Probiotics seemed to be the most promising new research that I reviewed for my lecture. The gut is often the location where bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens or disease causing microorganisms first encounter our immune system. That is why our gut health might equate to a healthier immune system. The research on probiotics and the microbiota or current bacteria living in our gut and it's correlation with various disease is promising. I only covered it's correlation with immunity in this lecture.
Obesity, anorexia, or malnutrition also correlate with our immunity. Obesity, or a BMI >30 is determined to be a chronic state of inflammation and has been proven to cause more infections that tend to be worse as well. In fact, a BMI >30 in comparison to a BMI<17 is actually worse for your chance of getting an infection in some cases. Please see my references in the end slide for these papers.
Vitamins have long been used to fight immunity with supplementation. However, the literature usually only supports increased supplementation with Vitamin D when sunlight exposure is low. This would include our region of Denver from the fall to the spring based upon our latitude. It is really hard to get enough Vitamin D from the diet in regions that don't receive enough sunlight based upon the way it is absorbed. Most of the other vitamins are consumed in enough amounts in a diet that incorporates lots of fruits and vegetables and occasional meat. In vegans or vegetarians that don't consume many processed foods, B vitamins may not be consumed in enough quantities and should be supplemented. Vitamin B12 is another vitamin that has poor oral absorption but it does appear like repeated oral absorption in large quantities may be better then a one time injection of large quantities. Another way to look at the above vitamins if the separation between fat soluble vitamins ie A,D,E,and K and water soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins can become toxic in ingested in large supplement forms while water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C are normally secreted out.
Minerals have also been shown to improve immunity. Many people already take zinc supplementation. However, what they don't know is that sometimes supplementation can change that way the body absorbs other minerals. The charge on the zinc element is similar to copper, magnesium, calcium, and some forms of iron. The absorption of these elements can affect each other. Again, this could warrant a seminar in of itself but is important to keep in mind for those supplementing with large amounts of minerals; the supplement may be inhibiting absorption of other important minerals.
Some of the things I have already discussed are antioxidants. Quercetin is tumeric. Polyphenols naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables and are considered an antioxidant which are known to fight inflammation by combating free radicals in the body. In addition, I discussed polyunsaturated fatty acids and the three principle types of fatty acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA. I additionally emphasized that when taking in these fatty acids it is important to consume them in a ratio of your omega 6 fatty acids ie 2:1 or 1:1 or you may not gain the full benefit of your omega 3 fatty acids.
Sleep is very important to immunity. Studies have shown that decreased sleep can even reduce your immune response to vaccines. The goal is to get between 7 to 9 hours per day of sleep. Anything less then 7 hours and sometimes more then 9 hours is often associated with obesity. Think of sleep as your time to repair the body. My slide above noted how sometimes athletes can require more sleep than someone who is less active. However, that time spent in bed can often be inefficient. Practice good sleep hygiene such as going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time, avoiding screen time before bed, don't read stressful emails before bed, and avoid eating right before bedtime.
Stress is a hard factor to quantify but there are studies out there that do this. There is a old New England Journal of Medicine article that supports a direct correlation between rates of upper respiratory infections and stress with attempts to control outside factors. The theory behind this mechanism is that the fight or flight response produced by stress limits the bodies ability to fight infection during this stressful period. Ways to deal with this stress include avoiding caffeine, simple sugars, and trying to find ways to self soothe through biofeedback and relaxation techniques such as reading a book or exercising.
Questions asked during this lecture included: