Boosting Your Immune System.
How Can We Improve Our Immunity During and After COVID-19?
Why do some people get sick more often than others? In our current pandemic, why are some people of the same age group showing symptoms of COVID-19 and others are not? How can we take responsibility for our own health and immune system while making this a priority going forward? Aside from genetic and developmental influences, your lifestyle habits play a tremendous role in your immunity. When your immune system is functioning optimally, you rarely give it a thought. However, if you’re suffering from a viral or bacterial infection, autoimmune disease, or allergies, supporting your immune system becomes your top priority. One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind right now is… how does our immune system work and what can we do to support it? Thankfully, there are many action steps that we can take, such as lifestyle interventions and dietary supplements we can consider to invest in our immune system function during this pandemic, and long after it passes!
What is the immune system?
The immune system is comprised of six different components that make up the body’s primary defense mechanism against potentially harmful invaders, such as pathogens. The lymphatic system, the respiratory system, the skin, lymphocytes, the spleen, and your gut all contribute to your immune function. Thus creating a bulletproof immune system is a whole-body endeavor!
How does your immune system become compromised?
Several lifestyle factors may be associated with a suppressed immune system, giving you an increased susceptibility to disease. To maximize the effectiveness, you must minimize the number of invaders you come in contact with, for example, carcinogens from the environment, food, and hygiene products. This also includes:
- Antibiotic intake
- Chronic stress
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Imbalance of gut microbiota (good bacteria)
- Lack of sleep
- Nutrient deficiencies (vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, copper, iron, selenium, zinc)
- Lack of physical activity
In addition, certain health conditions are associated with decreased immune response, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and allergic asthma.
Tips to build a strong immune system
Lifestyle tips: Just like certain lifestyle factors can negatively impact the immune system, certain lifestyle interventions may improve immune function and health, while reducing your risk of disease.
- Stress management: While short-term stress is a common response of our bodies, long-term (chronic) stress has been shown to suppress immune function. Chronic stress has shown to decrease immune cells and increase inflammation. Yes certain chronic stressors may be unavoidable in our modern society, but we can still incorporate ways to manage this stress. Reading a book on personal development, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and yoga are all ways we can practice stress management.
- Physical activity: MOVE YOUR BODY!! We are designed to move and research shows it is absolutely necessary for many reasons, including immune health. Lifelong regular physical activity may have protective effects on your immune system.
- Sleep: Sleep is absolutely essential for our bodies to heal and repair. Lack of proper sleep has been associated with immunodeficiency, increased inflammation, and increased risk to the common cold. It is recommended that adults get at least 7 or more hours of sleep per day, while infants and children are recommended closer to 12 hours per day (including naps).
- GET ADJUSTED!: The spinal joints and connective tissues are loaded with receptors called mechanoreceptors that send signals to the brain about position in space, vibration, balance, coordination, movement, etc. Chiropractic adjustments increase movement in the spine, which stimulate the mechanoreceptors to send signals to the brain known as proprioception. Proprioception down regulates (suppresses) the sympathetic nervous system (stress response, fight or flight), and this is beneficial because the sympathetic response in our bodies decreases our immune response. Spinal adjustments therefore can increase immune function by decreasing sympathetic overload and reducing the stress response.
- Multivitamins and minerals: Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, especially C & D, along with the minerals copper, iron, selenium, and zinc are essential for immune function. Vitamin D supplementation of 5,000 IU daily for adults and 1,000 IU daily for children. Additionally, Vitamin K taken with Vitamin D helps absorption. Do not take vitamin K if you are on a blood thinner. A poor nutritional state impairs immune function and increases susceptibility to disease. Research suggests that supplementation with a multivitamin and mineral (MVM) may reduce the risk of cancer and increase the probability of healthy aging. A multivitamin is becoming more and more important due to the mineral depletion in our soil from industrialized farming, even if you are eating organic foods!
- Botanical Herbs: plants with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can support immune system function. These include Echinacea, Elderberry, Astragalus, and garlic to name a few!
- Probiotics: one of the first steps towards building a healthy immune system is eating high-quality, nutrient-dense food that feeds not just you, but your good gut bacteria. A whole foods diet with plenty of anti-inflammatory foods will support your gut bacteria. Supplementing with a probiotic can be useful as well. Research suggests that probiotics may be effective in certain immune conditions, including eczema, allergies, human papillomavirus (HPV), and certain drug-resistant infections.