Immunity Boost

Gina Talks Boosting Immunity for Cold and Flu Season

We’re back with Pharmacist and Natural Wellness Expert Gina Ruffa and today we’re talking immunity! Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, cold and flu season is officially upon us and experts warn this year could return us to pre-pandemic case numbers. Following the 2020 all-time low of non-COVID viral infections, it may be time to buckle up your immunity belt to prepare for the many potential transmissible illnesses. The question is, how can we enhance our immunity? Gina fills us in.

Farmulated: Immunity is defined as resistance to disease or pathogens. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Gina: The immune system is designed to protect us against pathogens and foreign invaders, also called antigens. Our white blood cells produce a neutralizing response to antigens to eradicate them. Within the immune system, we have B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. We also have our innate versus adaptive immune systems, which is important to note. 

What is the difference between our innate and adaptive immune systems? 

Our innate immune system is what we are born with. Some research shows vaginal birth babies have stronger immune systems because their gut gets colonized as they’re birthed. Breast-fed babies may also have stronger immune systems. Our adaptive immune system, on the other hand, can be altered upon exposure. The field of epigenetics is fascinating because it allows us to turn on good genes as well as turn off bad genes, thus altering our adaptive immunity as our bodies respond to immune challenges. Genetics may load the gun but it’s our lifestyle choices that often pull the trigger. If we give our body the right environment or terrain, the body has the innate, God-given ability to heal itself in many instances.   

What are some ways we can alter our adaptive immunity?

Our gut is one of the greatest indicators of how strong our immune system is. A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system. As we know, one of the best things we can do is eat probiotic-rich foods or fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar and beverages like kombucha. Then we have vitamins and supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, elderberry, echinacea, selenium, melatonin, colostrum, medicinal mushrooms and the list goes on and on. But my all-time favorite happens to be oil of oregano, which is one of the most potent natural antiviral supplements due to the compound carvacrol. Next in line is black cumin seed oil (nigella sativa) which is very promising because it shows antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant and immunomodulatory effects and helps with coughs as well.

Along with maintaining a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sugar, we need to exercise, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking, keep our stress levels down, reduce exposure to environmental toxins and stay hydrated.

How can substances like CBD aid our immunity?

It’s anti-inflammatory and reduces oxidative stress, so it could act as a modulator for the immune system. It also reduces stress and anxiety that can contribute to a weakened immune system. When examining the endocannabinoid system, CB2 receptors function primarily within the immune system and contribute to immune homeostasis. 

What is the connection between inflammation and immunity?

Inflammation is the root cause of so many different chronic diseases and plays a role in suppressing immune functioning. That’s why it’s so important to consume an anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style diet and add supplements judiciously.

What if you eat a healthy diet year-round and still get sick during cold and flu season? Why are more illnesses contracted during the fall and winter months?

Well, a big part of it is lack of sunlight exposure. Because so many of us live so far above the Mason-Dixon line, we’re vitamin D-deficient. Optimal Vitamin D levels are above 50, ideally 70-90. The baseline vitamin D3 dose for adults is about 5,000 IU, but you can bump it up to 10,000 IU for a few days when you get sick to give your immune system a jump start.

Plus, being indoors often makes us more sedentary. Physical activity boosts your immune system and increases your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps maintain a healthy brain. Then you factor in holiday stress and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can both contribute to a weakened immune system. 

What is the difference between an overactive and underactive immune system and how are those differences expressed?

We want a nonspecific immune system to be able to attack a variety of foreign invaders. If you have an overactive immune system, it will be hyper-vigilant and attack harmless substances. If you have an underactive immune system, you’ll be susceptible to getting sick a lot.

Balance and moderation is what it’s all about. 

And we hope CBD can play a big role in achieving that balance. Thank you for another valuable conversation, Gina! 

 

To learn more about Gina Ruffa, visit her website at what-supp.org

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