Immune Resilience: 5 Ways To Achieve It

Immune Resilience

Welcome to my blog on immune resilience.

You may like to check out my blog Microbiome Resilience too.

If this information resonates with you, and you would like to dive deeper into resilience then check out my webinar Immune Resilience, which also forms part of my 6 month program The Resiliency Program.

What Is Immune Resilience?

There is evidence that immune processes influence resilience. In general, resilient individuals have a different immunophenotype from that of stress susceptible individuals. It is possible to render susceptible individuals resilient and vice versa by changing their inflammatory phenotype.

Immune resilience is the capacity to maintain good immune function, called immunocompetence, and minimise inflammation while experiencing inflammatory stressors.

Researches have found that during aging and when experiencing inflammatory stress, some persons resist degradation of immune resilience.

  • Live longer.
  • Resist HIV infection or the progression from HIV to AIDS.
  • Resist symptomatic influenza.
  • Resist a recurrence of skin cancer after a kidney transplant.
  • Survive COVID-19.
  • Survive sepsis.

6 Characteristics Of A Resilient Immune System

In her great book Immune Resilience Romilly Hodges details six characteristics of a resilient immune system:

  1. Extremely responsive, able to ramp up and down rapidly.
  2. It’s a great communicator.
  3. It can distinguish friend from foe.
  4. It never forgets.
  5. A little bit of a bad thing does your immune system good.
  6. It neither burns the candle at both ends, nor lets the fire grow too big.

Stress: A Deal Breaker For Immune Resilience

Exposure to recent and chronic stressful life events has repeatedly been shown to increase an individual’s risk of developing clinical illness following inoculation with the challenge virus.
The association increases with increased duration of the stressful event, and is most apparent for those experiencing interpersonal or financial events.

Chronic stress interferes with the body’s ability to turn-off the immune system’s production of inflammatory chemicals; and this failure in regulation (maintaining a proper level) of inflammatory response occurs because chronic stress results in immune cells becoming insensitive to cortisol.

Signs Of Low Immune Resilience

Some of the signs of low resilience we explore in Immune Resilience Webinar include:

  • Poor sleep.
  • Poor gut health.
  • Regular colds/infections.
  • Several courses of antibiotics.
  • Sedentary living.
  • You don’t eat nutrient dense food regularly.
  • You NEVER get ill.

The last point is a very common experience with my clients. They suffer with a chronic dis-ease, but they never catch the bugs going round their community. In these kind of circumstance, it is NOT a sign of a resilient immune system.

Immune Resilience Supports Overall Resilience

Peripherally occurring immune responses modify brain functions.

In particular individual differences in the innate immune system can impair resilience in face of social stressors by compromising integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Both human and animal studies show that immune mediators are able to influence the way the brain processes information and responds to it both physiologically and behaviourally.

An example of this is something called sickness behaviour. When we get sick we may have a tendency to want to withdraw – we stay in bed under our covers, or station ourselves on the couch reluctant to leave the house, engage in socialising and generally want to be alone. This is an evolutionary conserved protective mechanism, driven by pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. Back in the days when we were hunter-gatheres living in small communities this response (withdrawing from socialising) would have protected our community from the bug – we would gone and hid at the back of the cave (so to speak) until we felt better and weren’t contagious anymore.

5 Ways To Build Immune Resilience

Personal Control

A range of psychological factors may play protective roles against the deleterious effects of stressful events. One of these is personal control.

Personal control is defined as “beliefs in one’s ability to influence circumstances and attain goals.”

Greater perceived control may reduce the perception of threat when appraising stressful events, as well as promote more adaptive coping responses (e.g., problem-solving, support-seeking).

This may, in turn, reduce the severity or chronicity of negative cognitive and emotional states, as well as stress-related physiological alterations.

Support Mucosal Immune System

The mucosal immune system forms part of our gut barrier and can be considered one of our first lines of defence. We can evaluate our mucosal immune system with a comprehensive stool test that assesses for secretory IgA. Secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) provides a window into the strength of our mucosal immune system, which can pave the way for targeted natural interventions which help to improve overall immune resilience.

Exercise

Irrefutable evidence supports the importance of physical activity, exercise and cardiorespiratory fitness in…enhancing the immune system, healthspan, longevity and resilience.

Therefore, the communication between the skeletal muscle and the immune system seems to be very intense, finely tuned, and dependent on many different factors, such as the ones described above. The tight balance among them provides a proper environment not only for the skeletal muscle repair but also to improve immune system function and responsiveness.

Sleep

Sleep and immune system function have a bidirectional relationship.
Disturbance of sleep can create an alteration in immune function.
The opposite is also true, in that activation of the immune system can create a disturbance in sleep cycling.

Nutrient Dense Diet

There are many nutrients that are essential for a resilient immune system. One of these is vitamin A. I choose this one as the example as a lot of us have a genetic variant meaning we have significantly reduced ability of converting beta-carotene in to pre-formed vitamin A, called retinoic acid. The chances are, you are one of these people. It means we are more reliant on consuming preformed vitamin A which is only found in animal produce, the best source being liver.

Other nutrients include vitamin D, zinc, selenium and iron.

References

  • Dantzer, (2018) Resilience and immunity, Brain Behav Immune,:74:28-42 (click here)
  • Ahuja et al., (2023) Immune resilience despite inflammatory stress promotes longevity and favorable health outcomes including resistance to infection, Nat Commun 13;14(1):3286 (click here)
  • Pelligrino et al., (2024) Lack of Immune Resilience Negatively Affects Physical Resilience: Results From the InCHIANTI Follow-Up Study, J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 1;79(5):glae076 (click here)
  • Iddir et al., (2020) Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis, Nutrients, 27;12(6):1562 (click here)
  • Rogeri et al., (2020) Crosstalk Between Skeletal Muscle and Immune System: Which Roles Do IL-6 and Glutamine Play? Front Physiol, 16:11:582258 (click here)
  • Chow et al., (2022) Exerkines in health, resilience and disease, Nat Rev Endocrinol;18(5):273-289 (click here)
  • Chastin et al., (2021) Effects of Regular Physical Activity on the Immune System, Vaccination and Risk of Community-Acquired Infectious Disease in the General Population: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Sports Med; 51(8):1673-1686 (click here)
  • Nieman et al., (2019) The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system, J Sport Health Sci; 8(3):201-217 (click here)
  • Anderson et al., (2021) Nature Exposure and Its Effects on Immune System Functioning: A Systematic Review, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 3;18(4):1416 (click here)
  • Black & Savich, (2016) Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, Ann N Y Acad Sci; 1373(1):13-24(click here)
  • Bland, (2022) Clinical Understanding of the Sleep-Immune Connection, Integr Med (Encinitas) ;21(1):12-14 (click here)
Alex Manos Profile 2015 AM Logo scaled

Alex is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (IFMCP) and has a MSc in Personalised Nutrition. He is also a breathwork facilitator with a background in personal training and massage therapy. He also runs The Resiliency Program - a 24 week program aimed at building physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resilience.

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