Optimize Your Immune System
Immune health is metabolic health By Christopher J. Stadtherr, MD
Immune health is intimately tied to overall health. The recent pandemic reminded us of this immutable fact by exploiting the concurrent pandemic of poor metabolic health. Here are several important metabolic factors:
Glucose Tolerance Individuals with hyperglycemia (elevated glucose) face a 7-fold higher risk of mortality from COVID-19 compared with individuals who have well-controlled glucose levels. There is an immediate negative effect on the immune system from consumption of carbohydrates, which increases blood glucose. Ingesting 100 grams of various forms of carbohydrates (glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice; not starch) caused a 40 percent decrease in the effectiveness of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) against bacteria.
Overfat It has long been known that obesity is associated with the following in regard to Influenza A:
• Increased severity of infections
• Prolonged transmission of virus
• Increased viral load in exhaled breath Obesity is associated with a 3-fold increase in severe COVID-19 disease, particularly with the presence of visceral obesity. In the setting of obesity, there is increased viral replication and prolonged viral shedding. Furthermore, obesity decreases the efficacy of vaccination. Thus, an overweight/obese population will suffer increased disease burden.
Physical Inactivity Exercise is associated with less frequent respiratory infections. Evidence from COVID-19 demonstrated that individuals with lower fitness levels were more likely to be hospitalized and that muscle strength and muscle mass predicted length of hospitalization.
Seed Oils Though polyunsaturated fatty acids are still promoted by the US Dietary Guidelines, the high omega-6 fatty acid content of seed oils is associated with decreased immune cell function. Vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased risk of infection, including respiratory infections, colds, influenza, and COVID-19. The seasonal surge in Influenza cases correlates well with reduced vitamin D levels in the winter months, indicating a decrease in natural defenses.
Sleep Not only does sleep deprivation have short-term negative effects on immune system functioning but also impacts overall health, including worsening insulin resistance. Strategies to Improve Immune Health
1. Reduce body fat, especially visceral fat.
2. Eat nutrient-dense, real foods.
3. Prioritize quality sleep.
4. Exercise regularly.
5. Ensure adequate vitamin D levels, preferably via exposure to natural sunlight.
These interventions collectively will help you to bolster your immune system to protect yourself against the inevitable exposure to pathogens. There’s not a single intervention that can protect you quite like a healthy immune system.