The truth about the immune system, it’s function and the benefits of supplements

Explaining the immune system

Your immune system is made up of a complex collection of cells, organs, processes, and chemicals that need to function in harmony to defend your body against infection daily. These infections can come from various invading pathogens, including viruses, toxins, and bacteria.

While genetics do play a role when it comes to innate immunity, we know that the strength of your adaptive immune system is largely determined by factors that are related to lifestyle. The infections you are exposed to throughout your lifetime, as well as factors like stress, sleep, diet and exercise all play a role in the strength of your immune response.

You can give your immune system the best chance of doing its job against illness by taking care of yourself in real, meaningful ways.

Manage stress levels 

This really is the first and foremost factor as the modern lifestyle sees increased stress levels, but we know that stress also can make you more susceptible to respiratory illness. Research has shown that your body does a far more effective job at fighting off illness and healing wounds when it’s not under stress. Managing stress with techniques like meditation and breathing exercises are excellent ways to maintain a strong immune system.

Good sleep habits

In one study it was found that people who regularly slept less than six hours a night — were 4.2 times more likely to catch the cold compared with those who got more than seven hours of sleep. This increased even more when a person slept less than five hours a night.

Good sleep habits are essential for a strong immune system. A regular routine of at least 6 hours per night, avoiding screens and eating before bedtime are some basic tips to keep in mind.

Nutrition

The key to keeping your immune system healthy day in and day out and preventing infection and illness is a healthy, nutrient rich diet. Research tells us that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other substances can improve immune response and potentially protect against illness.

Many nutrients are essential for good health and while it’s possible to get most of them from a balanced diet, the typical Western diet is low in several very important nutrients. Deficiencies in these essential nutrients are unfortunately very common and this is why supplements can be so important.

Vitamins and nutrients that support the immune system

Vitamin D is essential to the health and functioning of your immune system. It travels through your bloodstream and into all cells, telling them to turn genes on or off. Almost every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D.

Vitamin D is produced from cholesterol in your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. Thus, people who live far from the equator are likely to be deficient unless their dietary intake is adequate or they supplement with vitamin D. It’s estimated that about 42% of people may be deficient in this vitamin. Interestingly, older adults and people with dark skin are far more prone to Vitamin D deficiency since their skin produces less vitamin D in response to sunlight.

Low vitamin D levels may negatively affect immune function in that your body needs adequate vitamin D to produce the antimicrobial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria.  It also decreases inflammation, which helps to promote immune response. Recent studies show that supplementing with vitamin D may protect against respiratory tract infections, including the flu and asthma.

You can have your vitamin D level checked with a blood test and you can then add fatty fish, such as salmon, milk or foods fortified with vitamin D to your diet, or see if you may need to take a supplement.

Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements available to protect against infection due to its important role in immune health. It supports the function of various immune cells and enhances their ability to protect against infection. It’s also necessary for cellular death, which helps keep your immune system healthy by clearing out old cells and replacing them with new ones.

Vitamin C also functions as a powerful antioxidant, protecting against damage induced by oxidative stress, which can negatively affect immune health and is linked to numerous diseases.

Supplementing your diet with vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold.

B complex vitamins. B vitamins, including B12 and B6, are important for healthy immune response. Many adults however are deficient in these important vitamins, which has have an adverse effect on the healthy functioning of the immune system.

Vitamin B12 in particular is essential for blood formation, as well as brain and nerve function. Every cell in your body needs B12 to function normally, but you can only get it from food or supplements. People who do not eat animal products (up to 90% of vegetarians) may be deficient in vitamin B12 as it is mainly found in animal sources. More than 20% of older adults may also be deficient in this vitamin since absorption decreases with age.

Medicinal mushrooms – our personal favourite

Medicinal mushrooms have been for thousands of years to prevent and treat infection and disease. Many types of medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their potential to support the immune system. Over 270 recognized species of medicinal mushrooms are known to have immune-enhancing properties. These include Cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail.

Some research demonstrates that supplementing with specific types of medicinal mushrooms may enhance immune health in several ways and reduce symptoms of certain conditions, including asthma and lung infections.

In one example, a randomized, 8-week study in 79 adults, supplementing with 1.68 grams of cordyceps mycelium culture extract led to a significant 38% increase in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell that protects against infection. More information from this trusted source.

Turkey tail is another medicinal mushroom that may enhance immune response and many other medicinal mushrooms have been studied for the same beneficial effects.

Make the best choices for your immunity

There are many supplement options available that may help improve immune health. The ones mentioned above are just some of the substances that have been researched for their immune-enhancing potential. These are complementary to immune health and can never be a replacement for living a healthy lifestyle.

We at Sfera Bio nutrition take the utmost care to provide pure, innovatively formulated supplements and vitamins. We also strongly believe in a holistic approach which includes living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, nurturing your body, mind and soul.

For more information, feel free to contact Sfera Bio Nutrition by emailing technical@sfera-nutrition.co.za or read more about our products and philosophy on www.sfera-nutrition.co.za.

Sources

  1. Immune system news – Science Daily https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/immune_system/
  2. COVID-19: The immune system can fight back – Science Daily https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317103815.htm
  1. Can supplements help boost your immune system? – Harvard Health https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-supplements-help-boost-your-immune-system
  1. Vitamin D: Effect on Haematopoiesis and Immune System and Clinical Applications – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164750/
  1. Can supplements fight Coronavirus (COVID-19)? 15 Immune Boosters – Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/immune-boosting-supplements
  1. Can I boost my immune system? – The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/well/live/can-i-boost-my-immune-system.html
  1. 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common – Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-common-nutrient-deficiencies#section2
  1. Immunomodulatory effects of a mycelium extract of Cordyceps (Paecilomyces hepiali; CBG-CS-2): a randomized and double-blind clinical trial – NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6441223/