Infection waves of rhinoviruses, RSV, COVID, flu, etc. are coming down on us making us prone for respiratory infection. From my point of view, it is much better to prevent infectious disease by taking care of your overall health and specifically your immune health. Waiting for it to happen, then having to stay off work sick for 2 weeks is stressful and costly. In case of a severe bacterial infection antibiotics may be the best option. Statistically about 80% of respiratory infections are viral and therefore will not respond to antibiotics. Taking antibiotics is always harmful to the microbial flora in the gastrointestinal system. This in turn is harmful for the immune function. You can see how this can turn into a vicious cycle? Let’s look at measures you can take to prepare for more resilience against infections.
I think that after the years of pandemic we have all learnt how to keep ourselves and others safe. The same rules still apply, but have to be put in perspective to make them work for a life outside the pandemic.
We should reduce exposure to others by wearing masks if we are experiencing respiratory symptoms. We shouldn’t go to work or do home office where possible if we are ill.
A healthy immune system is one that is not overwhelmed by toxins, infections, metabolic and hormonal imbalances, all of which take influence on the immune balance. The best measure to avoid infection in my opinion is to build a strong, and balanced immune system
Stress harms your immune resilience. You may have experienced this before. You go through a really stressful time, especially the time before Christmas and that’s when respiratory infection hits you, just when you needed it least. Stress can be mental, emotional (i.e. family, work, financial) and/or physical (too much of physical work, excessive sports) or any disease causing factors, like drinking alcohol or smoking. This creates oxidative stress, raises inflammatory levels, elevates cortisol levels, which harms sleep quality and raises blood glucose levels. Each one of these factors is harmful to your immune system. If more of them happen at the same time they can be overwhelming.
Give yourself enough high quality sleep
High quality sleep is important to reduce oxidative stress especially in the brain, lowers stress levels, lowers cardiac and diabetes risk. All of these effects support your immune function.
Make sure you get a good diet and good quality exercise – have a good lifestyle
A healthy immune system strongly depends on a healthy body, which requires a healthy supportive diet. This should be a micro-nutrient-rich, non-inflammatory, low in sugar and refined starches, just enough in high quality protein. This may look very different for each individual.
Make sure you have enough of these essential micro-nutrients
If you decide to take any micronutrients as supplements there are two criteria that need to be considered. Bioavailability and bioactivity. High quality supplements will ensure a good uptake into the body and high bioactivity of the nutrients. The reason I’m mentioning this important information is, that a lot of nutrient companies use cheaply produced and in my opinion minor quality nutrients that are not well absorbed and rather pose a burden on the body when they have to activated in the body before they can be used. In the case of vitamin B12 for example cyano-cobalamine is widely available. Only issue is that cyanide is not helpful for the body and needs to be detoxified in the liver and the replaced by a bioactive chemical compound like methyl or hydroxyl to build bio active methyl-cobalamin or hydroxo-cobalamin. Personally I prefer to take remedies that contain ready to use bio-active nutrients. The following nutrients play a vital role in the functioning of a healthy immune system. I will point out the ones I think are most important for you.
Vitamin B12 (best taken as methyl-cobalamin or hydroxo-cobalamin, avoid cyano-cobalamin)
Immune Cell Function: Vitamin B12 is believed to have a role in the activation and regulation of immune cells. This can help the immune system respond effectively to pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.
Inflammation: B12 can help modulate inflammation, which is a component of the immune response. Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system, and vitamin B12 may help regulate this process.
Gut Health: Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the small intestine, and a healthy gut is necessary for proper absorption. A well-functioning digestive system is also important for overall immune system health, as a significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut.
Some groups at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include vegans and vegetarians, older adults, and individuals with certain gastrointestinal disorders.
To maintain a healthy immune system, it’s essential to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin B12 through dietary sources like (optimally organic) meat and fish or by taking supplements when necessary.
Vitamin C (best absorbed as ester-C, liposomal vitamin C, slow release vitamin C)
Antioxidant Properties: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which means it helps protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and various diseases. Vitamin C helps neutralize these harmful molecules, reducing oxidative stress and supporting the overall health of the immune system.
Immune Cell Function: Vitamin C is essential for the development and functioning of immune cells. White blood cells, such as lymphocytes and phagocytes, are critical components of the immune system, and vitamin C is involved in their production and activity. It enhances the ability of these cells to combat infections.
Shortens the Duration and Severity of Colds: Some studies suggest that vitamin C may help reduce the duration and severity of common colds. While it may not stop colds once you get them, it can help the body fight off the infection more effectively.
It’s important to note that while vitamin C is beneficial for the immune system, excessive intake does not necessarily result in greater immune function. The body can only absorb a certain amount of vitamin C, excess is excreted in the urine. That said there are ways to enhance the function and absorption of vitamin C, like taking Ester-C or liposomal vitamin C or taking it with added bioflavonoids from natural sources like acerola or rose hip.
To maintain a healthy immune system, it’s advisable to include vitamin C-rich foods in your diet, such as citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, and broccoli.
One of my favourites as most people lack it especially during winter months from September to April is vitamin D. A lack of it can lead to fatigue, low immune system, dizziness, myo-fascial pain, osteoporosis and cancer in the long term.
Regulation of Immune Cells: Vitamin D helps regulate the function of various immune cells, including T cells and macrophages. These cells play key roles in the immune response, helping the body defend against infections and diseases.
Antimicrobial Properties: Vitamin D has antimicrobial properties, which means it can help the body fight off certain infections. It can inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses.
Inflammation Regulation: Vitamin D can help modulate the inflammatory response of the immune system. Inflammation is an important part of the immune response, but excessive or chronic inflammation can be harmful. Vitamin D can help keep inflammation in check.
Enhanced Barrier Function: Vitamin D supports the maintenance of a strong physical barrier, including the skin and mucous membranes, which helps prevent the entry of pathogens into the body.
Autoimmune Diseases: Adequate levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune conditions occur when the immune system mistakenly targets the body’s own tissues.
Seasonal Immune Function: Some research suggests that vitamin D may help boost the immune system during the winter months when people have less exposure to sunlight, which is the natural source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in many parts of the world, especially in areas with limited sunlight exposure like Ireland. Another factors that limits our innate vitamin D production is the use of sun screens. Insufficient levels of vitamin D can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. However, it’s also essential to maintain a balance, as excessive vitamin D intake can lead to toxicity.
You can barely obtain vitamin D from dietary sources (such as fatty fish, fortified dairy products), which makes supplementation the only way to maintain healthy levels throughout the winter time. In summer exposure to sunlight, which triggers the body’s natural production of vitamin D is the best source.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system and works very much in conjunction with vitamin D. It is essential for maintaining the integrity of various tissues in the body, including the skin and mucous membranes, which serve as physical barriers to pathogens.
Barrier Function: Vitamin A is essential for the proper development and maintenance of epithelial tissues, such as the skin and the lining of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. These tissues act as a physical barrier to prevent the entry of pathogens into the body.
Mucosal Immunity: Vitamin A is crucial for the normal functioning of mucosal immune responses. It supports the production of mucus and helps the mucous membranes resist infection. It also plays a role in the development of immune cells in the mucosal tissues.
Immune Cell Function: Vitamin A is involved in the development and functioning of various immune cells, including white blood cells (such as lymphocytes and macrophages). It helps regulate the immune response to infections.
Inflammation Regulation: Vitamin A has anti-inflammatory properties and can help modulate the immune response. It can reduce excessive inflammation, which can be detrimental to the body.
Antioxidant Properties: Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to various health issues, including a weakened immune system.
It’s important to obtain sufficient vitamin A through dietary sources and, in some cases, supplements, especially in areas where vitamin A deficiency is a concern. Dietary sources of vitamin A include animal-based foods (such as liver, fish, and dairy products) and plant-based foods rich in provitamin A carotenoids, like beta-carotene (found in orange and dark green vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach).
However, it’s essential to strike a balance, as excessive intake of vitamin A can lead to toxicity, which can have adverse health effects. A well-balanced diet that includes vitamin A-rich foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help support your immune system and overall health.
Zinc (best absorbed as zinc orotate, zinc bisglycinate, zinc-picolinate)
Zinc is a vital mineral that plays a significant role in supporting the immune system. It is involved in several aspects of immune function, making it essential for the body’s ability to defend against infections and maintain overall health.
Immune Cell Development and Function: Zinc is necessary for the development and functioning of various immune cells, including neutrophils, natural killer cells, and T-lymphocytes. These cells are critical for identifying and destroying pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.
Inflammation Regulation: Zinc helps regulate the body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation is a natural part of the immune system’s defense mechanism, but excessive or chronic inflammation can be harmful. Zinc helps balance this response, preventing it from becoming overly aggressive.
Antioxidant Properties: Zinc is an essential component of several antioxidant enzymes that protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals. This can help prevent oxidative stress and reduce the risk of various health issues.
Maintaining Epithelial Barriers: Zinc is essential for the development and maintenance of epithelial tissues, such as the skin and the lining of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. These tissues serve as physical barriers against pathogens and help prevent their entry into the body.
Antiviral Activity: Some research suggests that zinc may have antiviral properties, which can help inhibit the replication of certain viruses.
Zinc deficiency can weaken the immune system and make individuals more susceptible to infections. It’s important to ensure that you obtain an adequate amount of zinc through your diet or, if necessary, supplements. Dietary sources of zinc include lean meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products, nuts, and legumes.
However, excessive intake of zinc can also have adverse effects, including interfering with the absorption of other essential minerals like copper. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced intake. A well-balanced diet that includes zinc-rich foods and proper overall nutrition can help support your immune system and overall health. Formularbeginn
Selenium (best taken as sodium-selenite or selenium methionine)
Selenium is an essential trace element that plays a vital role in supporting the immune system and overall health. It is a component of several enzymes, including glutathione peroxidases, which are critical for antioxidant defense and the proper functioning of the immune system.
Antioxidant Protection: Selenium is a key component of glutathione peroxidases, enzymes that help protect cells from oxidative damage by neutralizing harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals. This antioxidant activity helps reduce inflammation and prevent cellular damage, which can weaken the immune system.
Immune Cell Function: Selenium is necessary for the production and function of various immune cells, including lymphocytes and macrophages. Lymphocytes are essential for antibody production and immune response, while macrophages are responsible for phagocytosis, the process of engulfing and destroying pathogens.
Viral Defense: Selenium has been associated with antiviral activities, particularly in the context of certain RNA viruses. It can inhibit the replication of some viruses and help control viral infections.
Regulation of Inflammatory Responses: Selenium plays a role in regulating inflammatory processes by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. This helps maintain a balanced immune response, preventing excessive inflammation.
Enhancing Vaccine Response: Adequate selenium levels are essential for a proper response to vaccines. Selenium deficiency can impair the body’s ability to generate an effective immune response to vaccines, potentially reducing their effectiveness.
Selenium deficiency is associated with a weakened immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. However, excessive selenium intake can also have adverse effects, including selenosis, a condition characterized by nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, and neurological symptoms.
Selenium is primarily obtained through dietary sources, including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and certain nuts and seeds. The recommended daily intake of selenium varies depending on age, sex, and other factors, but in general, it’s important to maintain a balanced intake.
If you have concerns about any of your nutrient levels or your immune system, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for testing and guidance on supplementation if necessary. A well-balanced diet that includes selenium-rich foods such as brazil nuts can help support your immune system and overall health.
Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) found in the cell walls of certain fungi, including reishi and shiitake mushrooms. These compounds are known for their potential immune-modulating properties and have been studied for their impact on the immune system.
Immune Activation: Beta-glucans are recognized by the immune system as foreign molecules. When ingested, they can stimulate the immune system by activating immune cells like macrophages, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells. This activation can enhance the body’s ability to defend against infections and other immune-related challenges.
Antioxidant Activity: Beta-glucans from reishi and shiitake mushrooms also have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals, which can impact immune function.
Anti-inflammatory Effects: These beta-glucans may also have anti-inflammatory effects, helping to regulate the body’s inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system and contribute to various health problems, so modulating inflammation can be beneficial.
Enhanced Immune Response: Research suggests that beta-glucans can enhance the body’s immune response to various pathogens including viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Reishi and shiitake mushrooms are not the only sources of beta-glucans. They are also found in other fungi, yeast, oats, and barley among other sources.
Their effects may vary from person to person and their use can be considered as part of a well-balanced diet and lifestyle that supports overall immune health or in supplement form.
About 80 percent of immune cells are sited in the gut system. This immune tissue has a close symbiotic working relationship with the gut microbiome (microbial flora). Taking antibiotics will destroy that balance of your microbiome, which can cause an overgrowth of disease causing (pathogenic) bacteria, yeasts and parasites. This can have harmful effects on the immune system, the mitochondrial energy production and downstream effects on other body systems like the liver and nervous system. Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria or yeast, can have a positive impact on the immune system and overall immune health.
Balancing Gut Microbiota: Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. This balance is crucial for a well-functioning immune system. Probiotics compete with harmful bacteria and yeast, preventing them from overpopulating and causing health issues.
Immune Stimulation: Probiotics can stimulate the immune response. They can activate immune cells in the gut, such as macrophages and dendritic cells, and enhance the body’s ability to defend against infections and diseases.
Regulating Inflammation: Some probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties. By reducing excessive inflammation, they can help alleviate symptoms in conditions characterized by inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and allergies.
Improving Gut Barrier Function: Probiotics can help maintain the integrity of the gut lining, which acts as a physical barrier to prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream. A healthy gut barrier is essential for overall health and immune function.
Enhancing Vaccine Response: There is evidence to suggest that probiotics may enhance the body’s response to vaccines, leading to a more robust immune reaction and better vaccine efficacy.
Supporting Respiratory Health: Probiotics have shown promise in reducing the severity and duration of respiratory infections, particularly in children and adults. They may help reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections.
It’s important to note that the effects of probiotics can vary depending on the specific strains and dosages used. Not all probiotics are the same, and their effectiveness may differ in different individuals and for various health conditions.
Probiotics are commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods. They are also available in the form of dietary supplements. When choosing a probiotic supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine which specific strains may be most beneficial for your immune health, especially if you have specific health concerns or conditions.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet and lifestyle, in addition to incorporating probiotics when appropriate, can help support a healthy immune system and overall well-being