An Integrative Approach to Optimizing Immunity
In a previous article, we discussed the importance of looking after your immune system, even if you’ve been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus (read here). Your body’s immune function is a product of many health parameters: from nutritional support to exercise and more. Maximising your immune defence requires an integrated lifestyle approach.
Let’s dive into the components of a healthy immune system!
Studies have shown that moderate intensity exercise 3 times a week might just be what the doctor should order.1-3 Exercise reduces inflammation, lowers cortisol (our stress hormone), and can improve our immune response by increasing the circulation of our white blood cells. As white blood cells help our bodies fight off infections, the movement of these cells are critical to a fast response to any potential invaders.
Exercise can also promote macrophage and lymphocyte action (via type I interferon IFN-I). As COVID-19 suppresses IFN-I activity, it is thought that regular physical activity can help reduce the incidence and severity of COVID-19.2
Another interesting effect of regular exercise is that the immune-boosting effects of saunas are even better in trained vs untrained subjects!4
Our mental health is a critical component to overall health, especially immunity. One meta-analysis reported that COVID-19 mortality was higher among patients with mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and schizophrenia.5 Even for those without a clinical mental health condition, social isolation, loneliness and stress has been linked to weakened immunity.6,7
There are many online resources, books and apps to help you think about how to improve your self-care habits as well as professional consultations for more specialized care.
We spend a third of our lives sleeping so no wonder it is so important to keeping us healthy. Studies repeatedly show that poor sleep, defined as less than 6 hours every night, causes weakened immunity in the form of lower T lymphocytes, lower activity of natural killer cells (NK), shorter telomere length, and increased inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein and IL-6). Compared with people who slept seven to eight hours per day, those who slept less than five hours were more likely to report nasal congestion and respiratory infections.8
Adequate sleep is also linked to a reduction of the risk of infection and to optimize the efficacy of vaccination.9
Nutrition, from diet and/or supplementation methods, powers every cell in our body, including our immune system.10 A high-quality diet characterized by healthy plant-based foods was associated with lower risk and severity of COVID-19.11
Vitamins A (3000-5000 IU), C (1000-2000 mg), D (2000 IU) and zinc (30 mg) are especially important in regulating immune balance to prevent respiratory infections, modulate inflammation, and support white cell production and function.12-14 Intravenous (IV) Vitamin C have even been used in certain countries as part of the treatment protocol for hospitalized COVID-19 patients and on-going trials are testing high-dose IV vitamin C for COVID-19 treatment.15
Looking to level up? Try glutathione for extra immune support due to its powerful antioxidant function. Studies have shown that glutathione deficiency may be a risk factor for severe symptoms and hospitalization from COVID-19.16 Learn more about the nutrients linked to COVID-19 here.
Contact us to talk to our team about our range of immune-supporting services including IV therapy, infrared saunas, nutrition consultations, pharmaceutical-grade supplements and more!
- Nieman, DC., et al. The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science. Volume 8, Issue 3, May 2019, Pages 201-217. doi: 10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009
- da Silveira, M. P., da Silva Fagundes, K. K., Bizuti, M. R., Starck, É., Rossi, R. C., & de Resende E Silva, D. T. (2021). Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature. Clinical and experimental medicine, 21(1), 15–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10238-020-00650-3
- Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-380. doi:10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001
- Pilch W, Pokora I, Szyguła Z, et al. Effect of a single finnish sauna session on white blood cell profile and cortisol levels in athletes and non-athletes. J Hum Kinet. 2013;39:127-135. Published 2013 Dec 31. doi:10.2478/hukin-2013-0075
- Fond G, Nemani K, Etchecopar-Etchart D, et al. Association Between Mental Health Disorders and Mortality Among Patients With COVID-19 in 7 Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(11):1208-1217. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.2274
- Pressman, SD., et al. Loneliness, social network size, and immune response to influenza vaccination in college freshmen. Health Psychol. 2005 May;24(3):297-306. doi: 10.1037/0278-6188.8.131.527
- Dhabhar, FS. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014 May;58(2-3):193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0.
- Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan;463(1):121-37. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0. Epub 2011 Nov 10. PMID: 22071480; PMCID: PMC3256323.
- Schmitz, N., van der Werf, Y. D., & Lammers-van der Holst, H. M. (2022). The Importance of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms for Vaccination Success and Susceptibility to Viral Infections. Clocks & sleep, 4(1), 66–79. https://doi.org/10.3390/clockssleep4010008
- Karacabey K., et al. The Effect of Nutritional Elements on the Immune System. J Obes Wt Loss Ther2:152. doi:10.4172/2165-7904.1000152
- Merino J, Joshi AD, Nguyen LH, et al. Diet quality and risk and severity of COVID-19: a prospective cohort study. Gut 2021;70:2096-2104.
- Mora, J Rodrigo et al. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nature reviews. Immunology vol. 8,9 (2008): 685-98. doi:10.1038/nri2378
- Carr, AC., et al. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov 3;9(11). pii: E1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211.
- Prasad, Ananda S. “Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells.” Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.) vol. 14,5-6 (2008): 353-7. doi:10.2119/2008-00033.
- Premranjan Kumar, Ob Osahon, David B. Vides, Nicola Hanania, Charles G. Minard, Rajagopal V. Sekhar. Severe Glutathione Deficiency, Oxidative Stress and Oxidant Damage in Adults Hospitalized with COVID-19: Implications for GlyNAC (Glycine and N-Acetylcysteine) Supplementation. Antioxidants, 2021; 11 (1): 50 DOI: 3390/antiox11010050
- ClinicalTrials.gov. Vitamin C Infusion for the Treatment of Severe 2019-nCoV Infected Pneumonia. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04264533.