On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and make your immune system stronger? What if you improve your diet? Take certain vitamins or herbal preparations? Make other lifestyle changes in the hope of producing a near-perfect immune response?The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function.
Extra vitamin E protected older mice from a bacterial infection that commonly causes pneumonia. Microbiologists and nutrition researchers from Tufts University report that the extra vitamin E helped regulate the mice's immune system. The findings, published online in advance of print in the The Journal of Immunology, show promise for studies investigating the effects of vitamin E and infection in humans.
Older adults over age 65 are at high risk for developing pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs typically caused by infection. The most common type of pneumonia that occurs in this age group is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. As a person gets older, the immune system becomes weak, making them vulnerable to lung infection. Normally, the body fights this infection using specific white blood cells, known as neutrophils, that enter the lungs and kill the bacteria. If the numbers of neutrophils in the lungs are not well regulated, …
Many researchers are trying to explore the effects of a variety of factors — from foods and herbal supplements to exercise and stress — on immunity. Some take measures of certain blood components like lymphocytes or cytokines. But thus far, no one really knows what these measurements mean in terms of your body’s ability to fight disease. They provide a way of detecting whether something is going on, but science isn’t yet sufficiently advanced to understand how this translates into success in warding off disease.
A different scientific approach looks at the effect of certain lifestyle modifications on the incidence of disease. If a study shows significantly less disease, researchers consider whether the immune system is being strengthened in some way. Based on these studies, there is now evidence that even though we may not be able to prove a direct link between a certain lifestyle and an improved immune response, we can at least show that some links are likely.
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