Let’s Talk About Immune System Function
Building a strong immune system begins with the inner and outer surfaces of the body, as they are the first barriers against pathogens (germs). These surfaces include the skin and all mucous membranes, which form a kind of mechanical protective wall.
The body already has natural ways to boost the immune system:
- The body’s own antibacterial substances can disable different pathogens from the environment at an early stage. A certain enzyme found in saliva, the airways, and tear fluid destroys the cell walls of bacteria.
- Many pathogens that are breathed in get stuck to mucus in the bronchi and are then moved out of the airways by hair-like structures called cilia.
- Normal microbiome flora, harmless bacteria that reside on the skin and many mucous membranes in the body, also help to protect the body1.
How To Boost Your Immunity Naturally
Avoid stress: A weakened immune system due to stress will be too exhausted to support immune response to other threats. Research on immune stressors have suggested that individuals exposed to chronic stressors can exhibit immune dysregulation that may be persistent and severe2.
Hang out with your pets:Exposure to pets is associated with positive changes in immune development3.
Engage your social network (remotely, if necessary):Social interaction can do more than build herd immunity. Those with more types of social ties have been shown to be less susceptible to common colds, produce less mucus, and are more effective in ciliary clearance of their nasal passages4.
Keep a positive attitude:For viruses, increased PES (Positive Emotional Style) is associated with lower risk of developing an upper respiratory illness5.
Laugh it up:Increases were found in natural killer cell (immunoglobulin) activity with several effects lasting 12 hours into recovery from initiation of the humor intervention6.
Exercise:Perceived physical fitness and frequency of aerobic exercise correlates with less days having an upper respiratory tract infection and reduces the severity of the symptoms during the Winter and Fall common cold seasons7.
Get good sleep:Prolonged lack of sleep and the accompanying stress response invoke a persistent unspecific production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, best described as chronic low-grade inflammation, and this also produces immunodeficiency. Both have detrimental effects on health8.
Take vitamins that boost immunity:Supplement a healthy, diverse diet with vitamins that are known to support immune function. Specifically, supplementation with vitamins C, E, and A or beta-carotene increases the activation of cells involved in tumor immunity in the elderly9.
Support your gut:ION*Gut Health is proven to tighten the epithelial cells in your gut, preventing unwanted molecules from entering your system10. With 70% of immune cells located in your digestive tract, this strengthening of the tight junctions provides a strong foundation for your immune system. A strong gut lining may be the best immune support!
Happy microbiome everyone!
Matt Bednar, PhD
Bringing science out of the lab and into your life
- What are the organs of the immune system? InformedHealth.org. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279395/
- Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function, Jennifer N. Morey, Ian A. Boggero, April B. Scott, and Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Curr Opin Psychol. 2015 October 1; 5: 13–17. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007.
- Effects of dog ownership in early childhood on immune development and atopic diseases. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Oct;38(10):1635-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2008.03018.x. Epub 2008 Aug 12.
- Social Ties and Susceptibility to the Common Cold Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM.. JAMA. 1997;277(24):1940–1944. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540480040036
- Positive Emotional Style Predicts Resistance to Illness After Experimental Exposure to Rhinovirus or Influenza A VirusCohen, Sheldon PhD; Alper, Cuneyt M. MD; Doyle, William J. PhD; Treanor, John J. MD; Turner, Ronald B. MD, Psychosomatic Medicine: November-December 2006 - Volume 68 - Issue 6 - p 809-815, doi: 10.1097/01.psy.0000245867.92364.3c
- Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter, Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 Mar;7(2):62-72, 74-6, Berk LS1, Felten DL, Tan SA, Bittman BB, Westengard J.
- Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults. Br J Sports Med. 2011 Sep;45(12):987-92. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.077875. Epub 2010 Nov 1.Nieman DC1, Henson DA, Austin MD, Sha W.
- Sleep and immune function, Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan; 463(1): 121–137. Luciana Besedovsky, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born, doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
- Physiological role of antioxidants in the immune system, J Dairy Sci. 1993 Sep;76(9):2789-94. Bendich A1.
- The Effects of ION*Gut Health Dietary Supplement on Markers of Intestinal Permeability and Immune System Function in Healthy Subjects, https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0354/2789/files/IONBiome_Science_Paper_White_Paper_DigitalFile.pdf