Immune Health Benefits
Protecting and supporting your immune system may seem like an overwhelming task. After all, it’s the biochemical foundation for keeping the body functioning at its highest level — not to mention warding off all kinds of seasonal bugs and other invaders we may not even be aware of.
The solution? Get educated. Stick to the basics. Immune health doesn’t have to be complicated. There are some fundamentals about how the body works that everyone should know when it comes to immunity. So let’s dig in.
Defending Against Year-Round Exposures
Let’s face it, some seasons are just harder on the immune system than others. In the spring and fall many of us have to defend against a rash of allergy triggers. Further complicating things, how you react to these environmental stressors can change as you age. In winter comes heightened conditions for seasonal bugs that ramp up in the cold season.
All year round there are other threats, depending on your exposures to sick people and germy surfaces in your place of work, schools, public places, and extra-exposed travel environments. So what’s a human to do to keep immune health in check and the body defending against inevitable threats?
Steps to Support Systemic Immune Health
There are plenty of immune health basics that you can work on from the inside out.
One of the best is stress reduction. It may sound a little far removed from the immune system, but the two are deeply intertwined. Science shows that ongoing stress dampens immune system function. So it’s critical to work on ways to reduce the stressors we all experience in modern-day living.
Some simple stress-reducing, immune-supporting practices include listening to music, meditating, walking in nature, or playing with a pet. In fact, you may do some of these already during a typical day. The key is to start prioritizing them for your immune health.
Likewise, some supplements such as CBD are showing promise in helping alleviate stress. Because stress promotes excessive sympathetic nervous system activity and hinders the healing parasympathetic response, which supports healthy immune function, you may want an extra feel-good ally in keeping the latter high all year round.
High-quality CBD extract can work to ease the body through feelings of fear triggered by seasonal health risks and support a healthy stress response. In a roundabout way, it keeps the immune system in check.
Targeted Nutrients for Immune Health
Another way to support systemic immune health — inside your body — is by taking more of the nutrients and compounds that can help counteract threats and support the immune system function at a cellular level. Here are a few basic vitamins and nutraceuticals you should keep on the shelf to power a robust immune response.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamin A: Promotes the migration of certain immune cells to the gut to protect it from invaders. Vitamin A also supports the integrity of mucosal barriers involved in the innate immune system, such as the mucosa of the respiratory tract and gut. Supporting barrier integrity helps the body defend itself from unwanted bugs.
Vitamin C: A water-soluble vitamin well known for the critical roles it plays in immunity. It stimulates the production and function of white blood cells, which are at the front lines of the immune defense against seasonal immune threats.
D3 & K2: Research indicates that vitamins D3 and K2 work synergistically to support immunity. Lung cells are rich in vitamin D receptors, indicating a high need for this vitamin in lung tissue. Indeed, vitamin D deficiency allows for an increased risk of common seasonal health disruptions, specifically in the respiratory tract. Research also suggests that K2, a fat-soluble vitamin, may beneficially modulate the immune system.
Zinc: The trace mineral zinc works to help fortify the body in the face of external threats. It works in three ways: through the production and function of immune cells and compounds at a foundational level; by fortifying immune defenses at mucosal barriers, for example in the back of the throat and GI tract; and by helping to uphold a “tight junction” and membrane integrity, including respiratory function in the lungs.
Phytonutrients Like Elderberry
Found in the shrub-like European Elder (Sambucus nigra), a flowering deciduous tree native to Europe, elderberries can also be found in Asia, North Africa, and North America. The tree blooms with large clusters of white flowers in summer, which develop into shiny, dark purple berries by early fall.
The berries, bark, and leaves of the plant have long been used in traditional herbal medicine as tonics to support immune health, respiratory function, and to combat seasonal immune challenges. Modern-day research validates the traditional uses of elderberry. Here are some of its applications:
- Promotion of cellular defenses against foreign invaders and help impeding their replication within the cell.
- Upper respiratory tract support in the face of these health challenges.
- Support for balanced inflammatory response to seasonal invaders, promoting productive immune function while dampening excessive, unproductive irritations.
- Growth of beneficial gut bacteria that may indirectly support immune health tied directly to gut integrity.
There are many other compounds worth exploring for your immune health, including glutathione, arrtemisnin, milk thistle, Cat's claw, curcumin, and propolis, among others. Explore all of these supplements and advanced concentrations in our Immunity section. Don’t forget to keep these natural powerhouses on hand — and these immune health basics in mind.