Enhancing your immune response
Every day we’re bombarded with news and social media about COVID 19 and ways to avoid getting it; social distance 6 ft apart, wear a mask, sanitize, avoid gatherings…etc. But what are some things that we can do proactively? What can we do to help our bodies FIGHT the infection?
Well, there are a number of things that we can do to enhance our immune system:
Taking probiotics (living microorganisms that are beneficial for the gut and overall health) can help enhance your immune response by increasing antibody levels and by increasing phagocyte (cells that eat/engulf other cells or particles like bacteria or viruses) and natural killer cell activity. That’s not only great for fighting off infections, but can help improve the response to vaccines like the flu vaccine and H1N1.
You can eat probiotic foods such as yogurt (here are more probiotic foods from Healthline) or take a probiotic supplement such as UltraFlora from Metagenics.
Garlic may be good against vampires, but aged garlic is even better; more antiglycation and antioxidant properties. Aged garlic or black garlic is garlic that has been warmed (not cooked) in a rice cooker or black garlic fermenter, for an extended period of time (About 3 weeks).
Consumption of aged garlic or aged garlic extract can boost the immune response by enhancing T cell and natural killer cell activity. This in turn can reduce the severity of cold / flu symptoms, reduce the number of symptoms, and reduce the amount of sick leave taken.
Here is a easy to follow DIY black garlic instructions from Spruce Eats.
For over a thousand years, healers, scholars, and even emperors in Asia have valued the reishi mushroom for its medicinal uses. Other notable mushrooms that have a long history of medicinal uses include shiitake and maitake mushrooms. But what is it about these mushrooms that makes them so special?
They’re high in beta-glucans, a carbohydrate molecule found in fungi that boost the immune system. Currently in Asia, extracts from these mushrooms are being used in conjunction with western medicine to treat patients with cancer and other conditions. Ongoing research is still underway to test its efficacy against various types of cancer and mechanism of action.
Here is just a taste of what these mushrooms can do with the immune system: Reishi increases macrophage activity (cells that eat/engulf other cells or particles like bacteria or viruses), monocyte activity, enhanced lymphocyte activity (T Cells, B Cells, and natural killer cells). Shiitake has been shown to increase the amount of natural killer cells and T cells; particularly against viruses like influenza and various cancers. Maitake has been shown to enhance neutrophil and monocyte activity.
The importance of sleep goes beyond getting our beauty rest and rejuvenating our bodies, but a lack of sleep lowers our body’s immune response. Different amounts of sleep have been shown to affect leukocyte activity (White blood cells (natural KILLER cells, lymphocytes..etc) that make up a chunk of our immune response), antibody levels, cell adhesion molecules (proteins that stick to cells or other surfaces to aid the immune response), and complement activation (proteins that help enhance antibody and phagocyte (cells that eat/engulf other cells or particles like bacteria or viruses) activity.
Not only can a lack of sleep increase your risk of infections and other diseases such as asthma and diabetes, but it can also affect your immune response to vaccines.
How much sleep do we need?
Check out the Sleep Foundation, they have a chart with varying ages and levels of recommended sleep. For example, an adult should get about 7-9hrs of sleep while a toddler should get about 11-14 hrs.
Individuals with high amounts of stress have been known to be more prone to conditions such as heart disease and even asthma. It is almost a well known fact that individuals with high amounts of stress are more likely to develop heart disease. A lesser known fact is that stress increases your risk for developing asthma and diabetes.
How does stress do this to us? Through mast cells, cells that are a part of our immune response. Stress not only alters mast cell activity, but it can lower our spontaneous immune response.
For ways to manage your stress check out some of our tips on taking a “Brain-cation” such as spending time in nature. Spending time in nature not only decreases your stress, but also improves your brain performance.
Vitamin D, AKA the “sunshine vitamin” is made from cholesterol during sun exposure and is crucial for the immune response. Supplementing with Vitamin D can enhance the immune response, including against respiratory infections. Low levels of Vitamin D are not only associated with autoimmune diseases and increased inflammatory response, but linked with cognitive impairment and dementia such as Alzheimer’s. While Vitamin D is absorbed from some foods, sunlight exposure for 10-15 min/day or take a vitamin D supplement such as DaVinci Laboratories Vitamin D3/K2 (Especially if you live above 37 degrees latitude or above Los Angeles)
Other than being found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, and nuts, Zinc is an essential mineral that is commonly found in immune boosting products like Emergen-C and Cold-Eeze. Zinc helps to boost the immune response through boosting lymphocyte activity, affecting cellular communication, and phagocyte activity. Through its action on the immune response, zinc even helps to facilitate the body’s response to vaccines. Even in folks older the age of 70 can still benefit from Zinc in boosting the immune response with enhanced lymphocyte activity.
Long ago seafarers, such as the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, brought vitamin C rich foods to prevent scurvy (a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C that leads to bleeding, exhaustion, and bleeding). Now these days, vitamin C is advertised as immune boosting on labels for food, supplements, juices, and gummies.
Everyone from adults to elementary school children know that vitamin C is important. Vitamin C boosts the immune response by assisting with neutrophil migration (Cells that digest germs and release killer enzymes), phagocytes, and helps regulate against autoimmunity (When your immune system attacks your own cells, friendly fire)
Other than oranges, lemons, and your vitamin c advertised food, you can find vitamin c in foods such as black currants, strawberries, red peppers, green bell peppers, guava, and broccoli (More extensive list from Dr. Axe’s Top 20 Vitamin C Foods that Can Boost Immunity and Fight Disease)