FIGHTING AGE RELATED IMMUNE DECLINE: Implementing strategies to keep you protected.

Immune decline

It has long been accepted that as people age, their immune systems decline. Your thymus gland, the small organ behind your breast bone, plays an important role in the immune and endocrine system. According to medical science the thymus gland starts to atrophy during puberty, and also sometimes due to extreme stress. In spite of the atrophy, it generally continues to play an immune roll in a healthy individual; still training T lymphocytes to fight infection and cancer for your lifetime. As you age you have fewer immune cells, and the ones you do have, don’t communicate with each other as well as they did when you were younger. That means they take longer to react to harmful germs, viruses and to heal from injury. Research reports that this deficiency also impacts whether or not a vaccine will be effective; “B lymphocyte deficiencies have been found which contribute to lower vaccine response in the elderly as well as in some younger individuals”.

Watching the daily news reports highlight the vulnerability of seniors and the immune compromised to viruses, in particular to the current ‘pandemic’. Despite being a healthy senior, I like many older people, feel vulnerable. If I contracted the virus and suffered respiratory complications; my life, as I had it planned out, might take an unscheduled turn. I will continue to heed research based information on protecting and maintaining a healthy immune system as I continue to age, as well as, follow government recommendations for health protection.

Our Canadian government and healthcare system are doing an excellent job at protecting the senior and immune compromised population with the recent measures implemented; and with everyone’s cooperation, these measures should be enough to keep everyone safe. Please follow the World Health Organization recommendations for coronavirus protection at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019, your important first step to immune protection.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FIGHT AGE RELATED IMMUNE DECLINE?

Modifications and supports:

According to research, you can reverse thymic atrophy, rejuvenating immune system responses. A Springer Link research article titled Reversing the immune ageing clock: lifestyle modifications and pharmacological interventions, indicates that  you can fight your ‘forcasted’ immune decline. Below are a few summarized points from the research. Visit the link to read the research – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10522-018-9771-7

• high levels of physical activity in adulthood have a beneficial effect on thymic output
• optimal nutrition is an important determinant of healthy ageing and plays a significant role in maintaining healthy immune function
• zinc found in shellfish, meat, nuts, seeds, beans, nutritional yeast and wheat germ is a trace element required for multiple immune cell tasks
• reservatol found in red grapes, peanuts and berries, has immune modulating (enhancing) effects
• a wide range of pharmacological agents with anti-immunesenescence (anti-immune decline) properties have been identified

“Growing evidence” reported in the Frontiers of Immunology, Nutritional Immunology article “It is increasingly recognized that nutrient intake, above what is currently recommended, may beneficially affect immune function, modulate chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, and decrease infection risk. This includes both macronutrients (lipids such as n-3 PUFA) and micronutrients (zinc, vitamin D and vitamin E), in addition to phytochemicals and functional foods (probiotics and green tea). Many of these nutritive and non-nutritive food components are related in their functions to maintain or improve immune function including inhibition of pro-inflammatory mediators, promotion of anti-inflammatory functions, modulation of cell-mediated immunity, alteration of APC function, and communication between the innate and adaptive immune systems.”

Nutrition/Diet:

The immune system has many protective and signalling functions which require an adequate availability of micronutrients to maintain a healthy immune response.  Diet deficiencies of many of these necessary micronutrients are often found in the elderly and immune compromised. The Nutri-Facts article titled Micronutrients and the immune system states “The nutrients collaborate and complement each other in the diverse processes of the immune system”. Homemade soups with a large variety of quality ingredients are an excellent way to get a diverse array of immune supporting micronutrients.

According to the Frontiers in Immunology article Immunosenescence (immune decline) and Its Hallmarks: How to Oppose Aging Strategically, “The close connection between nutrition, intake of bioactive nutrients and supplements, immune function, and inflammation demonstrate the key role of dietary strategies as regulators of immune response and inflammatory status, hence as possible modulators of the rate of immunosenescence. The link between aging and disease is in part a reflection of the functional changes in the immune system of older people”. You can read more at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.02247/full

The Blue Zones research article, Boost Your Energy and Immunity with These 13 Super “Blue” Foods,  reports that you can improve your immunity by making changes in your diet. A diet focused on beans, greens, sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, oats, barley, fruits, green or herb teas, turmeric, garlic, shitake mushrooms and goats milk; can boost your immunity. The Blue Zones Solution lays out a proven plan to maximize your health based on the practices of the world’s healthiest people. Dan Buettner reveals how to transform your health using smart eating and lifestyle habits gleaned from new research on the diets, eating habits, and lifestyle practices of the communities he’s identified as blue zones—those places with the world’s longest-lived, and thus healthiest, people. Visit the Blue Zones website to read more at https://www.bluezones.com/2020/03/boost-your-energy-and-immunity-with-these-13-super-blue-foods/.

Are you negatively affected by certain foods or  other triggers?  Determining the root cause of these can provide you with useful information, allowing you to avoid them and preventing risky immune system distractions.  THE WEAK LIST:  A Necessary Well-being & Protection Tool

Immunotoxicity:

Immunotoxicity is an ongoing challenge for all ages. Immunotoxicity is defined as adverse effects on the functioning of both local and systemic immune systems that result from exposure to toxic substances including chemical warfare agents. The personal care, home and garden products that we use daily come with potential immunotoxic challenges, disrupting the body’s natural and necessary immunosurveillance, immunoassessment and immunoresponses. Check out your personal health care products for their potential immunotoxicity ratings at the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database – https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/#.

Fragrance in personal care, laundry and household products also contain immunotoxic risks. Check out the Less Toxic Guide for recommendations for less toxic options for other products you regularly use – http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/.

Workplace exposure to toxins can result in immunotoxicity. Environmental immunology has provided highly tangible benefits in the study of the immune system. The Research Gate article Occupational Immunotoxicology, states that “Occupational immune diseases are some of the most common illnesses that affect workers including inflammation, allergy, respiratory disease, autoimmunity, or other immune modulation resulting in suppression following exposure in the work environment”. Workplace protection for employees from toxins is an employer responsibility.

Stress, Stress Idling and Stress Sensitivity:

According to the Health Psychology Open article titled Psychological intervention based on psychoneuroimmunology; “Beliefs, attitudes, spirituality, and psychological perspectives can dramatically affect our health, disease course, and overall well-being. Psychological and social disorders are also capable of altering the immune system, which may influence vulnerability to the disease and its evolution.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6444782/

Do you feel like you are stress idling? Are you sensitive to stress?  According to research reported by the American Psychological Association article Stress Weakens the Immune System, “Managing stress, especially chronic or long-term stress (even if it’s not intense), may help people to fight germs”.  Germs include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. The best action you can take to keep your immune system strong and able to handle ‘germs’, providing virus protection, is to manage your stress.

According to research “individuals who are sensitized to stress become so over time through repeated exposure to external, as well as endogenous, stressors.  As such, increasingly minor stressors maintain the disorder than were required to trigger its initial onset”. Being chronically stressed out and stress idling indicate that the body’s stress response is flawed. This can interfere with normal body functions including the necessary communication for accurate immunosurveillance, immunoassessment and immunoresponse.

Managing stress is a necessary ‘must do’ to ensure a healthy immune response.  Ensuring a healthy life balance through a more ‘health promoting’ priority list with stress management strategies is an important immune support for all ages, especially those who are elderly, immune compromised, stress idling or stress sensitive. From the American Institute of Stress article by Jim Porter, Are You Stress Sensitive, “My recommendation for stress sensitive people is to take up meditation. Meditation may actually help you rewire your nervous system. One study of mindfulness meditators (at the University of Wisconsin) showed that people who meditated for 30 minutes every day for 8 weeks were actually able to increase the size of their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for happiness and contentment.” Learn more at STRESS:  A Modern Day Challenge -. http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/?p=1115.

Mindfulness and meditation:

Mindfulness and meditation have been researched for their immune system supporting benefits. According to a Research Gate article titled Meditation and Immune Function: “Practicing meditation has several benefits, including reducing the severity of psychological disorders and stress-related ailments, increasing immune function, and delaying the progression of various diseases. Researchers have found that Mindfulness Meditation, Transcendental Meditation, and Qigong interventions have positive effects on individuals’ NK (natural killer) cell activity and proportions, B-lymphocyte numbers, and telomerase activity, while also keeping CD8+ T-cell numbers stable during times of high stress. In addition, meditation has also been shown to increase antibody response in people injected with the influenza vaccine. Similarly, HIV positive individuals practicing meditation showed increased T-cell and NK cell counts and NK cell activity, slowing the progression of the virus.” https://www.researchgate.net/…/329479535_Meditation_and_Imm… I listen to the Ultimate Zen Meditation playlist on Spotify for my meditation ‘time outs’ as well as silent meditation on, breathing, ‘peace’ and family.  The research based ‘ways to’ and ‘how to’ meditate suggestions on this Science of People post are helpful to get started.

Tai Chi:

According to a Harvard Health Publishing article titled Tai chi gives immune system a boost, “Tai chi might have a strong effect on the immune system because it manages to bring exercise, relaxation, and meditation together in “one behavioral intervention,” the researchers said. They theorized that tai chi enhances T cell activity by quieting the nervous system’s ‘fight or flight’ response, which can, in certain circumstances, interfere with the immune system.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/In_Brief_Tai_chi_gives_immune_system_a_boost

Yoga:

New research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that yoga can boost your immune system, helping you fight off viruses and protect you from the damaging health consequences of chronic inflammation. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/urban-survival/201802/new-research-how-yoga-boosts-your-immune-system

Herbs:

Herbs have long been used to support immune system health. Immune stimulating herbs are recommended to be used short term to help you to resist infection and provide support when exposed to contagious illnesses. Immunomodulating herbs are slower acting, with a more prolonged, deep immune balancing, toning effect.

o Allium sativum – Garlic bulb
o Baptisia tinctoria – Wild Indigo, root
o Commiphora mol-mol – Myrrh, resin
o Echinacea spp. – Purple coneflower, root and seed
o Eupatorium perfoliatum – Boneset, leaves and flowers
o Sambucus canadensis and S. nigra – Elderberry, flowers and fruit
o Spilanthes acmella – Toothache plant, leaves and flowers
o Usnea spp. – Usnea lichen or old man’s beard, whole lichen body
o Zanthoxylum clava-herculis and Z. americanum – Toothache tree, bark
o Panax ginseng – root
o Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus – root
o Astragalus membranaceus – root
o Licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra L. – root
o Cat’s claw, Uncaria guianesis and U. tomentosa – root and stalk bark
o Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera – root

https://www.chestnutherbs.com, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1534735403256419, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/astragalus-membranaceus, https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/3/491s/4714940, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/

Essential Oils:

Many essential oils support the immune system by either fortifying the immune response or eradicating bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Essential oils have specific immune-strengthening properties: antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. https://fullscript.com/blog/essential-oils-for-immune-health

• Eucalyptus – Immune-modifying and antimicrobial effects of Eucalyptus oil and simple inhalation devices. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20359267
• Frankincense – Modulation of the immune system by Boswellia serrata extracts and boswellic acids. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20696559
• Oregano – Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24779581
• Thyme – Antibacterial and immunity enhancement properties of anaesthetic doses of thyme. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1018364713000918

The preceding information is just a small collection of strategies to get you started on fighting your ‘forcasted’ age related immune decline and immune vulnerability. Check with your regular healthcare provider before implementing changes in your healthcare supports, there may be contraindications due to age, medications or other factors. Do not stop taking your prescribed medication without consultation with your doctor.

For more health promoting strategies:

Follow my road map: http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/?p=2774

My Green Medicine Cabinet: http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/?page_id=2914

Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.C., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca, elisabethlhines@gmail.com

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STRESS IDLING & SENSITIVITY: A Modern Day Health Challenge

Post updated March 23, 2020

stress meter 2

Do you feel stressed most of the time? Do you feel like you are stress idling? Are you more sensitive to stress than the people in your life?  Do you have to work harder than others to stay grounded? According to research “individuals who are sensitized to stress become so over time through repeated exposure to external, as well as endogenous, stressors.  As such, increasingly minor stressors maintain the disorder than were required to trigger its initial onset”.

Where does your stress meter hover? Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, it motivates – allowing you to achieve your goals. Ideally your HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis will correctly mount and return your body to its normal healthy shutdown point – allowing relaxation and healing on a regular basis. Being chronically stressed out and stress idling indicate that the body’s the stress response is flawed. This can interfere with normal body functions including the necessary communication for accurate immunosurveillance, immunoassessment and immunoresponse. Read more in my blog post YOUR BODY’S INTERNAL COMMUNICATION SYSTEM: Improving crucial messaging for better health. Stressors come in many forms and the combined physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stress load can take its toll.

According to research reported by the American Psychological Association article Stress Weakens the Immune System, “Managing stress, especially chronic or long-term stress (even if it’s not intense), may help people to fight germs”.  Germs include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. The best action you can take to keep your immune system strong and able to handle ‘germs’, providing virus protection, is to manage your stress. FIGHTING AGE RELATED IMMUNE DECLINE: Implementing Strategies to Keep You Protected provides you with additional information. 

A number or of factors, including interference, can modify normal stress responses. You may be suffering from a case of life imbalance which can really play havoc with your stress response. For more on assessing and restoring  your life balance read LIFE BALANCE: The Well-being Root – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/?p=140. So what does a normal healthy stress response look like?

First, your body (brain/hypothalamus) makes a judgement whether a situation is stressful based on sensory input and processing (what your body sees, hears, senses) and stored memories (past stressful events and how your body responded).

Secondly, your body (HPA – hypothalamus to pituitary and adrenal medulla) mounts a stress response, ideally equivalent to the threat.

flightcartoon

Thirdly, the  HPA stress response ideally returns to its normal healthy shut down status, allowing ongoing relaxation and healing.  

Recent research carried out by Rachel Yehuda into the intergenerational effects of trauma reveals that descendants of people who survived the Holocaust have different stress hormone profiles than their peers; perhaps predisposing them to anxiety disorders and inability to cope with life’s stressors. If your family’s generational history reflects major past trauma you may have an altered stress hormone profile – possibly inadequate levels of cortisol, the hormone that allows the body to return to normal after trauma, and inadequate levels of the enzyme that breaks down cortisol. You may need more stress management strategies to maintain calm and balance and an ability to cope with life’s stressors. You can read more about the study in the March/April 2015 Scientific American Mind Magazine article Epigenetics: Descendants of Holocaust Survivors Have Altered Stress Hormones – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/descendants-of-holocaust-survivors-have-altered-stress-hormones/.

For information on how harmful chemicals, stress and other influences can permanently alter which genes are turned on without changing any of the genes’ code read:

The Case for Inheritance of Epigenetic Changes in Chromosomes by Michael K. Skinner – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-case-for-inheritance-of-epigenetic-changes-in-chromosomes/

Is your chronic inflammation caused by stress? How stress influences disease?

Study reveals inflammation as the culprit – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm

Is your body chronically reacting to foods and substances in the environment (physical stressors)?  This constant reacting can weaken and interfere with your immune system response. Learn how to determine what makes you weak, potentially weakening your immune system by learning to read your body’s responses to triggers in my blog post HEALTH PROTECTION: Using Your Body Responses to Identify Health Challenges.

The following is an excerpt from my book THE WHOLE PERSON WELL-BEING EQUATION on the health impact of chronic stress and stress idling.

“Although a normal part of every person’s life, chronic or unmanaged stress in your personal life, caregiver stress or stress resulting from your work  can be detrimental to overall health. Understanding, monitoring and dealing with your body’s stress response is crucial to whole person well-being. The human stress response was designed to provide protection through the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in situations of grave danger. An appropriate amount of stress is a healthy and necessary part of life. In modern day, the stress response is kicking in on an ongoing basis due to accumulating psychological stressors. Although your car needs to idle at a certain rate to avoid stalling out; you can be hurt by a chronically idling stress response, which keeps you ‘ready to go, ready to run.’ In today’s culture of ‘I need it now,’ fast food, commuting, problem solving on the fly, climbing the work ladder, running the kids to and fro, technical devices, social platforms and juggling finances; it can be a challenge for your body to restore the stress response to its default stand-down position. During times of stress, energy is diverted from the parasympathetic to the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the ‘flight’ reaction.  The parasympathetic nervous system strives to maintain homeostasis after periods of pain or stress by getting the body to relax. An idling stress response can take the leap into a full-blown fight or flight response during a crisis, with dire consequences. Even if a full ‘fight or flight’ response does not kick in, the chronic stress idling with its ongoing, harmful dose of hormones can have detrimental effects on health including stress sensitization. In his Psychology Today article, Stress – It Is Worse Than You Think, John Carpi highlights the harmful effects of chronic stress as well as how we can become sensitized to stress like a lobster coming to boil in a pot. Stress sensitization can cloud perception, logical thinking and judgement, without your awareness.”

 

stresssymptoms

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO COPE WITH STRESS:

STRESS IS COMPLEX: Major life stressors are inescapable. I had to learn new strategies to manage them. This is an excellent video: How does stress affect your heart? Watch this 7 minute excerpt from the brilliant documentary “Statin Nation” as Dr. Paul Rosch explains. Follow this link: http://ow.ly/hY3AW,

“Any therapies or activities that promote calm and relaxation like deep breathing, meditation, visualization, yoga, tai chi and nature walks assist in shutting down the stress response and restoring homeostasis. Chronic stress can damage the parasympathetic nervous system so that deep breathing does not reset the stress response. Eliminating caffeine, which amplifies the stress response, is a must for those that run on adrenaline and other stress hormones. Various herbs and essential oils contain nervines[1] which enhance relaxation and restore the stress response back to its default stand-down position. See Rejuvenate, Self–Help Therapies & Tools, Stress Management on page 136 for stress-buster tools.” Excerpt from my book THE WHOLE PERSON WELL-BEING EQUATION.”

Meditation and relaxation strategies are a must.  You can find them in my book.

From the American Institute of Stress article by Jim Porter “My recommendation for stress sensitive people is to take up meditation. Meditation may actually help you rewire your nervous system. One study of mindfulness meditators (at the University of Wisconsin) showed that people who meditated for 30 minutes every day for 8 weeks were actually able to increase the size of their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for happiness and contentment.”

I listen to ultimate zen meditation music when feeling stressed, overwhelmed and while sleeping when needed.

Essential oil therapy via a diffuser and reflexology points can greatly relief stress symptoms.

ESSENTIAL OIL THERAPY FOR SYMPTOM RELIEF: Skip Harmful Drug Side Effects For Healthy Longevity – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/?p=1380 and SYMPTOM RELIEF: How To Get To 100% Symptom Free Naturally – http://mybodycanhealitself.ca/wordpress/?p=1155. Contact me to get you started.

Chronic stress idling with it’s dose of stress hormones disrupts  your body’s overall hormone profiles. Unmanaged life, work, classroom and homework stress can cause chronic stress idling.

HPA disregulation is associated with depression.

HPA Axis Dysregulation

Body scan visualization #4 in THE WHOLE PERSON WELL-BEING EQUATION can help your body to restore your normal, healthy and accurate HPA stress response and shut down. 

Implementing strategies to restore and maintain life balance will help store a normal, healthy and accurate HPA stress response. Find out more by reading my blog post LIFE BALANCE: The Well-being Root

Affirmations can help to offset the negative effects of stress. The following affirmation is just one that I use with my clients that helps them to diffuse stress and anxiety about traumatic situations.  It acknowledges the situation, but diffuses or neutralizes any negative impact. Some clients were quite skeptical when I suggested they use it – thinking I was crazy that this could possibly help – but it did. Use this affirmation whenever you start to feel anxious or stressed or overwhelmed. 

Neutralizing/positive Affirmation:

Although ‘A’ (situation, circumstances that are out of your control, and how you think or feel about them), I am okay, I will continue to be okay; and I will not allow ‘A’ (situation, circumstances) and my thoughts and feelings about ‘A’, to have a negative affect on me. 

My favourites:

I choose to remain cool, calm, collected and grounded in the midst (in spite of) of ____________________!

I choose to thrive in spite of _________________  (or everything)!.

Try this for a couple of weeks.  It really works. 
P.S. . Venting, rehashing and reliving the past, and negative thinking will interfere with the power of affirmations and restoring and maintaining a normal, healthy stress response and a healthy immune response. . 
Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P.

Holistic Wellness Practioner, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca elisabethlhines@gmail.com

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[1] Christopher Hobbs, Lac, AHG, Herbal Nervines, healthy.net, www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=950, accessed April 29, 2012.

[1] Igor Grant, M.D., Caregiving may be hazardous to your health, ©1999, American Psychosomatic Society, http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/cgi/reprint/61/4/420.pdf , visited March 2007.

[3] Christopher Hobbs, Lac, AHG, Herbal Nervines, healthy.net, www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=950, accessed April 29, 2012.

[4] John Carpi, Psychology Today, Stress – It Is Worse Than You Think, published on January 01, 1996, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199601/stress-its-worse-you-think, visited March 2007.

Images – Google images