Continuing our month-long focus on healthy aging, today we’ll discuss supporting a healthy immune system as we age. From the day we are born, we are literally a walking immune system, and it largely defines our health as we grow up. As a matter of fact, the more we age our immune system becomes what most supports our longevity and quality of life.
What is the immune system?
The immune system is a collection of biological processes and structures within us to help protect against diseases and pathogens. To explain, the various components must detect a wide variety of agents that enter our bodies from viruses or bacteria to parasites to protect our healthy tissues. All of these unique components play specific roles in keeping you healthy. Within the body, the main components of the immune system are:
- Bone marrow – where all the body’s blood cells originate
- Thymus – a gland that produces the hormone thymosin, which in turn aids in the production of T cells, until it reduces in activity after puberty
- Lymphatic vessels – are similar to blood vessels, but carry immune cells throughout the body, and into the brain
- Lymph nodes – areas between the lymphatic vessels where immune cells cluster, ready to attack when needed
- Spleen – in short, the spleen filters the blood of damaged red blood cells
- Tonsils – trap germs (viruses and bacteria) that you breathe in, thus keeping potential pathogens from causing issues
- Mucosal membranes – the first line of defense against potential antigens – both microbial and dietary
- Immune cells – often called white blood cells, or leukocytes. Overall, these include monocytes, lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, T and B lymphocytes, and natural killer cells.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that your brain, your immune system, and your gut microbes are intricately linked. This wasn’t clear until groundbreaking research came out in 2015, but now a gut-brain axis and a pathway from your immune system into your brain have been uncovered. This is why if we want to have a clear head and strong immunity well into our golden years, we need to pay attention to the living organisms in the gut, and how we feed them consistently with our diet.
why the elderly are at risk for acute Infections
The elderly can be more at risk for infections because of:
- Poor dietary choices lacking key minerals,
- Chronically poor digestion, absorption, and/or elimination,
- Sedentary lifestyle,
- Increased pharmaceutical usage, and
- Natural decline of immune function.
By all means, most of the above factors are within our control. It may not be easy to make improvements, but it is totally worth it! Way too many of our elderly population have given up on cooking. It is easier (not healthier) to drink a commercialized drink like Boost or Ensure, or instead have a bowl of cereal. However, if you read the labels, you’ll be shocked at how much inflammatory sugar is in there! Did you know, sugar is one of the top things to suppress the immune system. On top of that, synthetic vitamins don’t do much good.
It is a sad state that our modern American diet commonly leads to chronically poor digestion and absorption. Many elderly people have a lack of hydrochloric acid and enzymes resulting in constipation. Because of this, protein digestion is compromised, B12 absorption is lacking, and the minerals we need can’t get absorbed. Two foods that are extremely healthy and need to be included more often are homemade bone broth and Celtic sea salt.
Elderly people truly do have an increased risk of falls. However, two excellent activities that move all the body’s muscle groups are swimming and water aerobics. Doing these can give you aerobic benefits, while simultaneously giving you gentle resistance training, with no impact whatsoever.
Pharmaceutical drugs may be the top factor stealing vitality away from our elderly population. It is such a shame because many of the reasons people take these drugs are related to lifestyle factors. For this reason, we highly recommend working with a natural health professional, to help identify where lifestyle improvements can minimize the need for drugs.
With the right information, our elderly friends and family can work on providing these key elements, and extend our resistance to infection.
How to Best prevent infections?
First of all, we’d like to make the point that having a healthy immune system doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick. Your immune system needs practice. It needs to be exercised – in the way of exposures to a variety of bacteria and viruses throughout our daily life. Imagine it’s like going to the gym. When you want to build strong muscles, you need to exercise them. Some of this activity will create microtears and soreness. If you never go to the gym, you’ll never get the pain of sore muscles, but you’ll also never get the strength or definition you need when you need to lift something heavy or climb up a hill. Immunity functions in a similar way. All the various components we mentioned above need to communicate with each other. They need practice and constant feeding/maintenance to keep working properly.
That being said, there are many lifestyle activities you can do to help prevent infections. Some things will be specific to certain conditions, although many improvements could be good for anyone. For example, you can:
- Go for a walk outside and/or exercise regularly
- Get sufficient sleep every night
- Minimize stress levels
- Avoid sugar, sugar substitutes, and simple carbohydrates/grains
- Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables with Celtic sea salt
- Consume homemade bone broth on a regular basis
- Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake
- Minimize exposure to household chemicals, and
- Consume fermented foods, and nutritional/herbal supplements.
Supplements to support a healthy immune system:
Healthy immune systems can be built up with supportive whole food supplements. In fact, Thymex, Immuplex, and Echinacea Premium are three of our favorites to give a boost in the right direction. Check out our video about how these supplements can support your health:
1. Thymex® supports a healthy thymus gland which is the master gland of the immune system. It can use it in combination with other supplements to help support a healthy immune system.
- Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, and E
- And, you can always add a Vitamin D3 supplement to round out the mix.
3. Echinacea Premium is an herb that enhances healthy immune system function and upper respiratory tract health. It also helps relieve temporary mild throat discomfort associated with a dry throat, hoarseness, and other throat irritants. With Echinacea, it is most important to consume extracts of the root, not the leaf, for maximum potency. It is best to take a little bit over a long period of time, as opposed to a high dose just when you’re sick.
Just remember, having a healthy immune system is the basis of our quality of life as we age. Many factors are within our control if we want to live a long, full life with vitality! Maintain your focus on minimizing stress, getting plenty of rest, drinking plenty of fluids, eat a variety of vegetables, and take your daily mineral supplements!
To be sure your healthy immune system is strong and ready for action, check out www.ShopDrBobBacon.com for your immune-boosting supplements!