Top Secrets to Immunity

What is immunity? In these current times of a worldwide pandemic, this word has more relevance than ever before. Immunity is your body’s ability to fight off illness. Your immune system consists of a complex collection of cells, processes, and chemicals that constantly defends your body against invading pathogens, including viruses, toxins, and bacteria[1][2].

By practicing the following techniques – you will learn to boost your immunity not only to physical ailments that plague the body, but also boost your ability to withstand mental stress and energy depletion.

Variety of berries in heart shaped bowl

1. You are what you eat

Let’s start with the easiest technique – which is to eat good food! By good, I mean foods that taste good, and is good for you.

Our bodies are all unique. That means we require different nutritional needs. This is why some of us crave sugar, while others crave salt. We often get cravings for foods that our body needs. Although the cravings may come in the form of pizza or chocolate, your body is actually craving sugar and fats. Below is an immunity-boosting cheat sheet to your cravings!

Best immunity boosting foods for your body:

Sugar cravings
Fruits
  • Contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, all of which may lower your susceptibility to illness.
    Crunchy cravings
    Vegetables
    • Antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body at high levels[3].
      Fat cravings
      Nuts & Seeds
      • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in walnuts and flaxseed, fight inflammation [4]. Although low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system[5].
        Savory cravings
        Olive oil
        • Highly anti-inflammatory and is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses[6][7].

              Summary: Listening to your body’s cravings and eating immunity-boosting foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds is a great way to fight off illness.

              2. Sleep now and forever hold your peace

              Now that we know what to eat, let’s talk about sleep. Sleep is great isn’t it? Not only is it good for our body, but more importantly, it is great for our mind. Sleep helps us bolster our mental immunity to stress.

              Lack of sleep is linked to a number of unfavorable health consequences including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Some psychiatric conditions can cause sleep problems, and sleep disturbances can also exacerbate the symptoms of many mental conditions including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

              If you’re not getting more than five hours of sleep a night, your immune system can become depressed, just like you. This leaves you open to colds, flu, and infection. Inadequate or poor-quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness. In a study in 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night[8].

               In order to get more and better quality sleep, try these following tips:

              • Limit screen time for an hour before bed - as the blue light emitted from your phone, TV, and computer may disrupt your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle[9].
              • Sleep in a completely dark room or using a sleep mask, going to bed at the same time every night, and exercising regularly.
              • Meditate in bed for 20 minutes – this will slow down your breathing and calm your mind before sleep.

              Summary: Sleep is your body’s natural immune booster. It is important to have the right amount of sleep and have a consistent sleep routine. Lack of sleep has been linked to multiple unfavorable health consequences.

              3. Give your immune system an upgrade

              Sometimes life gets in the way of healthy habits. Often times we pick up fast food because, well, it’s fast. We don’t get enough sleep because of work deadlines and TikTok. The good news is, you can offset some bad habits with supplements.

              Research shows that the following supplements may enhance the body's immune response:

              Vitamin C

              This vitamin 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[10][11].

              NMN

              (Nicotinamide Mononucleotide) is a derivative of vitamin B3 and is a compound found in our bodies and is present in various food sources such as edamame, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, avocados, and tomatoes. NMN is a precursor and potent NAD+ booster. NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) is an essential compound that is necessary for the production of energy in the body and the regulation of vital cellular processes. 

              • NAD+ reduces inflammation and is used for immune response.
              • NAD+ mediates immune activation[12].
              • Improve Sleep Quality - Circadian rhythm is regulated by NAD+ and helps maintain homeostasis and quality sleep[13].

                Resveratrol

                A natural antioxidant that has been discovered to promote longevity and have anti-aging benefits. Resveratrol is present in sources such as red wine, grapes, and berries. Resveratrol is known to scavenge oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and help support a strong immune system[14].

                • Targets multiple inflammatory components and exerts immune-regulatory effects on immune cells.
                • Regulates immunity by intervening with immune cell regulation, gene expression, and inflammation.
                • Support a healthy respiratory system[15].

                  Medicinal Mushrooms

                  Medicinal mushrooms have been used since ancient times to prevent and treat infection and disease. Many types of medicinal mushrooms have been studied for their immune-boosting potential. Over 270 recognized species of medicinal mushrooms are known to have immune-enhancing properties[16].

                  • Cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, shitake, reishi, and turkey tail are all types that have been shown to benefit immune health[17].
                  • Some research demonstrates that supplementing with specific types of medicinal mushrooms may enhance immune health in several ways, as well as reduce symptoms of certain conditions, including asthma and lung infections. In a randomized, 8-week study in 79 adults, supplementing with 1.7 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[18].
                  • Turkey tail is another medicinal mushroom that has powerful effects on immune health. Research in humans indicates that turkey tail may enhance immune response, especially in people with certain types of cancer[19][20]. 

                      Vitamin D

                      A fat-soluble vitamin that plays a number of critical roles in your body. This nutrient is especially important for immune system health. It has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defenses[21].

                      • Necessary for the proper functioning of your immune system, which is your body’s first line of defense against infection and disease.
                      • Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased susceptibility to infection, disease, and immune-related disorders[22].
                      • Exposure to sunlight is how your body naturally produces vitamin D. This helps ward off an array of bad things like depression, heart disease, and certain cancers. It’s even good for people with autoimmune disorders.

                      Summary: Research has shown that adding immune-boosting supplements such as Vitamin C, NMN, Resveratrol, Medicinal Mushrooms, and Vitamin D can significantly bolster the body’s immune system.

                      4. Don’t worry, be happy

                      Let’s be honest, some of us wear stress like it’s a badge of honor. Society accepts stress as “part of the job.” However, worry and stress can affect your immune system, decreasing its effectiveness, making you susceptible to viruses and illnesses. During stress, a series of events release cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones from the adrenal gland. Long-term stress promotes inflammation, as well as imbalances in immune cell function[23][24].

                      Therefore, one of the best things we can do for our bodies as well as our minds is to stop stressing out so hard!

                      Activities that may help you manage your stress include:

                      • meditation
                      • exercise
                      • journaling
                      • yoga

                      Whenever I feel the worry and dread start to creep into my mind and take over my thoughts, I am reminded of this lesson from a college psych class:

                      “Thinking about the past depresses us and thinking about the future makes us anxious – so the best way to combat worry and stress is to be present, as much as you can.”

                      Summary: Stress has a negative impact on the immune system. It is important to reduce stress and stay mindful and relaxed to keep the immune system functioning at optimal levels. 

                      Citations:

                      1. Nicholson, L. B. (2016). The immune system. Essays in Biochemistry, 60(3), 275–301. https://doi.org/10.1042/ebc20160017
                      2. Marshall, J. S., Warrington, R., Watson, W., & Kim, H. L. (2018). An introduction to immunology and immunopathology. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, 14(S2). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13223-018-0278-1
                      3. Serafini, M., & Peluso, I. (2017). Functional Foods for Health: The Interrelated Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices and Cocoa in Humans. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(44), 6701–6715. https://doi.org/10.2174/1381612823666161123094235
                      4. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Epel, E. S., Belury, M. A., Andridge, R., Lin, J., Glaser, R., … Blackburn, E. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids, oxidative stress, and leukocyte telomere length: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 28, 16–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2012.09.004
                      5. Dhabhar, F. S. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunologic Research, 58(2-3), 193–210. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0
                      6. Piroddi, M., Albini, A., Fabiani, R., Giovannelli, L., Luceri, C., Natella, F., … Galli, F. (2016). Nutrigenomics of extra-virgin olive oil: A review. BioFactors, 43(1), 17–41. https://doi.org/10.1002/biof.1318
                      7. Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Doyle, W. J., Miller, G. E., Frank, E., Rabin, B. S., & Turner, R. B. (2012). Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(16), 5995–5999. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1118355109
                      8. Prather, A. A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep, 38(9), 1353–1359. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4968
                      9. Nagai, N., Ayaki, M., Yanagawa, T., Hattori, A., Negishi, K., Mori, T., … Tsubota, K. (2019). Suppression of Blue Light at Night Ameliorates Metabolic Abnormalities by Controlling Circadian Rhythms. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 60(12), 3786. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.19-27195
                      10. Carr, A., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients, 9(11), 1211. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9111211
                      11. Ekert, P. G., & Vaux, D. L. (1997). Apoptosis and the immune system. British Medical Bulletin, 53(3), 591–603. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a011632
                      12. Blanco-Melo, D., Nilsson-Payant, B. E., Liu, W.-C., Møller, R., Panis, M., Sachs, D., … Tenoever, B. R. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 launches a unique transcriptional signature from in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo systems. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.24.004655
                      13. Fehr, A. R., Singh, S. A., Kerr, C. M., Mukai, S., Higashi, H., & Aikawa, M. (2020). The impact of PARPs and ADP-ribosylation on inflammation and host–pathogen interactions. Genes & Development, 34(5-6), 341–359. https://doi.org/10.1101/gad.334425.119
                      14. Coutinho, D. D. S., Pacheco, M., Frozza, R., & Bernardi, A. (2018). Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Resveratrol: Mechanistic Insights. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(6), 1812. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19061812
                      15. Giudice, M. M. D., Maiello, N., Capristo, C., Alterio, E., Capasso, M., Perrone, L., & Ciprandi, G. (2014). Resveratrol plus carboxymethyl-β-glucan reduces nasal symptoms in children with pollen-induced allergic rhinitis. Current Medical Research and Opinion, 30(10), 1931–1935. https://doi.org/10.1185/03007995.2014.938731
                      16. Stamets, P. (2012). Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail Mushrooms) and the Treatment of Breast Cancer. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 1(5), 20–20. https://doi.org/10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.5.007
                      17. Barros, A. B., Ferrão, J., & Fernandes, T. (2016). A safety assessment ofCoriolus versicolorbiomass as a food supplement. Food & Nutrition Research, 60(1), 29953. https://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.29953
                      18. Jung, S.-J., Jung, E.-S., Choi, E.-K., Sin, H.-S., Ha, K.-C., & Chae, S.-W. (2019). Immunomodulatory effects of a mycelium extract of Cordyceps (Paecilomyces hepiali; CBG-CS-2): a randomized and double-blind clinical trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-019-2483-y
                      19. Ng, T. (1998). A review of research on the protein-bound polysaccharide (polysaccharopeptide, PSP) from the mushroom Coriolus versicolor (basidiomycetes: Polyporaceae). General Pharmacology: The Vascular System, 30(1), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0306-3623(97)00076-1
                      20. Blagodatski, A., Yatsunskaya, M., Mikhailova, V., Tiasto, V., Kagansky, A., & Katanaev, V. L. (2018). Medicinal mushrooms as an attractive new source of natural compounds for future cancer therapy. Oncotarget, 9(49), 29259–29274. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25660
                      21. Bivona, G., Agnello, L., & Ciaccio, M. (2018). The immunological implication of the new vitamin D metabolism. Central European Journal of Immunology, 43(3), 331–334. https://doi.org/10.5114/ceji.2018.80053
                      22. Aranow, C. (2011). Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 59(6), 881–886. https://doi.org/10.2310/jim.0b013e31821b8755
                      23. Dhabhar, F. S. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunologic Research, 58(2-3), 193–210. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0
                      24. Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Doyle, W. J., Miller, G. E., Frank, E., Rabin, B. S., & Turner, R. B. (2012). Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(16), 5995–5999. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1118355109