Nutritional modulation of immune function: an impact of Stressors, Nutrients, Microbiome and their Mechanism of Action on Immune Function.
A well-functioning immune function plays a critical role in our health.
All cells require adequate and appropriate nutrition to function optimally. This also includes the cells of the immune system. It’s important to note that no single food or nutrient works alone but rather in the concert in preventing illness.
We are exposed on daily basis to potentially harmful microbes of all sorts. Healthy immune system is constantly surveilling the status of our world. Whether internal to the gut, in our nasal passages or on our skin. And then swiftly responding what could be a threat. This helps to avoid chronic inflammation.
When our immune system is “activated” during periods of infections, our body’s demands for nutrients increase. This can quickly lead to nutrient insufficiencies or deficiencies.
It’s important to note, that chronic stress is fundamentally immuno-suppressive. And, this is where supplementation of key immune nutrients during times of challenge might be helpful in order to avoid a nutrient gap which may impair body’s ability to counter pathogens appropriately. Impaired immune function may lead to immune system overwhelm and out of control inflammation.
When we are speaking in the notion of stress, the body doesn’t differentiate emotional stress from the physiological stress. Therefore, any physiological stress that is chronic can suppress immune system. This can create a vicious cycle where physiological stress may turn into an emotional stress and visa versa, unless timely addressed.
What are the sources of the physiological stress that can suppress our immune function?
- Toxins (smoke, excessive alcohol, heavy metals) deplete nutrients and increase stress hormones that can impair the normal activity of immune cells
- Poor or processed food doesn’t provide adequate nutrition which can impair the production and activation of immune cells
- Maldigestion and/malabsorption of the nutrients in the gut leads to nutrient insufficiencies or deficiencies to support immune function
- Gut microbial imbalances and other infections overwhelm the immune system
- Aging – as we age our body’s functions may decline which may lead to micronutrient deficiencies which may worsen a declining immune system.
- Blood sugar dysregulation and/or excess weight – the research shows that elevation in glucose provides ideal conditions for the Covid-19 virus to evade and weaken immune defense system and increase inflammatory response. As a result this overwhelms already weak innate immune system. This further triggers systemic infections, out of control inflammation, cell damage and a cytokine storm and thrombotic events.
- Autoimmune and immunodeficiency disorders contribute to immune dysregulation. Immune dysregulation can contribute to autoimmune activation, so it can end up being a vicious cycle, unless addressed.
- Insomnia or poor sleep increases stress hormone like cortisol which competes with the melatonin. Melatonin production occurs in a dark environment when we are asleep. The research shows that melatonin exhibits its powerful anti-oxidant properties via its immunomodulatory role. So, sleep is fundamentally critical to for optimal health and to repel any disease dynamic.
What else can help to optimize our immune function?
Each step of the body’s immune action depends on the adequate levels of many micronutrients.
Eating a variety of vegetables, leafy greens and fruits are essential for maintaining healthy, resilient and diverse microbiome. These foods are pre-biotics that help to feed our microbial friends, so they can thrive and reduce pathogens. They do so by literally creating a competition in the gut.
Microbial friends in the gut help to prime our immune system. The microbiome has a cross talk with the immune system and visa versa. The research shows that it is essential in educating, training and shaping our innate and adaptive immunity. And, in turn, the immune system shapes the microbiome.
Research shows, that: “some patients with COVID-19 exhibited intestinal microbial dysbiosis characterized by low numbers of different probiotic species such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. This is could be an indicator of their weak immunity, and therefore, it has been suggested that these patients require nutritional support and prebiotic or probiotic supplementation to re-normalize the intestinal flora balance and decrease the risk of infection”.
Is the diet sufficient in supporting our immune system or should I also take supplements?
Growing evidence suggests that increased intake of vitamin A, C, D, E, Omega 3 fats above currently recommended levels may help optimize immune functions including improving defense function and thus resistance to infection, while maintaining tolerance. Inadequate nutrient intakes are pervasive in the US population.
Research shows that 45% of the U.S. population has a prevalence of inadequacy for vitamin A, 46% for vitamin C, 95% for vitamin D, 84% for vitamin E, and 15% for zinc. Dietary supplements can help address nutrient inadequacy for these immune-support nutrients. Even those who eat whole, natural foods increasingly are struggling with nutrient sufficiency. We are losing nutrition in our food due to topsoil erosion and modern agricultural practices. There are other reasons as to why people can struggle with nutrient insufficiencies. This can lead to weak immune function and other dysfunctions in the body. Read more here.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I work with vast variety of conditions. And, what my clients have often in common is dysregulated immune function. This dynamic maybe one of the reasons as to why people may develop symptoms (e.g. allergies, asthma), skin problems (e.g. eczema, dermatitis, rosacea) and even autoimmune activation (e.g. vitiligo, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, MS).
Therefore, an important strategy to remain healthy is to support your immune system with the right elements:
Immune cells absorb and concentrate vitamin C. Immune cell activity is found to be enhanced by vitamin C. Besides immune support, vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis in the body, which enhances skin, hair and nail health – which can become dry and brittle in cold temperatures and low humidity. Bioflavonoids in this formula areassociated with healthy cardiovascular status, the body’s normal response to inflammation, and positive microbial balance.
Supplement your body’s needs of vitamin D as our natural synthesis goes down as the days shorten. Optimal levels of vitamin D support normal cell differentiation, cardiovascular health, normal immune function, healthy mood, normal fetal development, neuronal growth and neurodevelopment, healthy glucose metabolism, musculoskeletal comfort, periodontal health, and normal intestinal immune responses.
Essential Zinc —an Albion® TRAACS amino acid chelate—is a high-potency source of zinc formulated for enhanced absorption. Zinc supplementation helps to support immune function and normal repsonse to inlammation as well to decrease oxidative stress.
Vitamin A plays an integral part in an innate immunity function. Vitamin A defency can lead to a decreased resistance to pathogens. Vitamin A promotes healthy skin and mucous membrane by stimulating epidermal turnover and restore epithelial structure. Thus promoting a healthy and radiant skin from inside out.
Omega 3 fats have immunemodulating effect via its anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting pro-inflammatory mediators.
Probiotics not only enhance the bioavailability of nutrients, but they are critical in regulating the bacterial ecosystem and modulate immune cells. Research shows, that probiotics could be a potential blocker to the ACE receptor that act as a gateway for Covid-19 to attack GI cells.
IgY Immunoglubulins in Immune 26 decrease systemic inflammation by reducing inflammation in the gut. IgY is thought to work by binding to the bacteria or viruses, leading to their elimination through the gut and prevention of bacterial replication or virus spread. Per this study, IgY is now viewed as a potential therapeutical application for passive immunization against Covid-19.
Sleep is fundamentally essential for supporting optimal immune health and resilient health. Magnesium is known to benefit the body in ways that counter stress, promote restful sleep, and support a healthy mood. Besides supporting restful sleep, research shows that magnesium plays an important role in synthesizing and releasing immune cells. An insufficiency of magnesium may lead to poor sleep, recurrent bacterial and fungal infections.
As a certified functional medicine practitioner, I help people to overcome their dysfunctions and disease dynamics by addressing and reversing the roots-causes of their imbalances and disease dynamics.
Functional Medicine services are designed for educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health-related advice from your healthcare professional.
I am not acting in the capacity of a doctor, licensed dietitian-nutritionist, therapist, or psychologist and will not diagnose, treat or cure any disease, condition or other physical or mental ailment of the human body.
Rather I serve as a mentor and guide who helps a client to reach her/his own health and wellness goals through implementing incremental, positive, healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes that help the client to live and thrive using simple methods.
The contents of this blog/website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Statements made in this blog and on the website regarding dietary supplements, or products sold through this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any dietary supplements.