4 reasons your immune system is a little under par



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


16 October 2020

4 reasons your immune system is a little under par

If you've been ill recently or are worried you might succumb to infection, you might wonder if your immunity is up to scratch. Here I run through 4 common reasons that your immune system may be a little under par, including:

  1. Your age
  2. Nutrient deficiencies
  3. Poor sleep
  4. Stress

Read on, as I go into these immunity pit falls in a little more detail, plus, I offer my top tips for resolving some of these issues.

1. Your age

Whilst with the correct tactics, you're perfectly able to fend bugs off at any age, there are some age-related factors which may leave you a little more at risk.

Teens – During growth spurts your body is putting extra energy into these areas of development, rather than the usual efforts on the immune front. Plus, during puberty, especially in males, you use up lots of zinc as it is a nutrient needed specifically for a number of processes involved in growth and maturation.
However, as we know, we also need zinc to help protect the workings of our immune system, so this can result in your immune system being a little under pressure during this time – just what we want to avoid as exam time is looming!

Menopause – It may also be the case that menopause could put women in this age bracket at an increased risk. During this time, fluctuating oestrogen levels risk drying out the mucous membranes lining your respiratory tract, which could make them more susceptible to infection, or reinfection, if only recently recovered. Research also suggests that inflammation is more apparent during the approach to the menopause which, in turn, unhelpfully hinders the effects of the immune system.1

Over 50s – As we age, we experience a phenomenon called immunosenescence, which involves the gradual deterioration of the immune system brought on by natural aging processes. This means the 'memory' aspect of your immune system may not be as effective as it once was and, as a result, it doesn't handle new infections as well as it once might have. Also, older people may be more likely to be vitamin D deficient (less sunlight exposure), or zinc deficient (diet and lifestyle factors) which could also put them at greater risk.

What can be done to help?

Unfortunately, age is one of those things out with your control; however, you can certainly support your system in other ways, especially if you're in a higher risk age bracket. Continuing to get outdoors and eating well are helpful choices, however, if you feel you need a little extra protection, Echinacea could be the one for you.
Echinaforce is a licensed herbal remedy which can help to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms if you have an infection, whilst also helping to improve your body's resistance to infection.

2. Deficiencies

If you worry you're more prone to infections, then some nutrient deficiencies could also be underlying.
Vitamin D - Data from observational studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency could be associated with an increased risk of infection. This isn't entirely surprising since we know that vitamin D is an important regulator of our immune responses; as well as more general inflammation in the body.2 Low vitamin D may also risk making our symptoms and outcomes worse, if we are unfortunate enough to fall victim to a cold or flu-type infection.3

What can be done to help?

If you're worried your vitamin D status could be better, there are some simple steps you can take from home. Firstly, ensure you are getting outside as much as possible. Whilst this isn't as effective during the winter months, being outside with some sensible skin exposure during the spring and summer months can certainly help ensure that you manufacture enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Keeping up vitamin D-rich foods can also be helpful, so including oily fish, eggs and mushrooms readily in your diet. Finally, in line with government advice, many of us could benefit from a vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter months. An option like our Immune Support offers a sensible dose of vitamin D, in combination with some other essential nutrients – bonus!

Zinc - Many age-related immune defects, including chronic inflammation, seem to coincide with declining levels of zinc. Without sufficient zinc, the cells that help to control inflammation in your body seem to work differently, causing the cells to become pro-inflammatory instead. This state of inflammation, together with low zinc levels, may also contribute to improper immune cell activation.4

What can be done to help?

Whilst eating a varied diet and fresh foods wherever possible is your best bet for acquiring enough zinc, sometimes being up against factors such as the depleting nutrient content in soil, may have us feeling as though we are fighting a losing battle! Luckily, this is where supplements come in, as they help top up your levels.

Our Immune Support also contains a modest dose of zinc, to help contribute towards your recommended daily intake.


Boost your Vitamin D intake with Immune Support


• Rich in naturally occurring vitamin C
• Made with acerola cherries, which contain up to 100 times more vitamin C than oranges1
• Nasturtium extract is also a very rich source of vitamin C2
• A great source of zinc & also contains vitamin D
• Zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D help support the immune system
• Vitamin C reduces tiredness and fatigue
• Convenient one-a-day tablet

Read more customer reviews

3. Sabotaged by poor sleep

Another reason for an under-functioning immune system could be inadequate sleep. Research suggests that being in the habit of going to bed later could set you up for more problems in terms of your immune health (and more generally too!)5, rather than if you retire to bed earlier in the evening.
See, sleeping provides some nice down-time where your immune system is more able to assess threats in your system. Research suggests that much of this efficient work is carried out earlier in the night – and if it's missed? You may struggle to get this time back. A good night's sleep also allows your body to rest and replenish the specific immune cells (T cells, for example) that are preparing to patrol and protect us the next waking day – preparation is key!

What can be done to help?

Don't undermine the power of sleep, for starters! Another useful snippet of information is the effect a good night's sleep can have on the effectiveness of vaccinations. Research suggests that getting any less than 6 hours sleep the night before a jab, such as the flu jab, could mean that your body doesn't respond as favourably as it could, meaning you may not get the maximum benefits!6
So, my advice is to ensure that you get 6 hours of sleep per night – at the very least! But really, most of us should be aiming for between 7-8 hours.
Then, if sleeping well is easier said than done, a dose of Dormeasan before you settle down for the night, could help you to dose off.

4. Stress

Chronic or on-going stress can directly affect our immune system. It causes our inflammatory cells to increase, and down-plays our more helpful immune cells – the very state that can put us more at risk of contracting infections.7
But, did you know that something as simple as breathing properly, could help to reduce your stress response and, in turn, help give your immune system a boost? From a practical point of view, shallow breathing associated with stress can reduce the efficiency of our circulation (bearing in mind our immune cells rely on efficient circulation so they can patrol effectively and catch any invaders before they get a chance to get to work!). Inadequate breathing can also contribute to tiredness, unproductivity and even light-headedness, all of which can add to our stress. So, it can easily turn into a vicious cycle if we aren't careful.

What can be done to help?

Watch my self-care video to learn more about the effectiveness of good breathing for the immune system and how you can help to keep it top of mind.

My Self-Care Tip: How breathing well could benefit your immune system

Here I explain how breathing deeply can help to manage stress and ultimately benefit your immune system:

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3954964/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188461/
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32700398/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425307/
5. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-54816-5#
6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31941836/
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/

Product references:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6098779/

2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814608010868

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