When winter comes around, we all start looking for ways to strengthen our immune systems and reduce our risk of cold and flu. One thing commonly advertised is supplements to boost your immune system. And indeed, immune system boosters may help your body fight off infections. But supplements alone are often not enough to keep your immune system in tip-top shape - lifestyle factors play a major role too. And, these aren't one-size-fits-all. Figuring out which supplements or lifestyle factors will actually work for you depends on understanding what has reduced your immune response in the first place.
Your immune system consists of many different parts working together to help protect you against infections and disease. This means that it's not enough to do one single thing to boost your immune system. Instead, you need to do a whole bunch of things that will benefit many different parts of the whole.
Essentially, you do not want your immune system to just be stronger. Rather, you want your immune system in a state of balance to function at its best. An overactive immune response could result in other conditions like autoimmunity, asthma, and allergies with their own sets of symptoms.
Many of us think that when we get sick, it shows we have an infection. Your symptoms, however, may indicate that your body is fighting against infection and your immune response is working. A good example is when you have a cold. You may feel fatigued, have a runny nose, and even a fever. These symptoms are indications of your immune response working to get rid of a threat.
There are instances, however, when your immune system does need a boost though, especially when it is struggling to cope with demands. Here's where immune system boosters come in. These are not just supplements. Lifestyle factors are important too.
However, to understand the many different factors that can strengthen your immune system, you must first have an idea of what can weaken it or otherwise knock it out of balance.
Fisrt, our immune response declines with age. This is a natural process. It also means that the elderly become more susceptible to infections and other health issues. At the same time, as life expectancy increases, so too has the incidence of age-related health issues.
While an increasing number of elderly people stay healthy, they are still more at risk of developing health issues than younger people. What is more, they are also more likely to die from them.
Studies show that respiratory infections are one of the main causes of death in the elderly across the globe. The respiratory infections responsible include influenza, pneumonia, and these days, COVID-19.
Interestingly, nobody knows why this occurs, but it could result from a decrease in T cell production in the thymus. Your thymus, a specialized lymphoid organ that plays an important role within your immune systems, is where T cells are made. These cells play an important adaptive role in your immune system, allowing it to adapt to fight against foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Your thymus atrophies as you age, which results in a corresponding decline in T-cell production.
Immune system boosters like supplements together with certain lifestyle and dietary changes may be effective in improving immune health and improving your body’s ability to fight disease. If considering the use of supplements, however, it is best done with the guidance of a qualified healthcare specialist.
Stress is often thought of as a psychological issue. However, stress on your body results from multiple factors. These include external and internal sources. Chemicals in food, pollution in the air, and even a viral or bacterial infection can cause stress. The results are the same – your body actives your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response to cope with the stressor. This impacts major bodily functions, including your immune response.
Your immune system goes into motion the moment your NEM identifies a possible threat. Inflammation is your immune system’s way of dealing with the threat. This results in several symptoms, including inflammation, although they are only byproducts of your immune system response.
If, for whatever reason, your stress response remains activated, your immune response and the accompanying inflammation persists. In the long run, it could degrade your adrenals, your body's first responders to stress, resulting in adrenal fatigue and various health issues.
What is more, the inflammatory response resulting from immune system activation could itself become a threat. This occurs when inflammation from asthma blocks your airways, for example. Or when inflammation in the gut leads to leaky gut, spilling food particles and toxins into your body, and causing allergies or autoimmunity.
While immune system boosters may provide short-term relief in such a situation, they may also add to your body’s stress load, fueling an overactive immune response. In this case, a long-term, gentler approach to regaining the balance of your immune and adrenal health is thus a better option.
Your immune system makes up an important part of your body’s detoxification circuit. While your immune system detects and neutralizes pathogens in your body by initiating an inflammatory response, your detoxification circuit eliminates them.
If for whatever reason, your detoxification system is stressed, it may not rid your body of these pathogens. In so doing, congestion may occur, resulting in a buildup of toxins. This toxic buildup could result in various health issues while putting extra stress on your body. In turn, this further activates your NEM stress response, increases the demand for cortisol production from your adrenal glands, and stimulates a further immune system response. Subsequently, the amount of inflammation in your body increases.
Taking care of your body’s detoxification process is thus an important element when it comes to keeping your immune system in balance. It is key for flushing out the dead and damaged cells and toxins your immune response produces.
Various literature strongly suggests that diet plays a major role in your immune health. For example, studies show that people living in poverty and those who are malnourished tend to have a higher risk of infectious diseases. On the other hand, people who follow a healthy diet tend to be less at risk.
Evidence shows that a diet deficient in micronutrients like iron, copper, and certain vitamins negatively affects your immune system’s ability to work at an optimal level.
To avoid deficiencies, include a variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet. Also, limit your intake of processed and sugary foods.
If you believe your health issues could be the result of dietary deficiencies, immune system boosters may help until your eating habits have improved enough to make up for these deficiencies. Vitamin deficiencies could be a situation where immune system boosters are particularly helpful.
As you can see, several factors influence your immune system. Supplements can help correct vitamin deficiencies, for example those caused by aging or dietary issues, but they may not work for you if you are otherwise healthy. At the same time, sometimes you do not want to boost your immune system if you have allergies, autoimmunity, or an otherwise overactive immune system. In this case, balancing your immunity is the best bet. If your immune system has been weakened by stress, it is critical that you focus on supporting your adrenals along with reducing the inflammation of an immune system gone haywire. And, maintaining proper detoxification is also important.
So, when looking at immune system boosters, one should not rely on taking one supplement. You should rather look at boosting your immune system holistically, considering various options, and working to address those health issues that may have weakened (or overactivated) your immune response in the first place.
That said, here are some of the best natural ways to balance your immune system:
Exercise is one of the cheapest immune system boosters around. It need not cost you a cent. And it helps improve immunity in several ways.
Regular exercise may:
Please note that "exercising" does not require you get a full gym workout. A brisk walk with your dog, or gentle jog in the park, or a cycle around the block are great stress relievers. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are also gentle on your joints while stretching your muscles and working up a light sweat.
Do note that if you have serious health issues like advanced adrenal fatigue, it's important to talk to your doctor before exercising, as it can overload your already weak system.
Various supplements make excellent immune system boosters. But before using any, please first contact your healthcare practitioner to determine which of these you may need, as well as their dosage.
Staying healthy in general is not rocket science. It is, rather, more a case of using your common sense. But sometimes we forget or find ourselves in unforeseen situations. This could put us at greater risk of contracting certain diseases. This is often the case when people become infected with the COVID-19 virus. It is often through no fault of their own.
To protect yourself from infections, please remember the following:
The idea of taking immune system boosters to strengthen your immunity is appealing. But you should rather aim at keeping your immune system in a state of balance. Your body may not have a shortage of supplements. Rather, it may have other issues that affect its ability to stave off infections. Your healthcare provider is best able to advise you on this.
If suffering from a health issue stemming from a viral or bacterial infection, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation:
If you would like to know more or need assistance with immune system boosters, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss the matter with you. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.
There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Immune system boosters could provide adrenal support depending on your stage of the condition. They could also add additional stress to your adrenals. Your healthcare professional is best suited to determine their suitability and dosage.