We need deep learning about immunity
We’re all busy. The stock market is falling like a stone and we’re in an election year. But it’s time to focus on immunity. And there are three reasons other than the coronavirus (Covid-19).
1. It’s winter
2. This year’s flu is particularly virulent
3. You’re getting older
This is going to be a three part series on immunity from a biochemist with 50 years of academic, research and clinical experience. I directed the nation’s first FDA-licensed clinical laboratory specializing in nutrition and immunology. No one knows everything, but I believe my perspective can help protect you and your family.
1. It’s winter. There are many reasons why infections are more frequent and severe in the winter. Yes, it’s cold, but that by itself is not associated with increased illness. It’s what you do when it gets cold. Our activity levels go down. Less than one third of American adults exercise regularly. That means, for the vast majority, daily activity is the only movement, and peak immunity requires lots of movement. Your lymphatic system is a critical part of immune competence. You have more lymph fluid in your body than blood, and you have this fabulous pump to get blood to roughly 75 trillion cells. Lymphatic circulation has no pump, per se. it is circulated mainly by the movements and contractions of muscles. When you stop moving, your immune competence declines.
Action steps: You can join a gym. Be sure to have a personal trainer for at least a few sessions to help you design a safe and effective workout. Yoga, because of the wide range of movements, is especially good for lymphatic circulation.
The winter/ vitamin D connection
Even if you do get out and expose your skin, the sun’s rays (UVB) in the winter produce very little vitamin D. We’ve evolved to compensate for that by storing vitamin D in the liver and fat tissues. But what if you went into the winter months with insufficient Vitamin D? And how would you know, since very few doctors bother to measure this?
Action Steps: Inform (do not ask) your doctor to include serum vitamin D in your next blood chemistry. You will probably be in the normal range, but remember that normal people get sick a lot and die in their mid-70’s. Research suggests that the optimal range, where immune support, bone building and other benefits occur, is between 50 and 100 ng/mL.
Part Two, tomorrow:
The critical role of DHEA, inflammation and Immunity. Subtitle: If you are heading to the hospital with any infection, bring this with you and make your doctors read it.