Seasonal changes creep up on us each and every year, yet somehow the coughing, sniffling, and sore throat still takes us by surprise.
With cutting-edge research examining the immune system and its properties, we’ve managed to take much of the guesswork out of attacks against the immune system. By focusing on feeding our bodies nutrients that strengthen its immunity, we're able to support our bodies' natural defense mechanisms that help keep us active and healthy.
Immune Support Starts in the Gut
When it comes to immune system health, the old adage rings true: you are what you eat. The strength of the body’s immune system is based on the healthy flora of our gut and intestines. A large portion of the immune system—about 80% of it—lives within the GI tract. For this reason, the distinction between immune health and gut health is almost imperceptible. If the gut is healthy, the immune system will also be healthy.
The best way to maintain gut health is through regular absorption of a good probiotic. Boosting your patient’s cultured and fermented food intake also helps improve the flora present within the intestines. Fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, and homemade bone broth are all easy to add to a regular diet and great for the gut.
Another undeniable aspect of gut health is related to lifestyle. Even if you’re eating all the right foods and taking all the right supplements, your gut and immune health will suffer if you don’t get enough sleep and exercise.
Support a Healthy Immune System with Supplements
Immune system health and supplement intake have always had a close relationship. While a multivitamin will help support overall health, it’s important to focus on supplements that specifically support a healthy immune system. It is of paramount importance to incorporate these into your diet consistently to give the immune system a fighting chance against attacks.
BRM4 is a proprietary rice bran extract that is clinically shown to support natural killer cell activity. These are the most important parts of the immune system; they help to keep the body's tissues healthy and support normal cell regeneration.
ME3 is a specific probiotic that helps with system regeneration and glutathione production. Having optimal glutathione levels is extremely important, as it is the strongest free-radical fighter in the human body, acting as a detoxifying agent and to reduce oxidative stress. As we age, our glutathione levels decrease, so it is essential to supplement it.
Free-Radical Fighters & Antioxidants
Antioxidants are vital for a healthy immune system, providing the body with phytochemicals and electron donors while closing off advanced glycation end products (AGEs). ME3 supports glutathione—a strong natural antioxidant—in the body, but it’s also important to supplement the immune system with other antioxidants as well. Acetylcysteine is a direct free-radical fighter that provides antioxidant enzyme support. Cocoa-bioflavonoids are free-radical fighters that also aid to support vitamin C and blood circulation. Broccoli and cauliflower are both rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant with powerful health benefits.
Astragalus is a necessity for supporting GI system health. Among immune-boosting and healthy aging effects, it also helps to suppress the deterioration of telomeres. Telomeres are found at the edges of our DNA strands, so it’s essential to stop them from breaking down. Telomeres are like the plastic ends of shoelaces that keep your shoelaces from unraveling.
In the same way, telomeres act to help to keep your DNA intact during the replication process. Every time DNA replicates, the telomere caps become ever so slightly shorter until, eventually, the DNA can't replicate as well. When that happens, we start to see aging-related complications.
By keeping them young and intact, we’re able to keep our body healthy, and further support our immune system.
Methylated B vitamins support homocysteine health and play a large role in the overall pathway to optimal health. B12 supports the folate pathway, reinforcing DNA and RNA production, and selenium increases immune system fortitude and aids in free-radical fighting activity. B vitamins also work as healthy aging agents that help keep telomeres intact.
In addition to supporting calcium and bone homeostasis, vitamin D has been shown to back a healthy immune system. High doses of vitamin D support healthy cell production within the body. Since many North Americans don’t get enough sunlight to fulfill their vitamin D needs, a supplement is highly recommended.
Fish oils, specifically omega-3s, have demonstrated strong support for cardiovascular and immune health.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
The point of struggle most commonly observed with maintaining a healthy immune system comes down to lifestyle choices. Supplements can only go so far in creating an optimal immune system. Lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise are of the utmost importance when it comes to optimizing your health.
Sugar plays a significant role in the deterioration of immune system strength. As it’s related to many adverse health conditions, eliminating—or at least reducing—sugar intake in your diet is the greatest tool a person has in achieving a healthy immune system. We have an affinity for adding sugar to our diet in places where it doesn’t need to exist. Healthy foods easily take an unhealthy turn with the addition of unnecessary sugar. It’s a healthy lifestyle inhibitor that can easily be eliminated.
Sleep and exercise also factor heavily into a healthy lifestyle. Clinical studies show that exercise aids in increasing lifespans, comfort, and mobility as we age. Sleep plays an essential role in supporting a healthy immune system, as well as normal weight and healthy aging.
Healthy living and optimized immune system functionality come down to understanding your body and what it needs. Band-aid solutions, such as treating symptoms instead of getting to the root of health issues, only increase system distress over time. Supporting a healthy immune system comes from building a solid foundation of gut health and immune system support through diet, exercise, and supplements. These simple, yet fundamental changes can help to equip your body with the tools it needs to stay healthy throughout your life.
Fred Pescatore, MD, is a traditionally trained physician practicing nutritional medicine. To pursue his vision of a more personalized and healthful program, Dr. Pescatore opened Partners in Integrative Medicine. He is the author of several important books, including his newest book, The Hamptons Diet Cookbook, the follow up to his NY Times best seller The Hamptons Diet. He was the Associate Medical Director at the famed Atkins Center for five years. He is the President of the AHCC Research Association, President of the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists and is a member of the National Association of Physician Broadcasters, amongst other organizations. For more information, visit www.hamptonsdiet.com.
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