Having a strong, well-trained immune system is essential not only to protect you from getting sick, but to speed your recovery and avoid complications if you do happen to get sick. With the amount of immune triggers we face today, including new variants and more, even people with strong immune systems may still come down with an infection or other immune-related health concerns. Whether you are focused on prevention, recovery, or both, supporting strong and balanced immune responses is your key to long-term health and a swift recovery if you do get sick.
Acquired Immunity vs. Innate Immunity
What is Acquired Immunity?
When we look at the immune system’s ability to fight off infections and invaders and keep you healthy, it’s important to note that are two major types of immunity: acquired and innate, each with their own components and roles. Acquired immunity, or adaptive immunity, is something that we develop over time, as our immune system is exposed to germs and other immune triggers. It can also come from vaccinations that stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to a specific virus or other pathogen. Acquired immunity is like a highly trained Special Forces unit, with a precise target, and specific weapons (antibodies) that allow the immune system to fight it.
As we encounter new viruses and pathogens, acquired immunity develops the unique antibodies necessary to fight each specific invader, and prevent infections from taking hold. Once we’ve been exposed to a virus, the next time that virus comes around, acquired immunity will detect and destroy it.
What is Innate Immunity?
Innate immunity is more like police on patrol. The innate immune system doesn’t know what it’s going to encounter, so it has to be ready for anything and everything. Innate immunity is the first line of defense against pathogens, as acquired immunity may take several days or more to learn about the virus, produce antibodies, and attack. Until that happens, innate immunity does most of the work.
For your best recovery from an infection or illness, it’s important to support both innate and acquired immunity. A number of therapies and natural approaches are shown to support healthy immune function and help train the immune system so it can work smarter and faster to support your long-term health and wellness.
Why You Shouldn’t Boost Your Immune System
When people get sick, there’s a tendency to think you need to “boost” your immune system. But what many people don’t realize, is that boosting your immune system can have harmful consequences. That’s because boosting immune activity too much can send your immune system into overdrive and cause it to attack your body with inflammation. This is what happens during an autoimmune flare up, and also a cytokine storm which can end up damaging your vital organs.
To stay healthy, we need our immune systems to create the ideal response, that’s strong enough to fight off infections or unhealthy cells, but not SO strong that it goes overboard and causes uncontrolled inflammation. It’s all about balance!
Recover Faster with Immune Enhancing Foods
The first step towards optimizing the immune system on every level is to provide the right nourishment and fuel that immune cells and your body need to function best. Your immune system is closely connected to every other bodily system so anything we do to support immunity will have beneficial effects for other key areas of health as well.
This is particularly true with the digestive system. The gut has been called “the second immune system” because the majority of immune activity occurs there. That’s why healthy eating is so critical to strong immunity. We need to make sure our defense mechanisms are well fueled, and that our digestion is strong and efficient. Unhealthy ingredients like refined sugars, trans-fats, and processed food additives have been shown to significantly impair immune function, sometimes right after we eat them. Just think of the long-term damage they can do.
Brightly colored fruits and veggies are particularly important, especially for innate immunity. The phytonutrients that produce bright plant pigments also provide exceptional nutritional value shown to support innate immune system. These nutrients also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, and other key benefits. One study showed that blueberries and red grapes contain powerful antioxidant pigments that support the innate immune system—your first line of defense.1
Cruciferous vegetables are also important for immune health. Broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower contain beneficial glucosinates, molecules that combine glucose, nitrogen and sulfur and have been shown to support immunity. One study showed that leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables stimulate innate immune activity in the intestines, by donating a gene that regulates gut immunity.2
Cultured foods like yogurt, miso, sauerkraut and others are rich in probiotic, beneficial bacteria that have been found to play important roles in modulating immune activity -- particularly in the digestive system. Probiotics promote healthy immune function in the digestive tract, in part by increasing immunoglobin-A, an important component of immunity. They also help reduce inflammation and boost gut health and function. Probiotic bacteria are shown to enhance both innate and adaptive immunity and support the activity of numerous types of immune cells and components.3
Hydration is also key for a healthy immune system. Immune cells travel and communicate through our circulatory and lymphatic systems, so hyperviscosity and poor circulation can impair immune function.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Studies show that laughter can be a powerful immune booster. In addition to alleviating immune-suppressing stress, laughter is shown to increase NK (natural killer) cell activity, and positively influence the expression of genes related to immunity. This can benefit both innate and adaptive immunity.4 If you’re home fighting a virus, try watching comedies for improved recovery.4
Promote Your Immunity with Sunshine and Vitamin D
A daily dose of sunshine, about 15-20 minutes, can improve health by providing natural vitamin D3 to support immunity, fight viruses and promote numerous aspects of overall health. If you live in an overcast area or at any time during the winter, consider taking a natural vitamin D3 supplement. Vitamin D supports both innate and adaptive immune function, making it an important supplement for optimal immune health and defense.5
Functional Mushrooms for Stronger Immunity
Functional or medicinal mushrooms are some of the best supplements for strong immunity. Mushrooms contain an abundance of immune-supporting nutrients, including beta-glucans, which activate and promote healthy immune cells. Medicinal Mushrooms support acquired immunity and antibody production, while at the same time modulating inflammation. As immune system modulators and “trainers”, functional mushrooms help the immune system reach balance, with the right level of activity to avoid inflammatory overreaction, as well as underreaction.6
Benefits of medicinal mushrooms:
- Make your immune system smarter and faster, so you’re prepared for seasonal and occasional colds and flus
- Power up your energy levels, so you don’t feel so tired and foggy-headed
- Boost your stamina and endurance, so you can enjoy an active lifestyle doing the things you love
- Support your healthy metabolism, so you can maintain healthy blood sugar levels
- Promote overall health, so you can live a long, healthy life
MycoPhyto is an intensive mushroom immune support supplement that contains 6 varieties of medicinal mushrooms, enhanced with a powerful botanical cultivation method that grows the mushrooms on a blend of powerful immune herbs for additional fortification with powerful phytonutrients and stronger health benefits. MycoPhyto works quickly to defend against occasional colds and flus, while supporting optimal long-term immune function and overall wellness.*
I love MycoPhyto! I have been using it for literally years! I am convinced of the power of mushrooms! I have definitely been healthier and get sick less often since I started taking the MycoPhyto ... and I am a public school teacher!
- Janie M.
Promoting a Healthy Immune System
Our immune system works hard to take care of us and keep us healthy. We can return the favor with practices that help our immune cells function more effectively, fight infections and long-term illness, and support total-body wellness.
- Guo, C., Sinnott, B., Niu, B., Lowry, M.B., Fantacone, M.L. and Gombart, A.F. (2014), Synergistic induction of human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene expression by vitamin D and stilbenoids. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 58: 528-536.
- Rankin LC, Groom JR, Chopin M, et al. The transcription factor T-bet is essential for the development of NKp46+ innate lymphocytes via the Notch pathway [published correction appears in Nat Immunol. 2013 Apr;14(4):395] [published correction appears in Nat Immunol. 2013 Aug;14(8):877]. Nat Immunol. 2013;14(4):389-395. doi:10.1038/ni.2545
- Yan F, Polk DB. Probiotics and immune health. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2011;27(6):496-501. doi:10.1097/MOG.0b013e32834baa4d
- Vivier E, Raulet DH, Moretta A, Caligiuri MA, Zitvogel L, Lanier LL, Yokoyama WM, Ugolini S. Innate or adaptive immunity? The example of natural killer cells. Science. 2011 Jan 7;331(6013):44-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1198687.
- Hewison M. Vitamin D and innate and adaptive immunity. Vitam Horm. 2011;86:23-62. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386960-9.00002-2. PMID: 21419266.
- Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):32-44.