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How to Support a Healthy Immune System

Article Author

Jennifer Weinhardt

February 10, 2021

A healthy immune system is essential in the path to optimized wellness. It defends the body from pathogens, provides surveillance by identifying damaged or abnormal cells, and is active in homeostasis by helping the body to remove those cells.  The immune system does all this by providing barriers (i.e., skin, mucus & the cough reflex) as a primary defense to keep foreign materials from entering the body. If these barriers fail, a secondary defense takes over using cell-mediated immunity involving T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes, and macrophage interactions.  To keep these systems functioning properly, nourishing the body with the right nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and herbs from the garden can optimize staying healthy no matter the season. It is common to think of depressed immune systems in the fall and winter months, but the immune system is challenged in different ways every day of the year. In addition to seasonal changes, stressful lifestyles, poor diet, excessive training, certain medications, and other health conditions can also affect the immune system’s response.  The best defense is to support the immune system every day, all year long. Below are some of the best ways to do just that:

 

In addition to exercise, stress management, and a healthy diet, there are many tried and true nutrients that have been proven to boost immune function. Below are some of the most exciting:

      • Vitamin D is known to support both innate and adaptive immune systems. It functions to activate macrophages, which are immune system cells that destroy foreign invaders. Additionally, in the presence of certain infections, lung epithelial cells can convert the body’s stores of inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D, which in turn produces an increased amount of cathelicidin, a peptide that is important for cell-mediated immunity.  This is important since those with vitamin D deficiency may not be able to combat respiratory illnesses effectively, or efficiently. The daily value of vitamin D recently increased from 400 IU (10 mcg) to 800 IU (20 mcg) because most Americans are deficient from staying indoors, using sunscreen, and consuming a poor diet, all of which contribute to lower vitamin D levels.
      • Zinc is a trace element essential for the cells’ health in the immune system since it works in tandem with superoxide dismutase (SOD) to elicit an antioxidant effect in the body. Zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function as they should. Studies have observed that even a mild zinc deficiency can produce immune status changes, such as defective natural killer (NK) cell function, decreased interleukin-2 production, and energy (i.e., the absence of a normal immune response to a particular antigen or allergen). The daily value of zinc is 11 mg for maintaining cellular metabolism, growth, and development, as well as optimal immune function, and homeostasis. According to the National Institutes of Health, many Americans do not meet that recommended intake.

 

      • Andrographis leaf played an important role in the global flu epidemic of 1918. No country escaped its onslaught except for India, where an amazing herb, Andrographis paniculata, was credited with stopping the spread of the deadly virus in that country. It is known as the King of Bitters because it is a bitter tonic that helps expel toxins, promote healthy digestion, and support immune function. It is an important constituent of at least 26 Ayurvedic formulas in Indian pharmacopeia. In TCM, andrographis is seen as a cold-property herb used to rid the body of heat and fever and to dispel toxins from the body. In China, India, Thailand, and Malaysia, this plant has been widely used for treating sore throat, flu, and upper respiratory tract infections.

 

      • Ashwagandha root works on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a major part of the neuroendocrine system that controls stress reactions. It has been shown to restore receptor sensitivity to the effects of cortisol and adrenal hormones, thereby decreasing these hormones’ circulating levels and improving an individual’s resistance towards stress. Stress reduces the immune system’s ability to fight infections significantly, and clinical trials suggest that Ashwagandha root can help manage stress levels and subsequently strengthening the immune system. 

 

      • Cordyceps has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms in adults. It may also improve immunity by stimulating cells (including phagocytes, mast cells, natural killer cells, basophils, and eosinophils) and specific chemicals in the immune system. The oral administration of C. sinensis extracts has been shown to improve phagocytosis (ingestion of bacteria or other material), a process that helps keep the body fighting off foreign invaders, which is crucial for seasonal immunity. The C. sinensis extract may also reduce IgE production from B lymphocytes. Reduced production of IgE would attenuate the occurrence of asthma attacks.

 

      • Maitake has been shown in clinical settings to support white blood cell health and production, as well as other important immune defense mechanisms in several significant ways. MaitakeGold404®, a clinically studied and branded form of maitake, contains beta-glucans, which provide some of the mushrooms’ most dynamic and active medicinal qualities.  In addition to stimulating the immune system, beta-glucans have been shown to possess cellular protective, antibiotic, and antiviral properties.

 

      • Shiitake is the most popular and well-studied medicinal mushroom. According to the literature, lentinan, a constituent of shiitake, activates macrophages, stimulating lymphocytes and other immune cell defenses. Known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, shiitake has also been suggested as an overall tonic for chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

Bottom line:

No one nutrient or wellness ritual will save your immune system, but together, they can surely optimize it. It’s important to eat right, get enough rest, wash your hands, and find the right supplement combination or standalone vitamin and/or mineral to support your immune health all year long.

Stay well my friends!

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.