Get Your Glow Back – Episode 52 – With Dr Jenna Macciochi, PhD

What are the main roles of the immune system: 

Like a football team, all different players with different roles that all need to play as a team

Protects us from infection, tolerates everything in your environment you shouldn’t react to, healing and repair, makes muscles stronger, uniquely accepts the novel foetus in pregnancy, fundamental to how well we age 

How to support your immune system: 

Little things we do all the time build a healthy immune system

Sleep

During the day the immune system deals with infection overnight it replenishes and repairs. Two arms are needed over a 24 hour period for immune functioning, Immune system also has a circadian rhythm and relies on exposure to daylight and darkness to reset it.

Diet

Taking more of certain vitamins and minerals won’t necessarily make it work better, ideally we want to get everything we need from our diet 

Bone broth – part anecdote, part science. Depending on how you make it, does contain glycine important for collagen and healing for the gut and people with digestive issues. A substance called carnesine which has been shown to be helpful for colds and flus. 

Vitamin D – plays a really important role in our immune system and we should be aiming to keep a healthy level during our entire life, the NHS advises we should all supplement in places with reduced sunshine during the winter

Selenium – important for the immune system, essential mineral that the body needs from diet. Helps the body create natural antioxidants which can help the immune system. In the UK we are unlikely to be deficient and it’s best from food sources. 

Be careful thinking about supplements with COVID19 as it is a new virus and we don’t yet understand how it may react, with other colds and flus when our immune system is fighting something our needs for zinc and vitamin c grows. During times of stress or for athletes there is also a greater need for zinc and vitamin c 

Diet and Immune Response 

Feed a virus and starve a bacteria: old wive’s tale: feed a cold starve a fever, there is a truth to it, when you have extreme inflammation in the body from a bacterial infection witholding food can help reduce tissue damage. Part of sickness behaviours reduce appetite during a serious bacterial infection whereas during a mild virus infection appetite is usually maintained. Best thing we can do is really tune into how we feel when we are sick. 

The Gut and The Immune System

Every part of your digestive tract is lined with immune cells, immune organs and tissues which are important for the health of our whole body.

What we eat and how our microbiome is develping has a huge influence on the immune system, especially important for regulating the immune system.

Lifestyle

Stress has a real dampening effect on our immune system, in fight of flight the immune system is switched off so that more energy can go towards the response to stress. Cortisol is an immunosuppressant. Brain and the body are interlinked and how we feel mentally has an effect on our immune function

Exercise and the Immune System

We should try to do moderate movement everyday, our immune system needs moderate movement throughout the day to pump the lymph system. Our muscle mass produces Interleukin7 acts on thymus gland which shrinks from our 20s but the muscle mass regenerates it. The thymus gland produces t lymphocytes one of the master controllers of our immune system. An older person who exercises regularly and has maintained muscle mass can have a healthier thymus gland than someone in their 20s who lives a sedentary lifestyle. Over Exercising at too high an intensity and without the correct rest can suppress the immune system  

Why Do We Get Fevers?

previous thought was that fevers may be damaging (feveral convulsions) in recent years thought is that as the fever is caused by chemicals produced by cells of our immune system sending signals to our brain to change aspects of our behaviour, raises our temperature which helps slow the growth of certain microbes and helps the immune system to work and makes us tired, so that we rest. 

Medicine and the Immune System

Medication can work against the body’s natural processes for example non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can block the natural resolution of inflammation in the body and interfere with the inflammatory response generally so aren’t recommended for regular, long term use. Good to stop and think whether these medications are necessary before using them. 

Nurturing Our Children’s Immune System

During life stages the immune system changes a lot

Immunity is built in childhood especially during the first 3 – 5 years of life. Especially by developing a diverse microbiota 

Begins with the mother’s diet when she is pregnant, how they are born (caesarean or vaginal), how you feed them when they are born (breast or formula) breast milk, breast milk contains particular carbohydrate chains that directly feed the microbes in our gut, what are they exposed too in their environment growing up. 

Food Allergies and Intolerances: 

Food allergies are on the incline, an immune response to food, it produces histamine which can lead to anaphylaxis. An allergy means that your body has antibodies which react to even the smallest amount of that food. 

An intolerances just means the body is not tolerating that food, it just means that food makes us feel uncomfortable and we can tolerate a tiny amount whereas with an allergy we would have to avoid all amounts of that food forever. 

Why are allergies on the rise? 

We don’t know for sure why but there seems to be a genetic component, there’s a lot of things that have changed in our modern world that seem to feed into this epidemic of allergies the idea that we are too clean which is problematic in us overreacting to things in our environment, we aren’t being exposed to the good microbes in our environment in our quest to kill all the bad ones, increased use of antibiotics has also probably eroded a lot of our microbiota which is inherited. 

Three key takeaways from Immunity the art of staying well: 

  1. There are many different inputs to your immunity: stress, sleep, movement and diet and everyone has one which is your achilles heel and needs more work
  2. Immunity is not just for when you have a cold or flu or when we are in a pandemic but immunity affects your health span throughout your age. 
  3. Take the inspiration of your grandparents and great grandparents and fusing it with modern life – how we live is different but finding joy in community and taking pride in making your plate look better and that joy nurtures you immune system in particular your immune regulation 

What does getting your glow back mean to you: 

Finding balance and giving yourself boundaries, stand firm with your boundaries to prioritise balance. 

Where to find Jenna:

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Immunity: The Science of Staying Well

Website

Follow me on Instagram @madeleine_shaw_

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