“Optimal functioning of the immune system, it turns out, is dependent upon feeling good.”
Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against illness, and it also kicks in to lead charge over the healing process when you become injured. While we are born with many natural tools that support immune function, we can also strengthen it with tactics such as strategic lifestyle habits.
As the team which has pioneered the medical specialty of age management medicine, Cenegenics is committed to helping patients do everything they can to stay protected against serious illness. For this reason, we take a highly scientific approach to perfectly tuning the body at the cellular level, optimizing overall functioning, including the immune system. Find out more about how your immune system works below and what you can do to make it even stronger.
How Does the Immune System Work?
The core role of the immune system is to prevent against or control infections. It can differentiate among healthy cells and those that pose a threat with the ability to recognize danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). These cells may be dangerous due to infection or other types of damage, such as cancer. Infections, including viruses, also release signals called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), which the immune system recognizes as well.
At the first sign of these issues, the immune system responds to combat the illness or other damage-causing agents. If it can’t activate properly, issues like infection occur. Yet, issues also develop if the immune system is activated when it shouldn’t be, as seen in conditions such as autoimmune disorders and allergies. The immune system must therefore function optimally to maintain health. 
Key Components of the Immune System
The immune system is complex and far-reaching, encompassing many different cell types which each have a specific role. With that being said, every immune cell originates from precursors in bone marrow and ultimately develops into a mature cell through changes which take place throughout the body. Here are the key players in the body’s immunity:
- Skin: The first barrier against harmful agents, skin cells create antimicrobial proteins. Each layer of skin has its own specific set of immune cells.
- Bone marrow: Stem cells, the powerful cells which can give rise to various cell types, are found within the bone marrow. The common myeloid progenitor stem cell can transform into innate immune cells, which act as the first-line response system against infection. Common lymphoid progenitor stem cells, on the other hand, give rise to adaptive immune cells, including B cells and T cells, which create responses to microbes which the body has encountered in the past.
- Bloodstream: Immune cells travel via the bloodstream, staying on the lookout for issues. Physicians use blood drawings to look for white blood cells (immune cells), which can provide insights into overall immune system health.
- Thymus: A small, specialized organ located in the upper chest, the thymus is the maturation site for T cells.
- Lymphatic system: A system through which tissues and the bloodstream communicate, the lymphatic system features lymphoid organs, vessels, and tissues. Immune cells flow through the lymphatic system to meet in the lymph nodes, which have multiple locations throughout the body. In this central hub, immune cells share information, such as the recognition of a microbe, which can trigger a response of activation and replication.
- Spleen: The spleen enriches immune cells, and if pathogens are present in the blood, they will activate in this key organ, which is located behind the stomach.
- Mucosal tissue: Mucosal tissue in areas such as the respiratory tract and intestines house specialized immune hubs. The gut, for example, is home to Peyer’s patches, where immune cells assess samples to look for pathogens. 
What Can Affect Your Immune System?
In certain individuals, the immune system doesn’t work properly due to an immune system disorder. There are several factors that can impact immune system functionality, including:
- Primary immune deficiency: a person is born with a weakened immune system
- Acquired immune deficiency: a person gets a disease that weakens the immune system, such as HIV or hepatitis C 
- Allergic reaction: an individual’s immune system overreacts, as seen in food and seasonal allergies
- Autoimmune disease: the immune system turns against someone, as seen in rheumatoid arthritis 
Under normal circumstances, the immune system responds to issues like injuries and illness through acute inflammation. The blood vessels dilate, resulting in redness and swelling, so that white blood cells can swarm the affected area and promote healing. The damaged tissue releases cytokines, or emergency signals, which recruit immune cells, hormones, and nutrients to address the issue. As healing takes place, the acute inflammation fades.
Yet, if inflammation lasts too long or occurs when it’s not needed, chronic inflammation ensues. Also known as persistent, low-grade inflammation, chronic inflammation may have long-term effects throughout the whole body. It results in a consistent, low levels of inflammation which are detected by increases in system markers in the blood. Systemic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and autoimmune conditions such as lupus. 
Aside from medical issues that prevent the immune system from working as it should, there are several other factors that impact immune system functionality and potentially trigger chronic inflammation, such as:
- Stress: Researchers suspect chronic stress, spurring from issues such as relationships and work, can take its toll on the immune system, potentially contributing to issues like heart disease over time.
- Diet: Like other systems in your body, the immune system requires sound nutrition to function well. Experts have witnessed altered immune system responses in test subjects with micronutrient deficiencies, suggesting an important link between diet and immune system health. This link appears to be particularly strong in older adults. 
- Sedentary lifestyle: Neglecting physical activity and sitting too much can impede your body’s ability to fight infection. Inactivity has been shown to impair the immune system and lead to inflammation and chronic illness. 
- Alcohol: Excessive drinking can impair the immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens. A major metabolite of alcohol, acetaldehyde, appears to impact the lungs’ ciliary function, leaving individuals more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. 
- Nicotine: Smoking both traditional and e-cigarettes increases cortisol levels and restricts the formation and response of B and T cells. 
Fortunately, just as there are many lifestyle factors that can impede immunity, there are also ways you can adjust your habits to boost your immune system.
Strengthen Your Immune System
While your body already has lines of defense in place to ward off illness, you can still strengthen the immune system with the following simple practices.
- Get ample sleep. Lack of sleep interferes with the production of white blood cells, so aim for at least 7 hours per night. 
- Eat a nutritious diet. Give your body the nutrients it needs by incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats into your meals.
- Perform moderate, regular exercise. Strenuous exercise practiced on an ongoing basis can exhaust the body, leaving it more susceptible to infection.  Instead, stick with consistent, moderate physical activity, which reduces your risk of catching viruses. 
- Find healthy stress management practices. Develop relaxation techniques, such as taking a walk, meditating, or journaling, to alleviate cortisol-inducing stress.
- Practice good hygiene. One of the simplest but most effective ways to control germs is washing your hands frequently, including before meals. Avoid touching your face whenever possible.
- Regularly disinfect household objects. Wipe down key surface areas such as doorknobs, countertops and tables, and remote controls.
- Consider supplements. There are a number of key nutrients which support optimal immune system functionality, including C, D, and E, vitamins, among others. Introducing a nutraceutical regimen into your routine at the discretion of a trusted physician could help to strengthen your immune function.
- Limit alcohol. If you drink, do so only in moderation.
Understanding the Importance of a Healthy Immune System - In Conclusion
Optimal immune function is critically important to keeping you protected against everything from the common cold to serious illness. Cenegenics patients have the unique advantages of working closely with their physician and clinical teams to improve biomarkers that influence immunity, including those related to chronic inflammation, insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular and pulmonary function, and more.
By improving these metrics, incorporating the lifestyle factors mentioned above, and utilizing nutraceuticals that include, but are not limited to, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, zinc, and Vitamin C, Cenegenics strengthens patients’ immune function to prepare them for seasonal and other illnesses.
Within just 30 to 60 days on our program, patients begin to feel dramatically better. Their biological age is rebalanced to where it was in their 20s and 30s, and they become better equipped to fight off illness both now and into the future. In fact, so many people trust our ability to optimize their wellness that a quarter of our patient base is made up of doctors and their family members. One of our doctors has even written the textbook on age management which other physicians now study. See what all of our patients have to say about their experience with the program by visiting the Cenegenics reviews page, or call your nearest location to discuss our exclusive Elite Health Evaluation, Cenegenics cost, and benefits of the program.
Next Steps – Reinforce your Immune Health
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About the Contributor
Global Director of Nutrition & Exercise
Rudy Inaba is Cenegenics’ Global Director of Nutrition & Exercise. He is a recognized fitness and sports nutrition consultant with nearly 15 years of experience in clinical exercise physiology and lifestyle management. After pursuing his Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Rudy joined Cenegenics where he leads 20 clinical locations nationwide in their advancements in kinesiology, nutritional biochemistry, and their analyses of industry research & market trending.
This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources:
The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation
The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT
Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Educational Foundation.
Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS
Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.
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 See above. Derived from: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/immune-system-overview
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