This is meant to serve as a comprehensive breakdown when it comes to immunity and building a robust immune system. Let’s look at 4 basic elements. Food, Water, Sunlight, and Air. These are at play in our daily life but how much thought do we put in on how we can interact with them to build immunity? Especially at a time of uncertainty as this, now may be a good time to think about how we can stay as healthy as possible with the resources around us.
At its most basic, food is meant to nourish the cells that provide the building blocks to the rest of the body. If the food you are consuming is void of vital nutrients it will cause the cells to slow or inhibit certain process in order to remain in homeostatic balance. A good example of this is seen in the mitochondria of cell. the mitochondria are power plants of cells they take in nutrients and oxygen and produce ATP that then feeds all metabolic processes in the body. If there is persistent mitochondrial dysfunction it can take a toll on not only cell replication and division but on how the cell gets rid of waste products. This can play a significant role on the immune response and how it responds to internal and external stimuli. So when thinking of food choices, it may be a good idea to keep in mind all the factors it takes to create the very best food we can put into our bodies. Are we evaluating our food only on the vitamin and mineral content minus the antinutrients? If so then we may need to look at nutrition through a different lens. Has that food been domesticated and selectively bred to have a tame taste? How many different species of food are you eating in a given year? Our ancestors ate hunderends of different species of plants and animals. We as Americans consume about 30. So when it comes to genetic diversity we are greatly lacking. Through the years of domestication of plants and animals we have selected traits that we wanted to bring forward in the offspring. Generally that meant selecting traits that were easier to process through and ultimately consume. Take carrots for example, the wild variety still exists today and is commonly known as Queen Anne’s Lace used in flower arrangements across the country. But the roots are wild carrot. They are tender only in the first year of growth and have far more bitter and astringent compounds than a domesticated store bought carrot. But the nutrient profile is far greater. The examples don’t stop there, time and time again we have traded nutrients and medicinal compounds in our food for easy to eat and easy to process domesticated varieties. We grow them bigger and bigger but the nutrients are more and more diluted. Herbs are a great example of foods the have really had no domestication, they are how they were thousands of years ago and valued for their flavors and properties still today.
Water could be one of the most misunderstood elements in our modern world. But yet it is the most utilized substance on the planet. people tend to think that living in such a modern age that we have seemed to answer most of life’s difficult questions. While that may be true in some instances it becomes complicated when talking about water. For most of human history water was at the center of life. tribes and then larger towns and civilizations where created around access to drinking water. think about how many towns have spring in its name just in the United States. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that chemicals were introduced specifically a chlorine derivative (calcium hyochlorite) into the treatment of water. I like to distinguish the difference of water being treated with chemicals such as chlorine as “processed water”, because there are many ways to treat water to make it safe to drink without the use of chemicals. Charcoal being the most widely used in the world before chemical treatment. Water without chemical treatment we will call “raw water”.
Our bodies are made up of nearly 60% water. every single tissue holds water, but the water in our bodies behaves very differently then the water we interact with on a daily basis. It wasn’t until very recently about the last 15 years that we even began to understand the water in our cells. The work that Gerald Pollack has done at the University of Washington has fundamentally changed how we are looking at water. His work outlines the idea of structured water and (EZ) or exclusionary zone water and how it interacts in the cell. Lets start by breaking the idea of structured water down. Structured water is water that hasn’t been molecularly changed. For example if water is pumped up from an aquifer such as in a well, it starts to lose its crystalline structure that forms from the hydrostatic bonds of the H20 molecule. This destructuring of water can have an effect on hydration of the cells in the body. This brings us to the idea of the fourth phase of water. In the cell water behaves not as a liquid, solid, or gas but as a fourth phase a gel. This gelling effect forms what’s called an exclusionary zone. This zone blocks off extracellular water from the inside of the cell. This is thought to be a vital process in mitochondrial and ultimately in immune function for cells. Therefore having structured water that can form an exclusionary zone inside the cell seems to have not only a positive effect on hydration of the body but the overall health. Water that naturally comes up out of the ground from springs is stored in deep underground aquifers that can take hundreds of years to come to the surface. We’re talking pre-industrial revolution, clean, no chemical runoff filtered through gravel, sand, bedrock, and then defying that natural laws of gravity is pushed and expelled from the earth. These are the springs that our ancestors have centered their lives around since the beginning.
The sun, a star that is 93 million miles away that provides us with UV-rays and Infrared light. All biological process require the sun. In plants and protists its photosynthesis, in mammals we photosynthesize vitamin D. Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin at all, it’s a hormone. Our body has “vitamin” D receptors on something like 97% of our cells. After sun exposure “vitamin D” is synthesized by the liver and kidneys, into its active hormone calcitriol. Calcitriol is regulated by the kidneys to keep the proper balance of calcium in the blood. It also plays a role in regulation of the parathyroid. Sunlight should be the main source of “Vitamin” D when the sunlight hits your skin the UVB interacts with cholesterol to form “vitamin” D. Supplementation can help maintain levels, but it can be hard to get a good bioavailable source of “vitamin” D from food or supplements. Bottom line, naked full body sun exposure is the only way the liver can store enough “vitamin” D to get you through the winter months when the UV rays are less intense. This does not mean go out in the summer months and burn yourself to a crisp. Take it slow build up to a tan slowly so you can stay out longer and absorb more “Vitamin” D. Sun screens block UV light from penetrating your skin making “vitamin” D synthesis and other hormone synthesis are unable to take place. Windows also filter UV light so staying in the house next to a window doesn’t quite cut it to synthesize hormones from the sun. “Vitamin” D receptors are highly concentrated on the genitals, which in this day and age don’t have the opportunity to see daylight. Infrared light also plays a significant role in mitochondrial health of the cell in how it produces ATP. Sunset and sunrise are when infrared light is at its peak and hormone response like cortisol and melatonin are regulated. Circadian rhythms are especially challenging to keep balanced today. With LED lighting and screens all around it sends the message to the body to keep making cortisol which in return can stress and overload the body and negatively affect the immune system.
Oxygen is one of the most important of elements to regulate biological processes in the body. Without it cells literally suffocate and die. The lungs take in oxygen and then it is shuttled into the blood by hemoglobin so it can be deposited into the cells. One of the most important factors of oxygenation by the lungs is that it expels carbon dioxide from the tissues of the body. It can be argued that oxygen is less important than the releasing of carbon dioxide for your body. But the two go hand in hand. Breathe in oxygen breathe out carbon dioxide. Things become a little more interesting when the air you are breathing in is loaded with inorganic or organic particulate matter. Such as smoke from a fire, these compounds can be trapped in the lungs or depending on the material, distributed into the bloodstream and into the body. So access to clean air is very important for the lungs and circulatory system at large. Or on the flip side you take a walk in the woods and smell pine or cedar, those are essential oils that the lungs uptake into the bloodstream and activate a cascade of endocrine, immune, and neurological responses.