Knowing When Our Immune System Needs a BoostNov 30, 2021 10:00AM ● By Veena Verma-Dzik
Let’s run through a quick checklist:
• Are you exhausted or feeling run down during the day?
• Are you under excess stress?
• Your diet is not the greatest, and you’re an “on the run” eater?
• Not able to get daily physical activity and mental health time in?
• Do you find yourself frequently getting colds or other illnesses?
• Do you suffer from allergies?
• Are you suffering from any gastrointestinal conditions?
• Do you have skin issues or are slow to heal?
Answering “yes” to any of these may mean there is something to think about when it comes to getting our health in order.
Any time we are under stress, it compromises our immune system. Cortisol levels increase, causing more inflammation and decreasing those much needed white blood cells, key players in the immune system. This also dominoes into our GI tract where inflammation increases, the microbiome gets thrown off, digestion becomes compromised, leaky gut ensues and, thus, our immune system takes a hit. When people have compromised digestion or gastrointestinal illnesses, it is only natural for nutrient absorption to become depleted, creating nutrient deficiencies that impair our body’s ability to perform our best and for our immune system to function optimally.
The increase in inflammation impacts many aspects of our health, leading to even bigger problems. Linked to leaky gut are chronic illnesses, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. If not managed properly, they can wreak havoc on the immune system.
Let’s not forget that stress leads to poor sleep and bad coping habits—like poor eating, smoking and drinking, which have no benefit to the immune system at all. Along with the negative impact on the immune system, these habits can dampen the glow in our skin and slow down our body’s ability to heal. The ill-effects go on and on.
Increasing evidence shows that when the immune system becomes dysfunctional, there is an increase in chemical messengers that regulate the immune response, causing inflammation that affects both the central and peripheral nervous systems, leading to fatigue. Fatigue can also be caused by nutrient deficiencies, most commonly iron and B vitamins, or underlying illnesses.
Studies show that exercise augments immuno-surveillance by increasing key players of the immune system that fight off pathogens, including natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells. Not only does exercise benefit our physical health, but our mental health, as well. Numerous studies demonstrate how exercise is highly beneficial in alleviating anxiety and depression. Exercise helps balance several neurotransmitters linked to anxiety and depression such as serotonin and norepinephrine. It increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor and exerts neuroprotective effects on the brain.
Psychoneuroimmunology studies show that taking care of our mental health is extremely important in managing stress and has a profound impact on our immune system. Mind-body exercise interventions, such as meditation and yoga, have shown to enhance the immune system by improving CD4 T-cell counts immediately after and long-term.
To recap, immune system busters include: stress; poor sleep; inadequate nutrition; lack of exercise; not making time for mental health; chronic illnesses, including allergies and diabetes; autoimmune disease; and gastrointestinal disorders.
To boost the immune system, try these strategies:
• Eat nutritiously, with food high in antioxidants
• Get quality sleep
• Manage how stress is perceived and handled
• Make time for daily physical and mental wellness activities
• Identify and address any and all health issues, both chronic and acute
• Get nutrient status assessed and take necessary supplements to replenish nutrient stores
In terms of additional immune support, try mushrooms. There are countless studies supporting the immune modulating benefits of mushrooms, and they are even used as an adjunctive therapy for viruses and bacteria. Above all, we must take care of ourselves.
Dr. Veena Verma-Dzik, ND, IAMA practices at 105 Danbury Rd, in Ridgefield. Connect at 203-431-9726, InsightCounselingLLC.com or DoctorVeena.com. See ad, page 9.
Dr. Verma specializes in treating patients with Lyme disease and other vector-borne infections, women’s health, ADD/ADHD, GI conditions, MTHFR, mood imbalances, allergies, fatigue and hor... Read More »
Liz Jorgensen has 30 year’s experience with adolescent and adult psychotherapy and counseling. She is a nationally recognized expert in counseling, particularly in engaging resistant tee... Read More »