As many of us start to ease back into life, work, school and this “new normal”, it’s a good idea to freshen up on how to help your body build a strong defense to help you fight colds, flu and viruses this season. In order to do that, however, you need to know the basics on how your immune system actually works to keep you healthy.
How Does Your Immune System Keep You Healthy?
Everyone has an immune system. It prevents disease, infection, and illness. Certain organs, and white blood cells are a major component of the immune system - each having a specific function (1, 2, 3, 4). But here’s an interesting fact that you may not know. Your immune system actually has three levels of immunity: the innate immune system, the adaptive immune system, and the passive immune system (1).
The Innate Immune System is our natural immune system. It’s both basic and efficient. It can recognize when something is a foreign invader and prevent it from spreading. The skin and mucous membranes are two examples of innate immune system barriers. If pathogens get past these barriers, your body creates inflammation and fever to attempt to neutralize them and destroy infected cells through a mix of scavenger cells (phagocytes), proteins and enzymes and Natural Killer cells (5).
The Adaptive Immune System begins acting if the Innate Immune System fails to be effective alone. It has a slower response, but is more accurate because it must learn what the invaders look like before it can attack. Once learned, it responds immediately to familiar invaders. It’s the reason that certain illnesses only occur once in a lifetime-- because it creates an immunity to those illnesses via the recognition of the invading pathogens (5).
The Passive Immune System is “borrowed” immunity. Immunity that results from antibodies received from the placenta or from breast milk to infant is considered passive. Immunity resulting from some vaccines which provide antibodies via immune globulins is also passive. Passive immunity as a result of borrowed antibodies is only temporary (6, 7).
What Leads to a Weakened Immune System?
Some of the most common culprits which contribute to weakened immune functions are poor health habits (such as smoking and alcohol use), poor dietary nutrition, and chronic stress (8). If any of these are part of your lifestyle, you may be promoting a weak immune state!
Cigarette smoking: Increases infection risk and promotes autoimmune conditions (9).
Alcohol intake (excessive): Leads to an increased risk of contracting infections and dysfunction of the adaptive immune system (10).
Poor nutrition: Leads to immune dysfunction and inflammation. Vitamins and minerals interact with immune cells and impact immune activation and function. Many minerals play critical roles in the function and structure of immune proteins and enzymes and deficiencies can lead to increased risk for infection (11). Poor nutrition also leads to inflammation. Chronic inflammation impairs immune function, and is found in those who suffer from overnutrition conditions such as obesity and those who are malnourished.
Stress: Leads to a weakened immune response. In a study stress which occurred only for a few minutes showed an increase in activity demonstrative of a weakening response. In a longer study they found the immune response decreased yearly- particularly during a 3-day college exam period. Natural Killer Cells, which fight off tumors and viral infections, decreased in number. T-cell activity was weak, and almost no immune-boosting gamma interferon was produced (12). Stress also decreases lymphocytes which help fight off infections.
Signs Your Immune System is Weak
Do you feel like you are constantly getting sick? If so, you may have a weak immune system. Typically, healthy individuals shouldn’t catch more than 2-3 colds per year and these shouldn’t last more than 7-10 days. This is because it takes the body 3-4 days to develop antibodies to the infection-causing agents. If you have a cold that just hangs on and it feels like you can’t shake it, or if you have frequent colds or even ear infections, it suggests that your immune system is not functioning optimally (13,14).
Frequent stomach aches and other bowel symptoms may indicate a weak immune system (13, 14) and an imbalanced gut. Did you know that nearly 70% of the immune system is located in your gut? This is because of your body’s microbiome: the critical balance of beneficial vs non-beneficial bacteria that colonize your intestinal tract. These little guys actually play a huge role in supporting your immune system! But beneficial bacteria- also called “probiotics” are more susceptible to harm than the non-beneficial bacteria. And if their numbers drop? It can lead to a greater susceptibility to infection, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. Slow wound healing is another indicator of a weak immune system. The skin, a part of the immune system, requires micronutrients for skin regeneration (13).
Lastly, if you feel like you just never have enough energy, even with sufficient sleep, it may be an indication of a weakened immune system. Because it is crucial to survival, the body prioritizes the immune function, so chronic tiredness might be due to the body trying to conserve energy so that it can continue protecting you from pathogens (13).
How You Can Build Up Your Immune System
In addition to washing your hands and practicing good hygiene to limit your exposure to germs, there are several ways you can build your immune system up to help you fight colds, flu, and other viruses this season. This includes paying close attention to what you eat, making sure you get plenty of sleep and exercise, practicing ways to destress and supplementing with quality nutritional supplements as needed.
Decrease inflammatory foods such as sugar and refined grains (15, 16, 17).
Maintain a healthy weight (18)
Eat your Greens! As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” (19)
Drink plenty of water (20)
Reduce caffeine, soda, and alcohol consumption (20)
Wash your hands (18)
Cook your meat thoroughly (18)
Exercise and Anti-Stress Activities
Get some movement in (18)!
Go for a walk (21)
Start a yoga routine (22)
Get enough sleep (18)
Try meditation (23)
Experience earth grounding or forest bathing (24)
Immune Boosting Supplements
Micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and essential amino acids act to support the immune system. Certain herbs also help modulate, stimulate, or support immune function. Here are some of the top products we recommend to support your body’s immune function.
#1: Immune Boost Bundle
Immune Boost Bundle is a great combo package formulated to support healthy immune function! It contains an herbal supplement for sinus drainage and congestion and has the added benefit of supporting immune function, probiotics, and the ever-crucial Active D vitamin supplement.
Here are some highlights of the Immune Boost Bundle:
Active D Plus Vitamin D has widespread effects on your body. Yet a vast majority of us don’t get enough of it. Here are a few facts you may not know about Vitamin D:
Research studies have tied Vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer.
Vitamin D also plays a part in other common conditions such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.* That’s why Active-D (which includes Vitamin D3) is an important part of our Immune Boost Bundle.
Certain immune cells have receptors for vitamin D, which is actually a very important hormone. When they receive it, Vitamin D helps reduce inflammatory immune responses, supports maturation into different types of immune cells, and actively fights off some infections (25).
Sine-Aid Sine-Aid is a potent mucolytic that helps decrease sinus inflammation and pressure and thins mucus, but it also helps provide an immediate boost to your immune system. Here are some of the key ingredients in Sine-Aid and why they help:
Andrographis is an herb in Sine-Aid that is renowned for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-infection, adaptogenic, and immunostimulant properties. As a result, it boosts the immune system while also decreasing inflammatory states in the body, fighting infections (including respiratory infections), and as an added benefit its adaptogenic properties help the body adjust to stress (26, 27).
Eleuthero is an adaptogenic herb used to improve the body’s response to stress and to decrease complications of influenza infections. It is also given to improve energy levels and decrease fatigue (28).
N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine is a potent antioxidant that inhibits influenza-type viral replication in the body, thus having antiviral effects (29).
Ultrabiotic Ultrabiotic is an advanced formula probiotic that contains fifty percent more bacteria than the label claim for maximum potency. Ultrabiotic actively works to restore the healthy bacteria lining your gut, which is essential for increased immune function, proper nutrient absorption, and optimal digestion. Here are a few more facts about why Ultrabiotic is a game-changer for your immune system:
All bacteria strains found in Ultrabiotic are harvested and freeze-dried during their most active growth stage, ensuring they remain active and resilient.
Many mainstream probiotics focus only on the number of bacteria in the capsule, while Aceva’s Ultrabiotic focuses on bacteria quality, age, and strain research for optimal results.
Active-C is another great way to build up your immune system. Numerous research studies have proven that Vitamin C can help you shorten the length and severity of illnesses when you take it as part of your daily routine. Here are a few facts about why you and your body will love Active-C:
Contains a powerful antioxidant and superfood powders that work alongside Vitamin C to give your body what it needs, when it needs it.
Easy-to-swallow capsules and easily mixes into drinks for kids
2.3x higher absorption than common Vitamin C brands*
Reduces immune dysfunction by 83% (versus 33% seen with Ester-C®)*
Reduces inflammation and cardiovascular risk*
12% higher antioxidant activity*
12x more effective in supporting nerve regeneration*
3x better at promoting wound healing*
Does not raise uric acid or oxalate levels, reducing your risk of kidney stones*
#3: Absolute Greens
Absolute Greens is also a great way to make sure you (and your little ones) are getting enough greens. It provides a whole serving of fruits and vegetables in one scoop that can be enjoyed by mixing it with water or juice. Here are some highlights:
Vegetable Blend: Do you struggle to get your kids to eat their veggies? Don’t worry- we’ve got you! Absolute Greens cleverly hides healthy veggies like brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, and kale in this great tasting beverage. By mixing it with healthy fruits like blueberries, grapes, and cherries.
Turmeric is an ancient herb with an age-old reputation for supporting health. It’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory- meaning it supports an appropriately functional immune system (35). It also has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal activity (36)!
Don’t forget the kids!
Aceva also has a great line of products for your kids and grandkids. This includes their very own Kid’s Immune Boost Bundle. In addition to the Active-D supplement (in liquid form!), it also contains Pediabiotic, a tasty, kid’s probiotic (powder form) and Pedia Balance, a chewable supplement full of immune-supportive vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and anti-inflammatory Quercetin formulated with kids in mind! It also tastes delicious.
Here are some highlights on why the Kid's Immune Boost Bundle is a great everyday combo to help kids build a strong immune defense:
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, and it accumulates inside of certain immune cells like phagocytes, and enhances their action. It helps fight infections, and adequate levels make you less susceptible to infection (30).
Selenium is an antioxidant which fights inflammation and prevents viral infection. Deficiencies result in immune dysfunction. Increasing it in the diet can improve immunity (31).
Magnesium is required for both innate and adaptive immune function, and its deficiency is associated with increased inflammatory immune action (32). Deficiencies can result in functional abnormalities of immune-centric organs and lead to immune failure (33).
Zinc is crucial for the development of certain immune cells, and is an important part of the function of the thymus- a critical immune organ. A deficiency can have disastrous results on immune function. Zinc also acts as an antioxidant and it can decrease inflammatory immune responses (34)!
Vitamin Dhelps reduce inflammatory immune responses and helps actively fights off some infections (25).
Kid's Probiotic (Pediabiotic) helps restore the healthy bacteria lining in your child’s gut. This bacteria is essential for normal immune function, proper nutrient absorption and optimal digestion.
Bottom Line on Your Immune System
How you treat and take care of your body can and will make a difference in whether your body gets sick this season. So practice healthy habits, get some rest, eat right, exercise and give your body the nutrients it needs to put up its best fight.
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Waldschmidt, T. J., Cook, R. T., & Kovacs, E. J. (2008). Alcohol and inflammation and immune responses: summary of the 2006 Alcohol and Immunology Research Interest Group (AIRIG) meeting.Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.),42(2), 137–142.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcohol.2007.11.003
The Gut-Brain Connection: Facts, Fads, & Fallacies. Instructor Dr. Laura Pawlak. March, 6th, 2020. Seminar. Sponsor: Institute for Natural Resources. Location: Grand Rapids, MI.
Masters, R. C., Liese, A. D., Haffner, S. M., Wagenknecht, L. E., & Hanley, A. J. (2010). Whole and refined grain intakes are related to inflammatory protein concentrations in human plasma.The Journal of nutrition,140(3), 587–594.https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.109.116640
Corte: Della Corte, K. W., Perrar, I., Penczynski, K. J., Schwingshackl, L., Herder, C., & Buyken, A. E. (2018). Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies.Nutrients,10(5), 606.https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050606
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Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research, 59(6), 881–886. https://doi.org/10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755
Okhuarobo, A., Falodun, J. E., Erharuyi, O., Imieje, V., Falodun, A., & Langer, P. (2014). Harnessing the medicinal properties ofAndrographis paniculata for diseases and beyond: a review of its phytochemistry and pharmacology.Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease,4(3), 213–222.https://doi.org/10.1016/S2222-1808(14)60509-0
Thakur, A. K., Chatterjee, S. S., & Kumar, V. (2014). Andrographolides and traditionally used Andrographis paniculata as potential adaptogens: Implications for therapeutic innovation. 탕, 4(3), 15.1-15.14.https://doi.org/10.5667/TANG.2014.0002
Geiler, J., Michaelis, M., Naczk, P., Leutz, A., Langer, K., Doerr, H. W., & Cinatl, J., Jr (2010). N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) inhibits virus replication and expression of pro-inflammatory molecules in A549 cells infected with highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza A virus. Biochemical pharmacology,79(3), 413–420.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2009.08.025
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