Everyone talks about ‘immune support;’ but do you really want to support an immune system that’s already damaged? Or would you prefer to rejuvenate your immune system so that it regenerates its potential to do its work?
— Jeffrey Bland, MD, Co-Founder (with his wife Susan) of the Institute For Functional Medicine
Your immune system is your most powerful curative system—when it’s working properly. A well-functioning immune system is balanced and resilient, fending off infections as needed, not overreacting to foods and other harmless environmental factors like pollen, or attacking your own body in an autoimmune response. An under-active, weak, or poorly functioning immune system increases your susceptibility to disease, like colds, fungal infections, and cancer; whereas an overactive immune system produces too much inflammation in the body and is prone to hyperactive reactions like allergies and autoimmune conditions.
The Infection-Autoimmune Connection
Many experts believe that if you have an autoimmune condition, you almost certainly have an infection, too. Growing scientific evidence indicates that chronic infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi are a big contributing factor in the development and exacerbation of autoimmune conditions.
My experience serving clients who are seeking to reverse autoimmune disorders corroborates this. I’m fortunate to collaborate with a naturopath who specializes in finding and treating infections and toxic loads naturally. We see infections underlying autoimmune conditions time and time again. The most common ones include Lyme and co-infections, mycoplasma, chlamydia pneumonia, Candida overgrowth, mycotoxins, the ubiquitous herpes family viruses, and parasites of all sizes, whether or not there has been any international travel. Our clients who find and address these often-hidden culprits get better. Energy improves, sleep gets better, hair grows back, aches and pains diminish; in short, by clearing the infections naturally, the immune system becomes freer and able to do its job.
Whether an infection precedes your autoimmune diagnosis or autoimmunity sets the stage for infections, any infection can make a bad situation worse, stressing an already overworked immune system and exacerbating or perpetuating autoimmune conditions.
The Pathway to Problems: A Malfunctioning Immune System
The immune system acts as our armed forces, protecting us from harmful invaders. When it functions properly, we are resilient against infections like the common cold and even Lyme disease. But modern lifestyle factors — like a diet of sugar and refined grains, poor sleep, minimal movement, excess stress and environmental toxins — burden our immune system and make us more prone to immune dysfunction and autoimmunity.
It won’t come as a surprise to you that a malfunctioning immune system is fertile ground for infections. You may have noticed that a particularly stressful time can be the perfect opportunity for a new infection to take up residence, like the common cold or a sneaky dormant infection, like Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) — the culprit responsible for mononucleosis (mono) — to reactivate and wreak havoc on your body. And once your immune system mounts a reaction to the infection, it produces a huge amount of inflammation, creating a prime environment for autoimmune conditions to emerge or worsen.
What Contributes to Poor Immune Function?
Years of chronic, low level inflammation from a poor diet, ongoing stress, lack of (or too much) exercise, aging, and a heavy load of environmental toxins causes your immune system to become imbalanced—tipping to under or overactive. In short, unaddressed, toxic F.I.G.H.T.S.™ factors hasten the decline of immune function:
- Processed SAD, inflammatory Foods and nutrient deficiencies
- Infectious burdens
- Poor Gut health
- A heavy load of Toxicants
- Hormone imbalance
- Chronic Stress
Addressing these F.I.G.H.T.S. categories head on will help you lower inflammation, fix and grow new mitochondria, and optimize your thyroid function, which in turn will boost your metabolism and regenerate your immune system, allowing you to clear infections, beat autoimmune and improve your odds of beating COVID-19 too:
Strategies to Rejuvenate Your Immune System:
We can look ancient or primal cultures to learn from people who lived without infections, antibiotics, immunizations, and modern medicine. How did these immune-resilient cultures live and what did they eat? Taking a page from long-lived people who live(d) in the Blue Zones (book by Dan Buettner), like Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; and Nicoya, Costa Rica, we would do well to implement these simple yet proven lifestyle strategies:
Rejuvenate Your Immune System to Improve Your Health Outcomes
One of the best ways to improve your immunity, reverse autoimmunity, and strengthen your resistance to and clear infections is to rejuvenate your immune system. As you embrace these simple lifestyle habits, you’ll be shifting your terrain for the better and your immune system will be renewed, revitalized, and more resilient.
There has never been a better time to get your immune system in good fighting shape. As you work your way to better lifestyle habits and see positive results, you’ll find the motivation to address other F.I.G.H.T.S. factors like gut health, toxins and stress, until you’re living the life you deserve, one of resilience and vibrant health.
Which immune system rejuvenation strategies will you try? If you have an autoimmune condition, have you found or cleared infections? I look forward to hearing about your experiments to renew and revitalize your immune function.
Take good care!
p.s. Want my help beating an autoimmune condition and optimizing your immunity? If you live the U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom. I collaborate with a naturopath who is an expert in resolving chronic infections and toxic burdens which are almost always part of the autoimmune puzzle. Together we provide comprehensive, customized treatment plans, and collaborative, caring support. Sign up for a complimentary 15 min discovery call to discuss how we might work together. If you’re truly ready to invest in your best health and life, I’d love to talk with you.