Build A Healthy Immune System
While the Harvard Health School states that there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function, it thankfully (and not surprisingly) goes on to say that your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
The study also says that your immune system requires the correct nutritional balance to function well. Our experience over the years is that physical, emotional and mental harmony requires all the macro and micro nutrients necessary for health and wellbeing. We hypothesise there are over 90 of these nutrients necessary to enable your body to function as it should.
There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response and how it is affected by nutritional deficiencies, however on the whole your immune system does a most remarkable job of defending you against the numerous disease-causing microorganisms it comes in contact with throughout your life.
But sometimes it fails . . .
Sometimes a germ or some other substance invades your protective barriers successfully and makes you sick.
Is it possible to intervene in this process and make your immune system stronger?
What if you improve your diet?
What if you make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing a near-perfect immune response?
Perhaps you are already taking certain vitamins or herbal preparations and not getting the response you’d like?
Walk into any health or pharmaceutical store and you will often find hundreds of bottles of pills and herbal preparations that claim to “support immunity” or otherwise boost the health of your immune system, especially when winter approaches. But do they actually do what they claim?
While it pays to be skeptical and ensure you are making the best possible choices for yourself and your family, being proactive is certainly what we recommend. However what to choose is often the dilemma. It’s important to realise that mass produced products rarely out perform companies whose specific purpose is to provide products with the highest quality of ingredients, rather than the highest quantity.
Effectiveness requires quality over quantity . . . as you are possibly aware, a ton of old apples or lemons contain little nutrient value for the consumer. In contrast, a handful of fruit, ripened on the vine or tree and picked and eaten within hours or even days are chock full of antioxidants, and whatever minerals may be in the soil they are grown in. But that doesn’t mean we should discount the benefits of all herbal preparations, because something is always better than nothing when it comes to natural boosting ingredients.
Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies. A healthy immune system can often defeat the worst of invading pathogens, so doing everything possible to ensure you give your body the best chance at doing this is worth the time and effort it takes. Because when things go awry your body can get out of control if your nutritional levels are out of whack, which can lead to a serious autoimmune response.
So Why Does Our Body’s ‘AutoImmune Response’ Go Awry?
At times of serious ‘mal-function’ your body actually makes auto-antibodies, and attacks itself. Autoimmune diseases arise from a misguided immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present within the body. Autoimmune diseases are a broad range of related conditions that occur when a person’s immune system produces an inappropriate response against its own cells, tissues and/or organs, resulting in inflammation and damage.
Many professionals believe that autoimmune issues emerge when the immune system is overactive and therefore they go about trying to suppress the immune system response. However it’s been our experience that this just causes more detrimental effects within the body that also have to be overcome. This can cause a long and debilitating recovery, which is often ascribed to the condition but can be more related to the treatment.
When you rectify any underlying issues of excessive toxicity, nutritional deficiency, or blocked detoxification pathways, the normal heathy regulation of the body kicks back into action. Sounds too simple to be true?
The body is an amazing regenerative mechanism, but good health can only occur when it is given healthful substances. Poisoning it with toxic drugs in an attempt to ‘kill off the bad guys’ or seeing the body as it’s own worst enemy does not lead to optimal health, and is not the best way to regain or maintain it.
Autoimmune diseases affect around 1 in 20 people and are one of the most important health issues in Australia and New Zealand. There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases, and these range from common to very rare diseases.
Some autoimmune diseases affect mainly one part of the body (such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes) whilst others can affect many parts of the body (such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic vasculitis). Common autoimmune diseases such as thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes affect more than 1 in 100 people.
Build A Healthy Immune System
So what can you do? Many products on store shelves claim to boost or support immunity, but do they? It can be a difficult to choose when the shop assistant often knows little about the body, or the immune system as a whole.
Following are a few general healthy-living strategies as a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand. If you find you are susceptible to infections or flu, or perhaps suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs — maybe you don’t like vegetables or perhaps you choose white bread over whole grains — then taking a good quality, daily multivitamin and a mineral supplement brings health benefits of many types, way beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system.
The key words there are “good quality, daily multivitamin and a mineral” because to get best results if you seek out someone who has already had good results and do what they did, rather than take the opinion of the store owner, you are more likely to get better results. Often advertising has you want to take megadoses of a single vitamin or mineral. Unfortunately this does not do the job either, because a broad range of micronutrients are essential for the absorption of the better known macronutrients.
Nature always provides all nutrients in combinations that ensure optimal uptake, and if you want results, chose products that contain high quality, natural ingredients, not synthetic ones. The quality of the nutritional ingredients within the supplement has a much greater effect than what many point to as the larger quantity listed on the label.
A fact that is not surprising to us, researchers have more recently discovered that there is greater immune boosting potential when a number of different nutrients are incorporated in a synergistic blend. A key thing for readers to understand is that we have found that only a very small number of companies use this type of high quality ingredients, that are synergistically combined into formulations that work powerfully to support the whole body in a harmonious way.
So, the question I am most often asked is “What can I do?”
Your best bet is to find a representative of a reputable company that specifically ensures only the best quality of ingredients is used and to incorporating a wide range in the formulation. Below are some benefits of individual ingredients – but remember, you can multiply these benefits many times over, if you ensue you take synergistic combinations of top quality products.
Nutritional status has a well known impact on immune function. Poor nutrition, which includes not receiving adequate amounts of minerals, micronutrients, and vitamins, is associated with suppressed immune function.
Benefits of Minerals on Your Immune System
Minerals (both their lack of and adequate intakes) such as magnesium and trace minerals including zinc, copper, and selenium have been researched and are known to impact immune health. According to one study published in 2007, “Micronutrient deficiency suppresses immune functions by affecting the innate T‐cell‐mediated immune response and adaptive antibody response, and leads to dysregulation of the balanced host response.”
Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in immune function, both in innate and acquired immune response according to researchers. According to Leo Galland, magnesium acts as a cofactor for immuno-globulin synthesis, immune cell adherence, antibody‐dependent cytolysis, IgM lymphocyte binding, macrophage response to lymphokines, T helper‐B cell adherence, and other additional metabolic responses.
Zinc (and Copper): Zinc is an essential trace element. It plays structural, regulatory, and catalytic roles in the body. Zinc is a trace element essential for cells of the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function as they should. Caution: While it’s important to have sufficient zinc in your diet (15–25 mg per day), too much zinc can also inhibit the function of the immune system, which is why supplemental intake is best as a synergistic blend.
Zinc is necessary for a number of immune functions, including T‐lymphocyte activity. A deficiency of zinc affects a number of aspects of innate and adaptive immunity and has been associated with decreased T‐ and B‐ lymphocyte function, depressed natural killer cell activity, depressed macrophage function, neutrophil function, and depressed antibody function among others. Consuming too much zinc can deplete copper levels in the body. Therefore, in synergistic blends Zinc is balanced with copper.
Trace Elements (Micronutrients): Trace elements—boron, copper, chromium, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc, to name just a few of the more common trace elements—also known as micronutrients, are elements that are required in minute amounts for optimal growth, development and physiology. Trace elements are indispensable for life and play an important role in essential functions, including immune function.
Low intakes of micronutrients have been shown to suppress immune function by affecting the innate T‐cell mediate immune response and antibody response, which, in turn, increases the susceptibility to infections.3 Further, infections—especially recurring infections—can further worsen existing micronutrient deficiencies by interfering with nutrient intake, increasing losses, and impeding utilisation.
One study reported that adequate intakes of micronutrients including selenium, zinc, copper, iron plus vitamins B‐6, folate, C and E mediated immune responses and increased risk of infections. Another study conducted more than 24 years ago in children examined the levels of micronutrients in 28 children ranging in age from ten months to 10 years who were susceptible to infections (7 suffered from frequent upper respiratory infections, 16 middle‐ear infections, with lower respiratory tract infections), but who had not been diagnosed with an immune condition.
Thirteen healthy children aged 9 to 18 years were selected as controls and their serum micronutrient levels were tested as well. Researchers found that the children with frequent infections had significantly lower serum iron levels and zinc versus the healthy children. The children with frequent ear infections, reported the authors, accounted for most of the differences in zinc and iron.
Some studies have suggested that people with low selenium levels are at greater risk of bladder, breast, colon, rectum, lung, and prostate cancers. A large-scale, multi-year study is currently in progress to look at the effects of combining selenium and vitamin E on prostate cancer prevention.
Benefits of a Multivitamin for Your Immune System
Vitamin A. Experts have long known that vitamin A plays a role in preventing infection and maintaining mucosal surfaces by influencing certain subcategories of T cells and B cells and cytokines. Vitamin A deficiency is associated with impaired immunity and increased risk of infectious disease. On the other hand, according to one study, supplementation in the absence of a deficiency didn’t enhance or suppress T cell immunity in a group of healthy seniors.
Vitamin B2. There is some evidence that vitamin B2 enhances resistance to bacterial infections in mice, but what that means in terms of enhancing immune response is unclear.
Vitamin B6. Several studies have suggested that a vitamin B6 deficiency can depress aspects of the immune response, such as lymphocytes’ ability to mature and spin off into various types of T and B cells. Supplementing with moderate doses to address the deficiency restores immune function, but megadoses don’t produce additional benefits. And B6 may promote the growth of tumors.
Vitamin C. The jury is still out on vitamin C and the immune system. Many studies have looked at vitamin C in general; unfortunately, many of them were not well designed. Vitamin C may work in concert with other micronutrients rather than providing benefits alone.
Vitamin D. For many years doctors have known that people afflicted with tuberculosis responded well to sunlight. An explanation may now be at hand. Researchers have found that vitamin D, which is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight, signals an antimicrobial response to the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis. Whether vitamin D has similar ability to fight off other diseases and whether taking vitamin D in supplement form is beneficial are questions that need to be resolved with further study.
Vitamin E. A study involving healthy subjects over age 65 has shown that increasing the daily dose of vitamin E from the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 30 mg to 200 mg increased antibody responses to hepatitis B and tetanus after vaccination. But these increased responses didn’t happen following administration of diphtheria and pneumococcal vaccines.
[Want some actionable tips for boosting immunity and beating the ‘winter bugs and blues’? Download the Special Report – ’11 SUPERFOODS & Herbs for Defending Yourself Against theWINTER Bugs & Blues!’ ]
- Minerals and Immune Function by Mineral Resources International, Utah
Original photo courtesy Leonid Mamchenkov on Flickr.com