What is immunity for, really? Ask ten of your favorite people and you could end up with two dozen different answers. People usually only talk about immune function when something goes wrong—someone has to have a biopsy to find out if they’ve ‘gotten’ cancer, or a new swine or bird flu ‘breaks through’ the species barrier, or something like that. We don’t usually think about it when we’re feeling all right because we’re too busy living the life!
Your Immunity Has an App for That
Lucky for you, your immune stays busy and is always squarely focused on you. Your dedicated immune cells reach out and touch everything that you do—and in a lot more detail. They analyze and store this data for future reference, even if no immune response is necessary. All this intelligence-gathering is why your immunity exists! While investigating things that might threaten your health, your immune system learns something pretty interesting: that, in fact, most microbes are harmless or even beneficial. For one luscious example, read this posting about the micro-life of the forest.
If your immunity does encounter a potentially dangerous microbe, it first mounts a preliminary attack on it, and tries to digest and study the invader. This way, it can fight that bug better in the future—along with others that resemble it in some chemical or structural fashion. These encounters are stored up like adventure stories in your trusty immune memory.
Point 1: Immunity Doesn’t Always Want to be Boosted
There’s a lot more to immunity than bugs and infections, though. Your body is its own universe of immune activities integrated with the smooth running of your heart, your brain, your eyes and hands, and all the rest of you. Immunity has both offense and defense programs that need to run pretty much constantly—but it’s better if they don’t get mixed up by disease or by inappropriate boosting.
Just like all your muscle and nerve and skin cells, immune cells get injured and grow older. Sometimes they just limp along, doing the best they can. Do you really want to ‘boost’ your old or gimpy immune cells? Every cell has a natural function—and a natural lifespan that goes along with it. For cells, it takes energy and planning to pass along its best expertise to the next generation. For aged or ailing cells—and for your best immune function—healthy cell renewal through rejuvenation is the path to take, not just boosting.
Point 2: Rejuvenate? Or Keep on Aging?
Natural rejuvenation processes give your cells a chance to clear out damaged parts and restore better function. Heard about ‘zombie cells’? Boosting, on the other hand, may serve only to amplify existing immune dysfunction and confuse your offensive and defensive immunity missions.
How does rejuvenation happen? Several ways, actually!
In humanity’s earlier days, going through periods of having less food was one common way rejuvenation was triggered. But these days, you can help it along by remodeling your Eating Window.
An enjoyable way to promote cell renewal is to eat foods that are rich in nutrients—especially plant nutrients—that give rejuvenation a boost. Such foods include berries, buckwheat (especially Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat), green and matcha teas, onions, apples, cruciferous veggies like bok choy and Brussels sprouts, grapes, pure cocoa, olives and olive oil, and all peppers. These plants are especially potent when they are heirloom varieties, are grown organically, or have grown under challenging conditions like heat, cold, drought, or high altitude.
Omega-3s—especially those containing a high level of PRMs (pro-resolving mediators, which are their most active immune component) are valuable for keeping immune defense and offense in balance. Omega-3s and their PRMs help all of your cells, including the immune ones, age more gracefully. For more about PRMs and omega-3s, check out this posting.
Hard physical labor was another historical means of triggering human cell renewal. These days, it’s fine to earn the same ‘sweat equity’ with a good workout, whether it takes the form of exercise, playing with the kids, yardwork, or whatever makes your heart, muscles, and immune cells sing in harmony!
Point 3: Keeping Your Immunity Fluid and Flexible
Just like you, your immunity learns and evolves throughout life. Aging successfully through all the good, bad, and ugly means making lifestyle choices that limit aging processes at the cellular level—and renewing cells that have become too damaged to carry out their necessary duties to your body.
For immune cells, successful aging includes staying up to date about what’s going on everywhere in your body—and then being flexible enough with it in the right way to keep you healthy.
For instance, we all get mutations in the DNA—the living genetic library—of our cells. It’s a normal part of our oxygen-dependent living and is actually necessary for our evolution. For more about why DNA mutations exist, enjoy this earlier posting. A healthy immune system can usually detect when a mutation is transforming into a big problem (like an active cancer process). Aged or decrepit immune cells may have trouble discerning such a change—hobbled by their own aging processes.
Immunity can also lose its balance. Examples? Seasonal allergies, chronic inflammation, and autoimmunity. With allergies, an immune system reacts in an exaggerated way to something from outside your body, while in autoimmunity, it reacts inappropriately to the body itself. (Have some compassion for immune cells! Imagine the difficulty in detecting an early cancer yet not attacking any healthy cells around it. Very tricky business!) Chronic inflammation is like a constant irritation that an imbalanced immune system cannot heal. These overreactions can occur for many reasons, but the essential change is a loss of precision immune targeting and inability to resolve the issue.
Rejuvenation Takes a Bow
Regular rejuvenation is crucial for all your important cells, but it gives immune cells some distinct advantages for the health of their human. A renewed immune cell is efficient and well-targeted in protecting you. It’s alert to potential threats without reacting unnecessarily.
Result: effective immune offense and defense in good balance—and through a natural process that you can harness by the way you live.