Supporting your Immune System
The immune system is your only defence, it is your internal army, the white blood cells are your soldiers and the antibodies are the bullets. It is a very complex system that needs the right support to ensure it remains healthy and balanced and ready to protect you when under attack from viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungus, mould and other foreign bodies.
Support and enhancement of the immune system are vital to reducing susceptibility to colds, flu and other infections. A strong and healthy immune response will have the right balance of killer T cells and the antibody-producing B cells. The immune systems ability to differentiate between a foreign invader and the bodies own body parts (cells and tissues) is so important and key to a healthy immune system.
A sub-optimal immune system will result in:
- Frequent colds and flu more than 3/4 times a year.
- Chronic infections that refuse to heal.
- Frequent cold sores, fungal infections, skin complaints.
- More susceptibility to chronic diseases like cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Threats to the Immune System include:
- Your environment: toxic food, stress, chemicals, heavy metals.
- Chronic stress and hormone imbalance.
- Nutrient deficient diet.
- Digestive issues resulting in poor food assimilation.
- Poor gut health with an imbalance of gut bacteria.
- Infections - there is scientific studies linking viruses to autoimmune diseases.
Components of the Immune System:
- Thymus - located between the thyroid and the heart, the health of the thymus determines the health of the immune system. The thymus gland secretes certain hormones to regulate the immune system and low levels of these hormones can result in a sub-optimal immune system.
- Lymphatic System - this comprises of vessels and nodes. Interstitial fluid flows into the lymphatic vessels and is known as lymph. Lymphatic vessels drain waste products from tissues and the lymphatic nodes, containing macrophages, are the filter system that cleans up the fluid.
- Spleen - is the largest mass of lymphatic tissue in the body. The function of the spleen is to produce white blood cells, engulf and destroy bacteria and debris and destroy old red blood cells.
White Blood Cells:
- Lymphocytes - there are several types of lymphocytes including:
- T Cells are responsible for many immune functions and involved in cell mediated immunity, there are several types including helper T cells, which help other white blood cells to function, and suppressor T cells, which inhibit white blood cell function when the invader has been dealt with. Cytotoxic T cells attack and destroy foreign tissue, cancers cells and virus-infected cells.
- B cells are responsible for producing antibodies that attach to the foreign molecule and enable it to be destroyed.
- Natural killer cells destroy cells that have become cancerous or infected with a virus.
- Neutrophils - engulf and destroy bacteria, tumour cells and dead particles.
- Basophils - these cells are involved in allergic conditions, secreting histamine and contribute to inflammation as an immune response.
- Eosinophils - react to infections
- and monocytes.
- Specialised Cells: Macrophages are large white blood cells that reside in tissues that specialise in engulfing and digesting cellular debris, pathogens and other foreign substances in the body. Mast cells release histamine and attack allergens.
Supporting the Immune System
Good health and wellbeing is critical to supporting the immune system. This requires a comprehensive approach involving a clean diet with real food, lifestyle, stress management, exercise, clean environment and supported when needed by high quality supplementation and herbs.
Positive Mental Attitude: Several scientific studies have shown that negative emotions actually suppress the immune system. There is a strong connection between the emotional state, the nervous system and the immune system. Our mood and attitude can have a significant effect on our immune system and engaging with a 'Positive Mental Attitude' can be a great starting point to boost the immune system.
Stress and Hormonal Imbalance: Our own neglectful behaviours on a daily basis can depress our immune system. Poor sleep, skipping meals, lack of hydration and even overexercising can all drain our resources and cause the stress hormone, cortisol, to be released. Chronic stress will cause the body to continually secrete cortisol and result in a suppressed immune system and many other side effects including adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. This results in a significant decrease in white blood cell function, thymic function and the production of white blood cells.
Lifestyle factors that can suppress the immune system include:
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Excessive alcohol
- Lack of movement, exercise and fresh air.
Eating real food, as nature intended, and optimising digestion are key to a healthy immune system.
- Eliminate foods that cause you discomfort.
- Eat a rainbow of colour for both vegetables and fruit - at least three portions of fruit and four portions of vegetables a day, preferably organic for a stronger antioxidant content.
- Eat a low-sugar diet and eliminate white flour. Sugar has a significant impact on the immune system by reducing the white blood cells ability to respond for up to five hours after consuming sugar. While flour is very processed and the majority of the fibre, vitamins and minerals have been removed.
- Hydration is very important to enable the immune system to operate both for the transport of white blood cells to where they are needed and also to eliminate toxins through the lymphatic system and bile.
- Eat protein with each meal to stabilise blood sugar levels.
- Eat plenty of healthy fats including avocado, organic/wild oily fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil (unheated). Health fats are required for many functions including brain health. All our cell membranes are made of fatty acids and healthy fats allow the cells to function.
Vitamins and Minerals
Your immune system requires plenty of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, Vitamin C, D and A, selenium and zinc to keep it in balance and function properly. To acquire these nutrients from food, you need to ensure your digestive system is working adequately and that you have sufficient stomach acid to break down the food and adequate bile from the gall bladder to alkalise the food from the acidic environment of the stomach and also to assimilate the fats.
Calcium plays a significant role in the activation of the immune response at the tissue level.
Vitamin D is required to extract calcium from food and it is also one of the most important immunomodulators that affects the response of the cells. It also up-regulates antimicrobial peptides to clear bacteria. It appears to have a protective function against viral and bacterial upper respiratory infections.
Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant, it is like a glue that keeps us together and plays a significant role in the immune response. Unlike many animals, humans do not produce their own Vitamin C and require an external source. It plays many roles in enhancing the immune response. Numerous clinical studies support the use of Vitamin C in the treatment of infections. Vitamin C levels can easily be depleted e.g.in times of stress or by smoking. The Vitamin C you find in your superstore is usually ascorbic acid, which is incomplete and the body requires other co-factors for it to work, it is therefore important to include citrus bioflavonoids.
Beta-carotene is another significant antioxidant and a precursor to Vitamin A, meaning your body converts it to Vitamin A, using zinc as a cofactor. Vitamin A plays an essential role in maintaining the integrity of the skin and the lining of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract. Beta-carotene plays a protective role for the thymus and this pigment is found in yellow and orange fruit and vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables.
A Vitamin B6 deficiency can result in a suppressed immune system. It is required to support the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes and also for the production of white blood cells and good quality antibodies.
A deficiency or sub-optimal levels of Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid (Folate) can result in a significantly reduced supply of white blood cells. They are also required to support the thymus and lymph nodes.
Zinc serves a vital role in many immune system reactions. It enables the destruction of foreign particles and microorganisms, protects against free radical damage, enables the conversion of beta-carotene to Vitamin A, required for proper white blood cell function. Zinc also plays a significant role in the fight against viruses by reducing replication and shortening the length of the illness.
Selenium has been shown to stimulate white blood cell and thymus production by increasing the ability of lymphocytes and increase the activity of natural killer cells.
The testing that I offer, in particular the Live Blood Analysis, can help determine the quantity and health of your white blood cells. The Health Plan I put together will be unique to you and your health, because there is no one size fits all when it comes to health. Start your Health Journey today and book a consultation with me.