How to Strengthen Immunity

November 14, 2023

by Bushra Farha Diba, R.H.N. (

We encounter bacteria and viruses daily, exposing ourselves to potential illnesses during routine activities such as shopping, public restroom use, and handshakes. Immunity, in turn, refers to the body’s ability to safeguard itself from infectious diseases. The immune response recognizes and defends against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign things harmful to the body. Raised temperature levels can eliminate some microorganisms; fever also begins the body’s repair mechanisms. By containing antibodies against a given disease, individuals can develop an immunity to it. The immune system produces antibodies to neutralize or eliminate toxins or pathogen-carrying organisms. The inflammatory response occurs in tissue injury caused by infection, trauma, toxins, heat, or other factors. Injured cells release substances such as histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins that promote swelling by causing blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues. This response protects the body tissues by keeping foreign substances at bay. 45% overlap between microbes in the mouth and microbes in the colon. The fact that we swallow 1 trillion germs daily, many of which seed the colon and small intestine, is enough for us to focus on the oral microbiome. Saliva includes antimicrobials that reduce harmful microorganisms, a crucial immune system component.

Additionally, the chemicals draw phagocytes, white blood cells that “eat” bacteria and diseased or damaged cells; Phagocytosis is the name of this process. Phagocytes pass away gradually. Pus comprises a mixture of living and dead phagocytes, dead bacteria, and dead tissue. If you are immune to a disease, your immune system can fight infection by the causative agent. Antibiotics can treat infections brought on by bacteria rather than viruses. This means that treatment for diarrhea brought on by one bacterium may not be effective with an antibiotic for a skin infection brought on by a different bacterium, which can multiply by 20 minutes.

Main systems involved with immune function:

  • White blood cells- comprise about 1% of your blood, part of the immune and lymphatic systems made in bone marrow. 
  • Antibodies– made of protein, known as immunoglobulins, are produced by B cells. IgG-blood and tissue fluid. IgA- tears, mucus, breast milk, saliva and intestinal fluid. IgM-blood and lymph system. IgD-surface of B cell. IgE-skin, lung and mucus membrane.
  • GI system-Large immune system. This interaction between the gut microbiome and the immune system begins at birth. The gut lining is a critical part of the barrier component of the immune system that keeps us separate from the bacteria in the gut and undigested food particles. When the gut is leaky, this essential barrier is compromised, compromising our immune system’s first line of defence.
  • Liver– It contains large numbers of phagocytic cells that ingest bacteria that pass through the liver.
  • Bone Marrow– Location of immune system cells begin their development from stem cells. 
  • Lymph nodes– Collections of B cells and T cells throughout the body. 
  • Blood -Transports immune system proteins and cells from one body part to another.
  • Spleen– Collection of B cell, T cell, and monocytes. It filters the blood and provides a site for invaders/germs. Produce antibody.
  • Thymus– train WBC where T cells mature—surveillance and protection centre. Fight infection. 
  • Tonsils – Collections of lymphocytes in the throat. Front-line defence forms the initial immunological response to inhaled or ingested pathogens.
  • Lymphatic vessels are an essential channel that transports antigens and immune cells for protection. It also initiates innate immunity. 
  • Adenoids– part of the immune system that shrinks as we age. Like small tissue back of your throat. It clears away infection and keeps body fluids in balance by trapping germs coming in through the mouth and nose.
  • Peyer patches- Role in developing oral immune tolerance response to infection and immune surveillance of digestive systems. 

Signs/symptoms of weakened immunity– Immune system problems cause at least 80 illnesses. They may all cause inflammation. These clues may happen for many other reasons. The signs and symptoms include –  frequent infection, fatigue, dysbiosis, slow wound healing, allergies, herpes breakout, white patches of skin, trouble swallowing, sensitivity to the sun, patchy hair loss, getting stressed too often, constant feeling depressed, paining muscles/joints, tummy trouble, and have a cold.

Types of Immunity-

A. “Innate,” “cellular,” inherited, cell-mediated,” or “Th1”-what the body is born with and is nonspecific. After the pathogen has been eliminate, the innate immune system forgets about it and doesn’t give the rest of the body any information about the pathogen. Its function is to destroy, digest and discharge foreign antigens. The barriers include:

1st line of defence is the body’s physical and chemical barriers covering body surfaces.

  • Skin-the largest organ that keeps out the majority of pathogens.
  • Mucus– throughout the digestive and respiratory tract, traps microorganisms, inhibiting them from spreading further into the body.
  • Saliva– in the oral cavity and lacrimal fluid from the eyes contain the enzyme lysozyme, which kills bacteria by destroying the cell wall.
  • Stomach acid-destroys harmful bacteria.
  • Hair-in the nose filters air and prevents dust and microbes from entering the body.
  • The body expels microorganisms from the body through urine, defecation, and vomiting, 
  • Our sweat and tears contain enzymes lysozyme that help create anti-bacterial compounds.  

2nd line of defence– fight off invading foreign cells when entering the body.

  • NK cells– are always ready to fight, attach to infected cells and release chemicals that kill them, which do not require the thymic education that the same T cells require.
  • Neutrophils –their significant role is to ingest and kill bacteria or fungi.
  • Eosinophils– release cytoplasmic granules when they come into contact with parasites, which kill them.
  • Basophils contain granules called histamine and are released when pathogens invade the body, which is an inflammatory chemical and causes swelling.
  • Mast cell– recognizes a pathogen; it releases histamine phagocytes and can directly kill foreign invaders.

3rd line of defence – cells that aim for particular antigens.

  • Lymphocyteis a type of white blood cell part of the immune system. Includes-
  • B cell– primary function is to produce antibodies. Abundant in the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, the bloodstream and some areas of the intestine.
  • T cells– directly attack cells infected with viruses, and others act as immune system regulators.
  • Helper T cells– assist B cells in producing antibodies and helping killer T cells attack foreign substances.
  • Dendritic cells– instruct T cells on what to attack, also known as antigen-presenting cells. Bridge to the innate and adaptive immune system.
  • Macrophage- they change shape and size and become macrophages whenmonocytes leave the bloodstream and enter the tissues. They are essential for killing fungi and the class of bacteria to which tuberculosis belongs.

B. “Humoral” or “Th2” or “Adaptive”-found exclusively in vertebrates, with no physical barrier, that recognizes and remembers foreign antigens through its production of antibodies. If they enter the bloodstream again, in future, they will identify and destroy those same antigens. Your body produces antibodies in a process that takes around 14 days. Two types of this immunity: active and passive.

  • Active immunity– an Individual’s immune system produces the antibodies needed from exposure to the virus and develops within the host body. Long-lasting, it generates immunological memory. Vaccines contribute to active immunity.
  • Passive immunity- is transient because the antibodies are not constantly replenishing as they would be in an individual whose immune system responds directly. It can happen in a few different ways- IgG, the only antibody capable of penetrating the placenta, can be passed from mother to foetus and offers protection for 4 to 6 months after birth. It can also pass through breast milk containing IgA antibodies that coat the baby’s digestive tract. Without memory, this transient immunity lasts a couple of weeks or months.
  • Herd immunity– a pathogen cannot spread as quickly after enough people have been exposed to it. The number of susceptible individuals decreases as more people develops immunity. Because not all pathogens spread with the same efficiency, the community will have fewer outbreaks overall. For example- Measles.
  • Cocooning– this passive immunity is similar to herd immunity but often aims to protect a particular individual rather than a community. 

Factors affecting immune health-

  1. Age –-our internal organs may lose some effectiveness as we age; immune-related tissues like the thymus or bone marrow create fewer immune cells necessary to combat infections.
  2. Sleep- sleep and the immune system have a bidirectional relationship. Getting enough restful sleep allows for a balanced immune system defence that includes strong innate and adaptive immunity, an effective response to vaccinations, and fewer severe allergy reactions.
  3. Elevated cortisol– impairs immune function by making the immune system “resistant,” causing stress hormones to build up and increasing the production of inflammatory cytokines.
  4. Inflammation– an essential and typical phase of the body’s innate immune response. Mast cells counterattacks when infections attack healthy cells and tissue and release histamines, which causes inflammation.
  5. Galectin 3– is a protein and biomarker of disease that activates the initial immune response and initiates pro-inflammatory and profibrotic signalling cascades that bind to pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, allowing for tissue adhesion and immune evasion.  Help formation of biofilm.
  6. The vagus nerve- modulates the immune response and sends anti-inflammatory signals to other body parts. The Vagus nerve influences the way specific immune cells are released. It is essential in regulating metabolic homeostasis and efferent vagus nerve-mediated cholinergic signalling.
  7. Biofilms- a collection of microorganisms that are protected by a slime coating and are difficult to remove.
  8. Diet- the types of microorganisms that reside in our intestines and can affect the generation and function of immune cells and antibodies are significantly influenced by our diet. This can lead to inadequate immune responses, leaving an organism vulnerable to infections. One teaspoon of sugar shuts off macrophages engulf for 5 hours.
  9. Weight- associated with low-grade chronic inflammation. Fat tissue produces adipocytokines that can promote inflammatory processes.
  10. Mitochondria-Mitochondria play a pivotal role in immune health. They provide energy for the immune system. 
  11. Microbiome- is crucial to immune function since a large percentage (70-80%) of the immune system resides in the gut, a significant location of immune activity and the synthesis of antimicrobial proteins. Microbiomes have been found in the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, vaginal tract, breast, and male reproductive system.
  12. Lung microbiome– similar to the gut, can interact with the immune system, influencing inflammation. Antibiotics may alter both gut and lung microbiomes.
  13. T-reg cell- depletion of T-reg cells immediately induces conditions associated with compromised immune function and gastrointestinal health. It helps maintain immune tolerance and regulate inflammation.
  14. Liver– it contains the single largest macrophage population, which is crucial in eliminating insoluble waste. 80–90% of the body’s circulating innate immunity proteins, such as acute phase proteins, complements, bactericidal proteins, opsonin’s, and others, are produced by hepatocytes. Natural killer (NK) cells, which serve as a functional link between innate immunity (TH1) and adaptive immunity (TH2), are another type of significant immune cell that is abundant in the liver.
  15. Endocrine disruptors– can modulate innate and adaptive immunity, alter inflammatory response, interferes with generation of T cells.
  16. Glyphosate- interferes indirectly with the intestinal immune system by creating an imbalance in resident microbiota. Pollution from outside and chemicals used inside affect the skin, the lungs and the gut—which is linked to lower immunity.

Tips – It is possible to strengthen your defences through nutrition because lifestyle, nutritional, and environmental factors can all affect how well your immune system functions.

  • Modified Citrus Pectin(MCP)- Enhance and modulate immune function while providing anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic benefits and calm neuroinflammation. It is a Gal-3 blocker essential for preventing cytokine storm and infection severity. Help to Break down the biofilm and a natural chelator.
  • Eliminating inflammatory foods from the diet is essential for maintaining cytokine balance in the G.I. tract. Gluten-containing grains- wheat, rye, spelt, barley, kamut. And gluten cross-reactors like dairy, sesame, oat, millet, corn, rice, coffee, yeast • Refined carbohydrates• Nightshades -tomato, white potato, eggplant, peppers, paprika. • Trans fats/hydrogenated oils• Nuts and legumes- tree nuts, peas, beans, etc.
  • Antioxidants – combat unstable molecules called free radicals and protect healthy cells in your body, like – cranberries, red grapes, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, CQ1O, Glutathione, curcumin, and ACEs.
  • Fulvic acid-binds with nutrients and ushers them into the cell, enhancing cellular nutrition. It also binds to toxins so they can be excreted from the body. Reduces inflammation and enhances immune response.
  • Moducare- is a combination of plant sterols and sterolins. Clinical research showed that it balances the immune system, controls inflammation, and reduces sneezing and runny nose.
  • Probiotics -strengthen the gut wall barrier to prevent pathogenic bacteria from entering the bloodstream and assist the body in resisting pathogens. Inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Foods such as Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, yoghurt, are great sources of probiotics. Ensure the product is fermented and not just marinated in vinegar, shelf-stable (nonrefrigerated) or pasteurized.
  • Prebiotic– fibre like fructus and galacto-oligosaccharides is the most critical nutrient for a healthy gut – hence a healthy immune system that provides food sources for the probiotic bacteria. Prebiotic-rich foods include artichokes, garlic, onions, leek, asparagus, beetroot, cabbage, custard apples, nectarines, white peaches.
  • Leafy greens– phytonutrients required for the optimal functioning of the immune system. Rich in folate, calcium, and antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Detox– helps the body to functioning optimally by removing and eliminating toxins, Feeding the body with healthy nutrients. Spinach, bitters, dandelion, milk thistle, bone broth etc.
  • Regular exerciseis a pillar of health that may contribute to a robust immune system. Because exercise enables antibodies or WBCs to circulate more quickly, they may be able to identify infections earlier than previously. Increasing body temperature during and immediately following exercise may prevent bacteria from developing. Reduces the release of cortisol.
  • Plenty of sleep- there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep and the immune system. Immune reactions, such as those brought on by viral infections, can impact sleep. On the other hand, consistent sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing for balanced and effective immune function.
  • Hydrate- water is crucial because our blood and lymph, which include immune cells, require water to flow and circulate throughout our bodies.
  • Support vagus nerve- ice cold bath, yoga, gurgle and social connection.
  • Chakra- Sacral Chakra is linked to the adrenal glands and can aid in metabolism and immune system management. Warm bath, orange coloured food-mango, carrot, peach, sweet potato etc.

Immune builders – build back immunity in deficiency state.

  • Protein- promotes a robust immune system and aids in healing and repair; promotes the synthesis of Glutathione, which is necessary for a strong immune system; develops antibodies and boosts immunity.
  • EFAs– research has shown that omega-3 can repair stress-induced derangement in the microbiome required to enable interferon to exert its antiviral effects. Strengthen immune cells impact macrophage function. Wild salmon, anchovy, chia, flax and hemp seeds etc.
  • B vitamins-B1-keeping immune system strong, pro-inflammatory cytokine overexpression, T cell and WBC production. B6- Supports the production of antibodies needed for optimal immune response. B12- critical for immune function and homocysteine level, B9-needed for RNA and DNA synthesis, which is necessary for immune response to threat and homocysteine level in check.
  • Vit A– supports thymus glad that train T reg cell, crucial for immune response and innate immune system.  Sweet Potato, carrots, tuna, butternut squash, spinach. 
  • Vit C – antihistamine stops the virus from replicating, controls overactive immune function and increases antibody production. Aids to maintain the integrity of your immune system by removing old cells and replacing them with new ones. Be cautious as it is laxative—camu camu, acerola cherry, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, broccoli. 
  • Vit D– antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, works on innate and adaptive immune function and regulates the immune system. Enhances the pathogenic effect of macrophages. Salmon, mushrooms, fortified milk or milk substitutes, tuna, eggs
  • Zinc– improves macrophage activity, improves T cell function and number and supports thymus glad that trains T reg cell. Immune cell development and communication. Meats, firm tofu, lentils, yogurt, gluten-free oatmeal.
  • Green tea-contains compounds called catechins, quercetin and L-theanine, all of which support a robust immune system. It helps to inhibit or slow down the process of oxidative damage to your body.
  • Elderberry- antibacterial and antiviral. Reduce the duration and severity of colds. Elderberries can cause an increase in the production of cytokines, which can harm healthy cells.

Immune boosters – not safe for autoimmune disease, do not build new immune cells.  

  • Oregano- the healing and immune-boosting benefits of oregano essential oil are well known. Its antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasite components help it combat illnesses naturally. Oregano oil can be harmful – even lethal– in excessive doses, has diuretic properties, can upset the stomach, and can induce a rash when applied to the skin.
  • Echinacea- lessen your chances of getting a cold. Antiviral antioxidants can increase WBC, Nausea, rashes and dry eyes.
  • Echinacea should not be taken by anyone who has tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, any autoimmune diseases, or maybe liver issues.
  • Reishi Mushroom – studies have shown that it influences the genes in WBC, which are essential to the immune system. Supports the development of B and T lymphocytes. Antiviral and antibacterial. nausea, insomnia, toxic liver
  • Glutathione- regulates innate immunity and supports normal cytokine levels, mast cells and lymphocytes. It is required for T cells to grow and boosts NK cell production and activity.
  • Garlic– enhances your immune system and fights against infections antimicrobials, stimulating the production of white blood cells, reducing the severity of cold and flu symptoms and preventing their occurrence.
  • Shitake– enhances host resistance against infections by bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. It is high in vitamin B5, which improves your ability to cope with stress and strengthens the body’s first line of defence against infection. Blood abnormalities, rashes, stomach upset. 

Lab work refer– iron deficient, hypothyroidism, adrenal and liver dysfunction, low zinc, selenium and B12.

It’s crucial to maintain and consume foods that support your immune system in order to ensure good health and quality of life. This can be achieved by consuming foods that are high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals such as colourful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The decision of what goes on your plate is in your hands and can impact your health positively or negatively. Opting for nutrient-dense whole plant foods can boost your immune system, while consuming disease-promoting saturated fats, dairy products, and convenience foods with toxic chemicals can adversely affect on your health. Remember, excellent health is a choice that you can make!

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