With the state of health in the world lately, it seems as though we are seeing an increasing number of, “Health experts” talk about ways of, “Boosting” their immunity. This article will explain why boosting the immune system is not possible, but will instead focus on ways to support optimal immune function.
To clarify in the simplest form, humans cannot boost their immune system. Instead, they can support a healthy immune system. You see, humans have innate immunity and adaptive immunity and each will be described in detail.
Innate Immunity is the natural immune protection that we are all born with. When the body detects an infection, it produces extra mucus and increases body to kill off the infection. This is why when humans get very sick, they often develop a fever.
Adaptive Immunity is protection that we get from developing antibodies due to exposure to diseases and/or through vaccinations that we have received. As such, our adaptive system is able to use antibodies that it has already created to eliminate the pathogen.
These systems actually work together. The innate immunity has the ability to keep a pathogen from progressing, and the adaptive immunity then has the time to round up its antibody power.
Innate immunity, therefore, can’t be boosted. In fact, it would make you feel extra unwell if you could boost it. You’d feel tired and have flu-like symptoms.
Adaptive immunity can be sped up via antibodies from previous vaccinations, but not by any other means.
Immune support, however, is a completely different story. Supporting the immune system means doing all of the things that will allow your body to be at its strongest state so that it is able to most efficiently recover from any sort of compromise to the immune system.
Immune Support includes:
- Healthy Diet
- Relaxation Techniques
- Supplements (Vitamins, Minerals, Probiotics, etc.)
Although 1 through 3 above are pretty obvious, number 4 causes some confusion for many people. Supplementation is a piece that many are mis-informed about because of deceptive marketing practices that brands often engage in. Don’t worry, we’re here to provide some examples of supplements that can really help to support healthy immune function.
Has potent antioxidant properties and is also a cofactor for many cellular functions in the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, which helps to control environmental stress on the skin. ⠀
Has been studied extensively and has demonstrated its ability to support the innate and adaptive immune system. In addition, insufficient vitamin D has is directly associated with autoimmunity and increased risk of infection.
Has been demonstrated to support both the innate and adaptive immune system. It has the ability to coordinate effective immune responses. This prevents the immune system from over-fighting an infection (which is actually counter-productive), and helps it to regulate how aggressive it should be at attacking a given pathogen.⠀
An herb that increases the sheer amount of white blood cell activity and actually stimulates alkylamines, polysaccharides, and chicoric acid to tweak and optimize their functioning and role in immune action.⠀
An amino acid that has healing and repairing properties. It is especially useful in the healing of irritated tissues of the digestive tract. It works to support digestive health by supporting beneficial gut flora.
Greens and Reds Supplements:⠀
These supplements allow for high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value superfoods to be introduced into the body. The higher the ORAC value of these superfoods, the better the body can do at absorbing and eliminating those oxidants. ⠀
Vitamin B (B5, B6, B12) aid in Vitamin B5 aids with energy production and fighting off infection. Vitamin B6 helps fight off infections and is needed for the cells to function within the body. Vitamin B12 is needed to produce red blood cells in the body and helps the body produce infection fighting cells. ⠀
Effective antiviral activity which has made it traditionally effective against the flu and herpes simplex. ⠀
Known as “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria.” They are bacteria that live in the body, and instead of harming the body, help it work well. Often, probiotics help protect the body from infections caused by harmful bacteria or other germs. Studies have shown that supplementation with probiotics improves immunity, aids digestion, and enhances overall wellbeing. Approximately 80% of the immune system actually lives in the gut! That means that 80% of the antibody-producing immune cells actually live in the GI tract! Studies show that probiotics enhance immune capacity by raising phagocyte immune cells that kill pathogens. This has been directly shown to reduce cold symptoms in children and adults.
In other studies, probiotic supplementation actually led to increased systemic antibody responses! Basically, this means that your body will be more equipped to fend off illnesses much more efficiently.
More could be added to this list, but these are some of the main ones that you should focus on to ensure that you are doing all that you can to keep your immune system working at peak levels.
1. Gill, H., et al. Dietary probiotic supplementation enhances natural killer cell activity in the elderly: an investigation of age-related immunological changes. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 2001. 21:264-271.
2. Maldonado Galdeano, C., et al. Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019. 74(2):115-124.
3. Ahmed, M., et al. Impact of consumption of different levels of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 on the intestinal microflora of elderly human subjects. Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. 2007. 11(1): 26-31.
4. Paineau, D., et al. Effects of seven potential probiotic strains on specific immune responses in healthy adults: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology. 2008. 53(1): 107-13.
5. Kang, E., et al. The effect of probiotics on prevention of common cold: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial studies. Korean Journal of Family Medicine. 2013. 34(1): 2-10.
6. Miller, L., et al. Short-term probiotic supplementation enhances cellular immune function in healthy elderly: systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled studies. Nutrition Research. 2019. 64:1-8.
7. Sazawal S, et al. Effects of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 and prebiotic oligosaccharide added to milk on iron status, anemia, and growth among children 1 to 4 years old. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2010. 51(3): 341-46.
8. Wachholz, P., et al. Effectiveness of probiotics on the occurrence of infections in older people: systematic review and meta-analysis. Age Ageing. 2018. 47(4):527-536.
9. Makino, S., et al. Reducing the risk of infection in the elderly by dietary intake of yoghurt fermented with Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus OLL1073R-1.
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10. Prasad, A. Zinc Deficiency. British Medical Journal. 2003. 326, 409-410.
11. Wessels, I., et al. Zinc as a Gatekeeper for Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017. 9(12), 1286.
12. Hemila, H. Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: a systematic review. Open Respiratory Medi- cine Journal. 2011. 5, 51-58.
13. Hemila, H., Chalker, E. The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis. BMC Family Practice. 2015.16(24).