Guest Post by Dr. Deedra Mason, Director of nutraMetrix & Clinical Education
Healthy immune support comes in many forms. A better diet, a better night’s sleep, stress management, and a healthy “gut” are all critical to your overall immune fitness. The immune system protects our bodies from foreign invaders, creates a necessary inflammatory response calling on white blood cells for improved cell signaling.
A significant amount of your immune system responds to the signals of specialized polysaccharides known as beta-glucans and Arabinogalactans. While other tissues responsible for immune function respond to Probiotics, antioxidants such as vitamin C and the precursor vitamin, Vitamin D. They all share something in common. They all have a significant impact on the health of the gut. Together these make for some of the best supportive immune environments. This is key to a healthy immune system. By most expert’s estimation, 70% of your immune system’s cells are found in your gut and the tissue surrounding your intestines. This massive immune complex is referred to as the Gut-Associated-Lymphoid-Tissue (GALT). This webbing is an important part of your body’s defense and acts as a permeable barrier for the interior of the body. Therefore, anything that threatens its health, integrity or function is a threat to your immune system. Both acute and adaptive immune responses rely on a healthy gut barrier, a diverse microbiome, and the select nutrients that signal the immune cells.
Beta-glucans found in Reshi mushrooms, Aloe leaf, in ancient botanicals like echinacea as well as more contemporary formulas like yeast Beta Glucans create a mechanism for the robust and optimal activity of white blood cells like macrophages and neutrophils. Beta-glucans and Arabinogalactans are unique because they are used for energy by the immune system and not by the foreign invader. In addition, beta-glucans found in aloe plants, yeast and mushrooms support the growth of healthy bacteria, expressly bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, in the large intestine making beta-glucans a functional nutrient for a healthy gut biome. These functional ingredients create an optimal intestinal environment for good and diverse probiotics. The building blocks and energy supplied by plants like aloe mean probiotics can maximize their potential to “weed, feed & seed” the gut with healthy biotics. These natural components support ongoing immune function and healthy energy utilization.
The Precursor Vitamin, Vitamin D
Introduce your immune system to one of the body’s superheroes, Vitamin D, and its sidekick K2. Vitamin D3 is well regarded for its role in a healthy immune system as well as its additional benefits on cardiovascular health, bone mineral health, and blood glucose support. How do you get enough Vitamin D to support all its activities? Vitamin D3 supplementation, diet, and outdoor activity. Each of them is important, because of the way your body converts and utilizes Vitamin D. We cannot rely on anyone’s mode. In the case of Vitamin D, there are many stops on its train for immune and endocrine function meaning we must support our hormones, bones, and immune system with a diversified approach to neuroendocrine function. Each one of your cells has a Vitamin D receptor, making Vitamin D supplementation one of the most important steps you can take towards better health and aging.
Did You Know?
A recent study on the role of vitamin D in the immune system showed that Vitamin K2 was of critical importance. Studies underline those that are the most immune robust are also those with greater metabolic flexibility, meaning they have blood glucose, lipids, and blood pressure within healthy ranges. Low levels of vitamin K2 are linked to risk for many diseases of lifestyle.
Vitamin K2, found most often rich from animal sources include high-fat dairy products, grass-fed beef, egg yolks, and organ meats. Vitamin K can be found in vegetarian sources by consuming fermented soy-natto, kimchi, and sauerkraut as K2 is created through fermentation in these plant sources. Vitamin K2 also has something in common with the gut and probiotics. It can be created from a healthy gut environment and like probiotics is often taken through supplementation to ensure a sufficient amount is consumed on a daily basis, especially if you avoid many of the animal foods or fermented food it is naturally found in. One superpower of vitamin K2 is its role in the elasticity of vessels making it a mainstay in cardiovascular health and now we know it important for immunity as well.
It is all complex. There is not one thing you can do to make this system work, but instead, you guessed it, a well-rounded, multi-action solution that includes diet, intentional movement, and supplementation to set a healthy tone for your gut and your immune system.
If this all seems too complicated, one of the simplest steps you can take to support immune function is to bump up your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is considered the super immune vitamin and it has earned its name, believe me. Without Vitamin C many white blood cells – the front line warriors of the immune system – would have limited production. What makes vitamin C different than beta-glucans is Vitamin C assists in the activity and production of lymphocytes and phagocytes. These work WITH macrophages meaning Vitamin C and beta-glucans from many sources work in concert to maximize your immune health and protect the body. Like Vitamin D, a diversity of dietary sources in addition to supplementation of vitamin C is the most prudent solution for better health and metabolism.
In summary, the best way to establish and maintain a healthy gut environment is to have a balanced approach to life and what it throws at you. Get adequate sleep, exercise routinely, reduce stress levels, don’t drink too much alcohol, and eat a healthy, balanced diet. For everything else there is supplementation.
Dr. Mason is a Naturopathic Physician, emphasizing complementary approaches to chronic disease. A graduate of the National University of Natural Medicine, Dr. Mason uses a diverse combination of naturopathic medicine, western botanical medicine, physiotherapy, and conventional medical therapies to recover each individual’s full potential for wellness. She’s become well known in professional circles for her passionate lectures, commitment to quality patient care, and the advancement of professional education, both within and outside of her field.
- Licensed Naturopathic Physician- 20 years experience
- nEI-nutraMetrix Educational Institute-Clinical Director
- Director of nutraMetrix and Clinical Education
- Lifestyle Medicine Consulting practice since 2014