Looking to strengthen the natural defenses that your immune system natively offers this year? Potentially, the “trick” may be in providing what your first line of defense, your immune system, needs to be strong and fast.
Strengthening your immune system is within your control, well documented, and easy to do. Knowledge is power.
In this post, you will learn relevant basics of your immune system and then how to strengthen it naturally with nutrients, exercising, and sleep to ultimately support a strong and rapidly reacting immune system.
There’s no need to fear. Your immune system is beautifully designed to take care of viral infections. Your immune system just needs the tools to be healthy to quickly launch an immune response in the event of any viral intrusion.
Your body’s immune system is a great and complex system designed to protect you. It has evolved for many years and it already knows what to do. Make it strong the way it’s supposed to be by giving it what it needs to be strong. Nourish it. Give it the nutrition it needs.
Are you ready? Here we go.
Table of Contents
- What Are Viruses? The Untold Truth!
- Basic Understanding of Your Immune System
- How to Strengthen Your Innate Immune System & Improve Your Immunity?
- What Other Nutrients Fortify Your Immune System?
- Final Thoughts
What Are Viruses? The Untold Truth!
Viruses are microscopic creatures that are genetically programmed to make copies of themselves. Because viruses can’t replicate on their own, they need a host species.
Viruses enter in the cells of the host and use the cells’ replication apparatus make more copies of themselves.
Viruses cannot survive without their host species; therefore, an intentionally deadly virus is an evolutionary impossibility. If viruses kill their host, they die with the host.
A strong and healthy immune system can help you handle viral infections without complications. At the same time, viruses help to make your immune system stronger and help you reduce the risk of atopy, cancer, and others that we may not know about. Yes, there’s shocking proof of this but that’s material for another post.
Viruses can infect humans once in their lifetime because humans develop lifetime immunity after the first natural infection. Viruses make you stronger by helping your survive because they depend on your reproduction for their existence as they need to find new hosts that weren’t infected before with the same virus to keep propagating.
Humans succumbing to complications of viral infections and dying is not really to viruses’ advantage. Viruses want you strong and mobile so they can infect other hosts to keep replicating. Viruses are really our allies rather than our enemies when it comes to health.
But you’ve been taught to be afraid of viruses, the invisible enemy. But, we need to take a closer look and see beyond what the mainstream media and medicine are telling you.
By the way, did you know that about 8% of your genome came from viruses? Amazing, right?
Let’s take a quick look at your immune system and how it handles viral infections.
Basic Understanding of Your Immune System
Your immune system is a powerful team effort in which many components of the innate and adaptive branches work together holistically and in coordination to provide a powerful defense against invaders.
Your immune systems is comprised of two branches:
- The Innate immune system
- The Adaptive immune system
Let’s take a look at the innate branch.
The Innate Immune System
The innate immune system is mainly composed of leukocytes or white blood cells. These white blood cells are found in your blood, major organs, and basically everywhere in your body except your brain.
Leukocytes secrete a very important molecule called interferon whose role is to interfere with viral replication and block the spread of the virus from one cell to another. In other words, interferon aids in the containment of the viral infection.
Another function of the innate brach is to activate the inflammasome to coordinate the immune response and activate the adaptive branch. The inflammasome is what gives us fever in some cases.
Now, let’s take a quick view at the adaptive branch.
The Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system is composed of a subset of leukocytes called lymphocytes, normally located in the lymph nodes and blood.
There are two types of lymphocytes:
- B cells
- T cells
- Th1 – needed for antiviral defense
- Th2 – leads to the activation of B cells
Th1 lymphocytes activate T killer cells to kill and eliminate virally infected cells. These virally infected cells are what give rise to cough, rash, and other symptoms of disease.
Once infected cells are killed, dead cells need to be eliminated from the body. Otherwise, those dead cells can cause secondary bacterial infections.
Primary symptoms like fever, cough, and rash are actual manifestations of your adaptive immune system working! Fever, cough, and rash are not really complications of the disease.
Innate & Adaptive Immune Systems vs Symptomatology
A weak immune system can result in complication of disease and secondary microorganisms taking over!
A strong innate and adaptive immune system can result in asymptomatic or mild infections.
A weak innate and a strong adaptive immune system can result in an acute viral disease with no acute complications. Therefore, to prevent disease complications, you need to avoid the suppression of disease symptoms such as fever, cough, and rash as these symptoms show that your adaptive immune system is working.
The suppression of fever, cough, and rash weakens the adaptive branch of your immune system. Let it do its job.
A weak innate and adaptive immune system can result in disease complications.
Nutrition strengthens the innate branch but doesn’t fortify the adaptive branch. For the adaptive branch, the best you can do is to prevent weakening it.
Let’s take a look at how to fortify your immune system’s innate branch.
How to Strengthen Your Innate Immune System & Improve Your Immunity?
The difference between being infected and asymptomatic and being infected and developing the disease and ending up in the ER is the speed at which your immune system reacts.
Asymptomatic individuals quickly react to the virus and stop it on its tracks so it can not replicate anymore. Think interferon!
Remember, interferon interferes with viral replication.
Asymptomatics have a low viral load and therefore are not infectious. An asymptomatic transmission is “very” rare because of this.
Other people’s immune systems are not as fast and therefore allow for the virus to replicate more and more resulting in high viral load and the development of other symptomatic reactions, such as mucus, cough, rashes, etc., in an attempt to get rid of the virus.
However, in some people, the resulting severe symptomatology is too much and may end up with disease complications.
The best you can do to boost your innate immune response is to improve your nutrition and lifestyle prior to infection.
Your immune system needs nutrients to be healthy and strong!
Your immune system needs to be nourished to quickly engage in an immune response to contain the virus.
If you do not put all those nutrients in your system everyday, parts and systems in your body start to malfunction and including your immune system.
What Nutrients Does Interferon Need?
Interferon needs Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and a healthy gut microbiome to function properly.
Interferon’s signaling needs a co-factor in the form of activated Vitamin A called all-trans-retinoic-acid (ATRA).
If you take retinoic acid (Vitamin A), your body will convert it into its active form, ATRA.
ATRA, or active Vitamin A, was demonstrated to inhibit the replication of the measles virus, mumps virus, and the enterovirus 71 the interferon-dependent immune defense phase of the immune response.
- In this study conducted in 2009, researchers demonstrated that retinoids inhibit the measles virus replication by up-regulating elements of the innate immune response in uninfected bystander cells.
- In this study conducted in 2013, results demonstrated that retinoids inhibit the mumps viral replication in uninfected bystander cells through a retinoid inducible gene, retinoic acid receptor, and interferon dependent manner making those cells resistant to subsequent rounds of viral replication.
- In this final study conducted in 2014, they found that ATRA is an interferon-inducing agent with antiviral activity against the enterovirus 7 in vitro.
As a side note, the reason why measles and other viral diseases are so deadly in Africa is because Vitamin A deficiency is very common among children.
No Vitamin A means that you’re immunocompromised since interferon cannot work properly.
Other Immune System Benefits of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that contributes to the integrity of your immune system.
Vitamin A, including when supplemented:
- Enhances the antibody production and lymphocyte proliferation
- Helps sustain the integrity of mucosal lining of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts
- Increases T-cell production
Children who have received vitamin A supplementation have had higher levels of antibodies in response to vaccination. “Children with mild vitamin A deficiency have a relative immune depression compared with children who have been supplemented to normal vitamin A levels.”
Keep in mind that beta-carotene is no vitamin A. Beta-carotene is the precursor to Vitamin A.
Vitamin A, especially when in balance with Vitamin D, has low toxicity except at high dosages. For instance, for adults, toxicity is typically seen after 100,000 IU/day for 6 months. When you combine vitamin A with vitamin D, higher amounts of vitamin A are needed to hit toxicity levels.
Just as Vitamin A plays an important role on interferon’s signaling, Vitamin C plays a very important role in interferon production.
In this study, mice that were made deficient in Vitamin C were not able to produce interferon after infection with the influenza A virus. Normally, after a viral infection, interferon is produced after a few hours of infection. These mice died on day one after viral infection.
Other Immune System Benefits of Vitamin C
It is well-known that vitamin C has effective antiviral properties used in the treatment of herpes zoster (shingles), herpes simplex (cold sores), herpes varicella-zoster (chickenpox), influenza, measles, and mumps, among others.
Therefore, in the presence of an infection, more vitamin C is needed to support the function of your immune response!
Animals that produce their own vitamin C increase their production of it during illness to support the creation of more immune cells. Humans can’t make their own vitamin C; therefore, you and I have to ingest it.
Likewise, vitamin C’s antioxidant properties are important at protecting your body against the damage from oxidative stress generated during an infection.
Oral vitamin C should be taken daily for a strong immune system and increased amounts should be taken during an infection.
Our gut microbiome that regulates our immune system/response. It is well-known that our gut microbes are talking to our immune system by secreting substances that instruct our immune system to be more robust in antiviral defense and to develop tolerance to the foods we eat.
In this study, mice were given Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 and after three weeks, they were infected with the influenza A virus. Researchers observed that mice had an enhanced interferon responsiveness, lower rates of viral replication in the lungs, less bronchial inflammation, and better survival.
When the same experiment was repeated but instead of pretreating mice with probiotics, mice were given antibiotics for three weeks. After infecting the mice with the influenza A virus, researchers saw a defective responsiveness to interferon, delayed viral clearance, more severe bronchial degeneration due to inflammation, and increased mortality.
Another study, but this time conducted in humans, analyzed the effect of probiotic supplements on influenza-like illnesses in children. They found that children who were on probiotic supplementation during the flu season compared to the placebo group had lower incidence of fever by 53-72.7%, cough by 41.4-62.1%, and runny nose by 28.2-58.8%.
How to Strengthen Your Inflammasome Response?
Remember that the inflammasome is a complex molecular machinery present in white blood cells and responsible for the coordination of the immune response between the innate and the adaptive branch.
Inflammasomes are always produced; however, to enhance the production of inflammasomes, your body needs moderate intensity exercises and Vitamin D.
To enhance the production of inflammasomes, your cells need reactive oxygen species (ROS) or simply, free radicals.
Although free radicals are known to be bad, they’re not really that bad as they’re important for your immune system.
Your immune system uses free radicals to kill off internal pathogens, bacterial, and fungal infections. But, how do you promote the production of “healthy” free radicals?
The production of free radicals is called “respiratory burst.” Every time you breath in, you inhale oxygen into your mitochondria where free radicals are generated.
Moderate intensity exercises enhance respiratory burst!
If you exercise outdoors, you get the extra benefit of your own naturally produced Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has a positive effect on your body’s innate and adaptive immune responses and also has a significant impact on the balancing of inflammatory processes, which are triggered by a viral infraction.
Some viruses have an affinity for the ACE2 receptors found in higher concentrations on cells in the lung alveoli, digestive track, blood vessels, and adrenal glands. Vitamin D increases those ACE2 receptors levels in situations of acute lung injury where ACE2 levels decreased.
Vitamin D is known to interact with a ACE2 protein in this pathway—angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is exploited by some viruses as an entry receptor. While these viruses downregulate the expression of ACE2, vitamin D promotes expression of this gene.
Around 70% of the US population are vitamin D insufficient and about 30% are deficient. If you’re hiding in your basement scared because you want to avoid a viral infection, you’re not getting sunlight, and you’re not making vitamin D. It is therefore recommended that your supplement with vitamin D, especially if you’re high risk.
Vitamin D also supports the production of antimicrobial peptides (short chains of amino acids) in the lungs, thus increasing your lung health and development of symptoms.
Vitamin D might help to reduce the inflammatory response (cytokine storm) to viral infections.
So, take your vitamin D every day! You’re supposed to take it anyway as it’s considered an essential nutrient. And yes, you can make it yourself with sunlight exposure, but its deficiency is very prevalent.
If you’re still in doubt, here are more studies that support the benefits of vitamin D on your immune system to fight viral infections:
- Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland
- Vitamin D and Influenza—Prevention or Therapy?
- Study confirms vitamin D protects against colds and flu
The potential benefit of vitamin D on viral infections has been reviewed, and authors recommend a multi-day loading of 10,000 IUs a day and a steady dose of 5,000 IUs a day.
What Other Nutrients Fortify Your Immune System?
Very interestingly, quercetin, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and sleep all help to deal with an infection.
Let’s take a look at how this is done.
Quercetin + Zinc
Remember that when a virus attaches to an ACE2 receptor, it injects it genetic material (RNA) into the cell.
This RNA provides the instructions to make replicase, an enzyme involved in the replication of this viral RNA. See replicase proteins in the diagram below.
Zinc is an essential mineral known to inhibit replicase inside the cell and disrupt viral replication.
That’s right. Isn’t that wonderful?
You also need to help your body drive the zinc ion into the cell.
How do you do that?
Like hydroxychloroquine, QUERCETIN is also known as an ionophore, meaning that it can transport zinc ions across the cell membrane.
In other words, quercetin helps drive zinc into the cells and inhibit viral replication!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are also essential nutrients that support the immune system by helping resolve the inflammation caused in the body after a viral infection.
Soothing this inflammatory response could be important in the cytokine storm seen during a viral infection.
Here’s the deal, EPA and DHA present at the site of inflammation are converted to specialized chemicals that function together to orchestrate the resolution of inflammation and to support healing, including in the respiratory tract.
In other words, nutritional deficiencies in essential fatty acids can result in delayed resolution of inflammation, which could be very important in the context of severe viral disease which manifests as uncontrolled inflammation, also known as cytokine storm, linked with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Sleep is a FREE nutrient and probably one of the biggest things you can do to enhance your immune response in the presence of a pathogenic attack.
Sleep has tremendous effects on your immune response.
It is recommended you sleep between 7 to 9 hours a day. Between 30 to 40% of people get less than 7 hours a night.
These are the people who are at higher risk of the consequences of a compromised immune response.
When you go to sleep at around 10 PM, Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) should be present between 10 PM to 1 AM. SWS is needed in the production of Growth Hormone (GH), which has an incredible effect on your immune system response.
Good sleep supports the production of Interleukin-12 by the macrophages that calls for the Th1/CD4 cells and enhances the ability of the Th1 cells binding to an antigen presenting cell.
Sleep also strengthens the ability of Th2 cells (killer cells) to bind to infected cells and produce compounds that tell the cells it’s time to die to kill the virus.
If you go to bed late and/or wake up too early, and get 5 to 6 hours of sleep, you’re affecting your immune response.
You need to sleep more and should aim to an average of 8 hours a night.
The media and the medical system has taught you that:
- you are weak;
- you cannot fight disease on your own; and
- drugs are the only answer to your weaknesses.
Pharmaceuticals’ job is to serve their stakeholders by increasing their wealth. How would they do that? By selling more and more drugs.
How can pharmaceuticals sell more drugs? By making you believe that their drugs are the solution to the weaknesses they made you believe you have.
In this way, they guarantee you take their drugs until you die.
They OWN YOU because they have something that you think you need and don’t have.
And I’m not against drugs. They have their place. However, I’m against of how they’re used.
It’s an awesome business as you become a life-long customer.
Unfortunately, this is how the system is designed.
But, you can change that!
You already have an immune system that protects you from foreign invaders. Give it the nutrition that it needs to be strong and stop eating what is weakening it.
I hope this post was informative to you.
Did you learn anything new?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I’d love to hear from you.