Ok… I know.. we have had enough of hearing about the immune system, however, a little bit of a different twist on it all for you below with gut connection and metabolism.
Stay well everyone.. and use this time to truly think about how we should be prioritizing our health daily.. not just when a pandemic strikes.
When it comes to your immune system, gut health matters!
Why? Because around 80% of your immune system is in your gut! And rightly so!
When you think about the amount of foreign substances we expose our gut to through what we eat, drink, and what’s hidden in the food we eat and drink, it’s a good idea to have some immune soldiers right there on the front line!
Some things we can do to support our gut health:
🔸Increase the diversity of the food you eat, making sure they are as free of chemicals and pesticides as you can get. This is the fuel and food for your bacteria… make them happy:) Aim for 20-40 different plant fibres including vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Keeping in mind that different colours will count as two! E.g. Red apple and green apple will count as two, because they have different phytonutrient profiles.
🔸Avoid foods that cause inflammation to you. Find out what you’re intolerant to and AVOID it. It’s not forever. Just enough time to allow for healing to occur, and then these foods may be able to be reintroduced.
🔸Probiotics are not always the answer. You may have too many of what you’re supplementing with already and this could be making the inflammation worse. It can even be contributing to more histamine (which is a reaction from inflammation) which you don’t want. Testing is crucial to dig deep into the microflora and advice from a professional.
🔸Heal intestinal permeability by removing irritation and inflammatory foods as well as chemical and environmental toxins. Ask us how you can aid this healing with key personalised compounds and medicines.
🔸Increase your fibre and resistant starch in your diet.
🔸Manage stress through mindfulness, pursuing your passion, getting out in nature, having fun with friends and family, and not being so hard on yourself.
🔸Get your microbiome tested so you know where to spend your money and effort. It’s a walk in the dark and can be a waste of money to not know what you’re dealing with.
Key nutrients for immunity!
There is more to supporting your immune function than just optimising key nutrients. Gut health including the microbiota and intestinal barrier function play a huge role, as well as stress, sleep, liver function, lymphatic drainage & elimination pathways.
Nonetheless, ensuring you have adequate nutrients for immune function is important.
🔸Vitamin D – plays a central role in immune function. It increases the differentiation of monocytes to macrophages, stimulates WBC proliferation and inflammatory responses, and regulates antimicrobial proteins (cathelicidin and defensin) which directly kill pathogens.
The most bioavailable and best source of vitamin D is ofcourse the sun! The best time for sunlight is in the morning, as this will also help regulate your circadian rhythm which additionally has an effect on immune function. Aim to get at least 20 mins of sun exposure each day!
Food sources: cod liver oil, wild caught salmon, sardines & mackerel
🔸Vitamin C – Antioxidant, promotes collagen synthesis for epithelial barrier integrity, stimulates WBC production, recycles oxidised glutathione back into active glutathione, supports antimicrobial and NK cell activity and chemotaxis; helps with apoptosis and clearing spent neutrophils, supports serum levels of antibodies and is involved in lymphocyte differentiation and proliferation. Unlike most animals, us humans cannot make vitamin C, which means we need to get it through our diet. The body is able to store around 300-2000mg of Vitamin C, but those stores are quickly used up in acute illnesses.
Food sources: Acerola cherries, rosehips, kakadu plum, guava, capsicums (red, yellow, green), kiwi fruit, pineapple, orange, cabbage, broccoli, papaya, cauliflower, beetroot, berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries).
🔸Zinc – antioxidant, helps modulate cytokine release, induces proliferation of CD8+ T cells, supports skin and mucous membrane integrity, central role in growth and differentiation of rapid turnover immune cells, required for T lymphocyte development and activation, and supports Th1 response.
Food sources: Oysters, beef, amaranth, cashews, tahini, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, shiitake mushrooms, peanuts, cashews, adzuki beans, tofu, flax seed, brazil nut, sunflower seeds,
🔸Selenium – antioxidant, support white blood cells – especially NK function, involved in T cell proliferation, involved in humoral immunity, cofactor for glutathione production, and important for hormonal balance.
Food sources: Brazil nuts, shiitake mushrooms, pinto beans, chia seeds, peanut butter, tahini, wild caught salmon & herring.
🔸Vitamin A – Supports structural and functional integrity of innate barriers (e.g. skin, & respiratory tract etc), important for normal function of innate immune cells including NK cells, macrophages and neutrophils, required for T and B lymphocytes function, and generation of antibody response to antigen, involved in the development and differentiation of Th1 and Th2 cells and supports Th2 anti-inflammatory response.
Food Sources: carrots, spinach, sweet potato, mango, cooked pumpkin, red capsicum, pawpaw, rockmelon, persimmon (all sources of Beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A as needed).
Two other key nutrients that are important; iron and B12. They are not necessarily the first thing to go to when you get hit with a cold or flu (unlike vitamin C and zinc), but they are important for optimising immune function, and can help with prevention or restoring an under-functioning immune response.
Iron – is involved in regulating cytokine production and activity, involved in neutrophil bacterial killing, essential for T-cell differentiation and growth, and a component of enzymes critical for the functioning of immune cells.
Food sources: Dark leafy greens, Amaranth, pumpkin seeds, beef, oysters, lentils, quinoa, molasses, firm tofu, spinach, herring, beans, red rice, chia seeds, lamb, turkey, asparagus, cashews, & pistachios
See my blog post ‘All about iron’ for tricks and tips on optimising your iron absorption!
Vitamin B12 – Involved in NK (natural killer) cell function, immune modulating for cellular immunity – especially with effects on cytotoxic cells (NK cells, CD8+ T-cells), facilitates T cell production and is involved in humoral and cellular immunity. Also, is a crucial vitamin for energy production, red blood cells, and nervous system!!
Food sources: Oysters, wild caught salmon, beef, lamb, eggs
Note: stomach acid is necessary for B12 absorption, so if you have low stomach acid, B12 deficiency is likely.
Other great ways to support immune function is with medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake & turkey tail.
There are also many great herbal medicines including Astragalus (only for prevention or chronic case – not acute), andrographis (for acute), echinacea, and ashwagandha.
Strong immunity requires anabolic metabolism!
Metabolism includes two processes; anabolism and catabolism.
🔸Anabolism = building up reactions (energy directed inwards)
🔸Catabolism = breaking down reactions (energy directed outwards)
Anabolism is when the body uses energy to transform simple compounds from nutrients into more complex substances that are then used for repairing, rebuilding, and rejuvenating cells, tissues, and organs. This process influences cell communication and proliferation, endocrine function, protein synthesis, brain function, behaviour, mood, and immunity! Anabolism takes place primarily at night whilst we are sleeping, as this is when energy can be diverted away from outward needs (day-to-day activities) and instead focused on inwards needs (healing & repair).
Catabolism occurs when the macronutrients we have consumed are broken down into simpler compounds to provide energy that makes action possible! From the cellular level all the way up to providing energy for physical movement. Catabolism primarily takes place during the day, when outward energy will take precedence over anabolic night-time restoration.
Of course both processes are important, and they are essentially different sides of the same coin which feed into each other. E.g. Catabolic metabolism provides the energy needed to create ATP, the fuel which is then used for anabolic processes. Issues only arise when these processes become imbalanced. Imbalances can occur by prolonged periods of stress resulting in a maladaptation to stressors, reduced sleep/rest & relaxation time, and poor nutrition.
The immune system uses a significant amount of ATP (energy), particularly at night time when anabolic processes are taking place. This process can burn between 70-80% of our daily kilojoule/calorie requirements. If anabolism and catabolism are imbalanced, there will insufficient ATP to fuel the body’s restorative activities, and immune function will suffer as a result.
We can help support this process by making time for rest and relaxation, supporting our stress response, optimising sleep, optimising nutrition, and herbal adaptogens