8 Strategies to Boost Your Immune System in a Pandemic
We are in unprecedented times. The global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, coupled with the onset of seasonal cold and flu, has created the perfect storm. It is more important than ever to maximize efforts to boost your immune system and stay healthy. Protecting your immune system is paramount in fighting off and managing infections. You can take specific measures for yourself and your family to ensure you stay healthy throughout this season.
Getting adequate sleep is one of the most critical self-care measures you can take to boost your natural immune system. During sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines. When your system is subjected to infection, inflammation, or stress, increased cytokine circulation is necessary. Cytokines relay the message to your immune system that it needs to attack a pathogen.
Individuals who do not get enough sleep are more likely to become ill after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how quickly you recover if you do become ill.
A goal of seven to eight hours of sleep each night will ensure your immune system continues to function optimally. Measures you can take to assist in improving sleep are as follows:
- Follow sleep hygiene practices. Establish bedtime habits that inform your body that it is time for sleep.
- Avoid screen time before bed.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or tai chi
Regular physical activity will improve your overall health and boost your immune system. Exercise causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells (WBC) that fight infection. Exercise causes the antibodies and WBCs to circulate more rapidly than at rest.
Exercise results in a rise in body temperature, which can prevent the growth of bacteria and viruses. This temperature rise is similar to a fever – when your body raises its temperature to fight off a foreign invader.
Lung expansion during exercise aids in removing bacteria and viruses from the lungs and airways. Increasing lung expansion and airflow will decrease the opportunity for infection from colds and flu.
A good goal is to aim for 150 minutes of exercise spread throughout the week. If you are not currently active, begin with gentle forms of exercise such as walking and gradually intensify your efforts.
Hormone Balancing Therapy
Optimally balanced hormones provide many health benefits, one of which is an improved immune system function. Both men and women can increase their immune system function with hormone therapy.
Women’s immune systems are generally more robust and have a vigorous reaction to infections until menopause. As estrogen levels fall during menopause, the female immune system weakens. Specific types of white blood cells that fight infection (CD4/CD8 and natural killer (NK) cells) become decreased. This, coupled with an increase in circulating inflammatory cytokines such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), results in increased widespread inflammation across the body. The overall immune response is weakened as a result of these changes. When estrogen is supplemented, researchers find an increase in the infection-fighting cells and a return to a more robust immune response.
Both men and women require adequate levels of testosterone for an adequately functioning immune system. Testosterone, like estrogen, affects the immune system’s response to pathogens. The “cytokine storm” that results in overwhelming lung inflammation from certain respiratory viruses (COVID-19 included) is worsened in individuals with a sub-optimal testosterone level. While cytokines are necessary to fight infection, in a cytokine storm, the immune system spirals out of control in response to an infection. Those with adequate testosterone do not progress to cytokine storm as easily and survive infections more readily than their counterparts with a low testosterone level.
To determine if you can benefit from hormone supplementation or have your hormone levels evaluated, contact Vitality Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine for more information.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that create proteins. These chains are used throughout the body to signal and message cells to perform certain activities. Peptides are naturally found and produced in the lymph system and the thymus, active in fighting off illness. Supplementation of peptides prompts your immune system to fight off attacking viruses and bacteria.
In addition to signaling the effects of infection-fighting cells, peptides also affect sleep. As discussed previously, rest has an essential role in maintaining the immune system. Adding peptide therapy will benefit the regulation of several body processes that can improve immune status.
Zinc is essential to an optimally functioning immune system. Zinc deficiency results in alterations in many of the cells and processes responsible for immune system function. Neutrophils, NK cells, macrophages, phagocytosis, cytokine production, T and B cells all suffer negatively in the absence of adequate zinc. Individuals that are zinc-deficient show increased susceptibility to illness from pathogens.
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a significant role in immune system support. Several immune cells – B cells, T cells, and antigen-presenting cells – all contain Vitamin D receptors. A deficiency in Vitamin D results in increased susceptibility to infection and increased autoimmunity response. Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in the body’s fat reserves. It is possible to take too much Vitamin D, and levels should be measured periodically through blood testing. Testing will also determine the optimal dose for individualized outcomes.
Melatonin has long been supported as a supplement to improve sleep. As we know, adequate sleep is essential in supporting the immune system; however, melatonin has additional effects on the immune system. Melatonin enhances both innate and cellular immunity. It stimulates the process of many cells responsible for the immune response (granulocytes, macrophages, NK cells). Additionally, T-helper cells show increased production with melatonin supplementation.
The hormones produced in the adrenal glands play an essential role in regulating the immune system. Cortisol, in particular, is critical to managing inflammation triggered by infection onslaught. The delicate balance of the amount of cortisol produced can be affected by many things. Cortisol levels that are either too high or too low will impact the efficacy of the immune system. Maintaining the support of your adrenal glands will ensure this balance remains effective.
Managing stressors is paramount to maintaining healthy adrenal function. Practices to reduce stress, meditation, and gentle exercise are all factors to improve adrenal function. Additionally, dietary changes and addressing nutrient deficiencies may be necessary to return the adrenals to a healthy state.
For individuals who have suffered chronic stress long term and are affected by adrenal fatigue, a more intensive approach to returning adrenal function to normal is necessary. Treatment of adrenal fatigue is a complex process best taken in partnership with a healthcare provider to guide the process. If you feel you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, please contact us at Vitality Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine to discuss treatment options.
Take Control of Your Health and Immune System
When everything seems more challenging than expected and uncertain, knowing that you have control and can take specific steps to enhance your health and immunity is powerful. Integrating the above therapies and practices into your lifestyle will benefit your overall health and improve your immune system.