells
- Thymus gland atrophy as we age- results in less T-cell production to fight infections (less troops on the first line of defense when we need to strike an attack)
- Bone marrow efficiency at producing stem cells may change – helping produce immune cells (troops)
- Malnutrition in micronutrients and connection to immune function. Perhaps this is a result of eating less quality real nutrient dense food and gut microbiome dysfunction.
What type of micronutrient defiencies would negatively impact our immune system function?
Deficiencies in micronutrients that alter our immune system function include:
- Vitamins A, B6, C, and E
As I continue to go down rabbit holes to learn more about research study findings on the impact of CHRONIC stress on our immune system as so many of us are addicted to LIVING LIFE AS A RACE!
Abstract review of a research study called…
“Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful.”
- The adaptive purpose of a physiological stress response is to promote survival during fight or flight.
- Long-term stress is generally harmful
- Short-term stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges.
- This study reviews the effects of biological stress responses that can be induced by psychological, physiological, or physical (including exercise) stressors.
- We have proposed that short-term stress is one of the nature’s fundamental but under-appreciated survival mechanisms that could be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection.
- Short-term (i.e., lasting for minutes to hours) stress experienced during immune activation enhances innate/primary and adaptive/secondary immune responses.
- Mechanisms of immuno-enhancement include changes in dendritic cell, neutrophil, macrophage, and lymphocyte trafficking, maturation, and function as well as local and systemic production of cytokines.
- Long-term stress suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses by altering the Type 1-Type 2 cytokine balance, inducing low-grade chronic inflammation, and suppressing numbers, trafficking, and function of immunoprotective cells.
- Chronic stress may also increase susceptibility to some types of cancer by suppressing Type 1 cytokines and protective T cells and increasing regulatory/suppressor T cell function.
- They classify immune responses as being protective, pathological, or regulatory, and discuss “good” versus “bad” effects of stress on health.
- Short-term stress can enhance the acquisition and/or expression of immunoprotective (wound healing, vaccination, anti-infectious agent, anti-tumor) or immuno-pathological (pro-inflammatory, autoimmune) responses.
- IMMUNO-PROTECTIVE = protects against the affects of an antigen
- Chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or exacerbate pathological immune responses.
- Studies such as the ones discussed here could provide mechanistic targets and conceptual frameworks for pharmacological and/or biobehavioral interventions designed to enhance the effects of “good” stress, minimize the effects of “bad” stress, and maximally promote health and healing.
Research Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24798553/
Remember – more is not always better! Make sure you run well-chosen functional lab tests to determine your micronutrient status, gut biome, leaky gut, liver detoxification, neurotransmitters, oxidative stress and hormones. The Goldilocks Effect.
Life life to the fullest each day with “The WHOLESTIC Method” program… learn more about the eight elements in my manual and workbook available on Amazon or click here.