Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It means to bounce back after a rough go, and when it comes to immunity- resiliency is the key to a functioning immune system throughout the lifespan.
The immune system is inherently resilient. Under normal conditions it can effortlessly adapt to an influx of pathogens and challenges by mounting appropriate responses. However, dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors can cause immune dysfunction.
When we think of immunity, we often think of preventing colds or flus. This is part of it, but immunity encompasses a wider range of functions that set the stage of the trajectory of an individual’s health or lack of throughout the lifespan.
In addition to increasing susceptibility to the common cold and flu, a suppressed immune system in the long term creates the perfect storm for chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, hypothyroid and digestive pathologies to develop.
Is my Immune System Resilient?
We come into contact and fight off thousands of pathogens a day. When the immune system has the building blocks to make healthy, effective immune cells- these pathogens don’t tax the immune system. Instead they keep it active and on guard, allowing various components of the immune system to detect abnormalities such as cancer cell growth.
A resilient immune response takes care of harmful organisms in a manner that leaves the body relatively unaffected, and actually makes it stronger. It is also able to distinguish between harmful and benign molecules.
The largest indicator that the immune system has lost resiliency is a heightened inflammatory response. Inflammation is immune-mediated, and a resilient, healthy immune system prompts acute inflammation when needed and then turns it off when it is no longer needed.
When inflammation becomes chronic, the ability to regulate inflammation is lost. When we see chronic inflammation, we know that an environment conducive to disease is created and the immune system is in trouble.
Food sensitives, frequent colds, reoccurring infections such as UTI’s and autoimmune conditions are also clues that the homeostatic balance (AKA resilience) of the immune system is low.
Nutritional Support for Resilient Immunity
Nutrition plays a key role in the state of the immune system. It can either support a healthy immune response or contribute to a suppressed/ non-resilient immune system.
- Increase Vegetable Intake
Vegetables have multiple benefits on the immune system and increasing intake is the single best course of action to promote a resilient immune system.
The fiber in vegetables contributes to a functioning microbiome, which has a profound relationship with the immune system
In addition to fiber, vegetables also provide phytochemicals and essential vitamins and minerals which are used to make immune cells and help them preform their functions in an effective manner. Phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals are naturally anti-inflammatory and therefore, help to restore resiliency to immune function!
There are many nutrients that contribute to immune function- one main one is zinc. Zinc is a trace nutrient with a global nutrient deficiency of 31%. Surprisingly. research shows that those in developed countries have a concerning incidence of deficiency.
The roles zinc plays in immune function are vast. Among them, zinc is needed to synthesize various immune cells. Studies show that suboptimal levels of zinc contribute to a weaker-cell mediated immune response.
Perhaps more importantly, zinc helps control the homeostatic balance of the immune system via regulation of specific anti-inflammatory pathways. It is able to mediate the inflammatory response, and stop the immune response from spiraling out of control.
- Vitamin C
Just as we think of immune health in relation to colds and flus, we often put Vitamin C in the same box. In addition to prevention and decreasing the symptoms of colds and flu, Vitamin C is immune-protective and saturated plasma levels have been correlated with a decreased incidence of chronic disease. High dose Vitamin C is also used as a corrective therapy for many conditions. Why? Let’s look at the research:
- Immune cells have 50x the concentration of Vitamin C than other cells
- Vitamin C can directly attack viruses, allowing the immune system to be on alert for abnormalities
- Vitamin C is need for the body to make immune cells
- Vitamin C has about 18 other specific implications in the immune system.
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Author: Lisa Kowalyk, CNP, B.Kin (hons)