A Pillar of Optimal Health: The Immune System
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
by: Robert Kachko, ND, LAc

Section: Healthy Aging

About Dr. Robert Kachko

Robert Kachko, ND, LAc is a Naturopathic Doctor and Licensed Acupuncturist at InnerSource Health in New York City. He proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and takes an active role in the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians (NYANP). He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Doctoral Degree in Naturopathic Medicine and a Masters Degree in Acupuncture from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture Institute. He has completed an additional 2 year course of study in Classical Homeopathy at the New England School of Homeopathy. He completed his pre-medical studies with a Bachelor's Degree with honors at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Dr. Kachko believes in the importance of expanding access to Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture for all patients. At the College of Naturopathic Medicine, he was founding President of the expanded local chapter of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association (NMSA) and received the prestigious award for Outstanding Service to the Profession.

To learn more about Dr. Kachko, please visit him on Facebook and www.innersourcehealth.com/Robert-Kachko.
There’s a lot more to immune system function than protection from colds and the flu, and “peak” infection seasons are not the only times when it is active. While flu activity tends to peak between December and March, according to the Centers for Disease Control, annual flu seasons may go as late as May.i So, it is important to support our immune systems year-round.
But did you know that in addition to defense against foreign invaders, optimal immune function is also essential for cancer prevention? What about the fact that a hyperactive immune response leads to many “auto-immune” diseases, which result when our immune system thinks that we are the foreign invaders? Research shows that the best way to create a healthy immune system is to live a health-promoting lifestyle, which consists of proper choices regarding diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction among other things. These choices all align with core naturopathic philosophy, which recognizes the need to live in harmony with nature and provide our bodies with sufficient sustenance on the physical but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual planes.

Here are some practical tips to make sure you’re best protected:
It is important that you do not undertake any of the below recommendations without the consent of your physician. In addition, please note that these recommendations are not individualized for you, and your naturopathic physician will work with you to optimize your individual care plan.
1. Diet Recommendationsii, iii
  • Avoiding the “SAD” diet: The typical Standard American Diet consumed by the current majority of patients includes excesses of refined foods, added sugar, high intake of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and overuse of salt. These have all been shown to reduce immune function and thus should be minimally consumed.
  • An Immune Promoting Diet: The human body requires a balanced diet that provides nutrients, minerals, and vitamins for a functional and effective immune response. Specifically, the nutrients vitamin A, beta-carotene, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, riboflavin, iron, copper, zinc, and selenium have been assessed in their ability to affect the course and outcome of bacterial infections. The target immune promoting diet is rich in whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts. Healthy fats are encouraged (especially high intake of extra virgin olive oil), along with various herbs and spices for flavoring (instead of added salt, for example). Red meat is limited, but fish and poultry are eaten in moderation. Consideration should be given to providing a high-quality food based multi-vitamin and multi-mineral to ensure optimal immune status.
  • What should you drink? Aim to consume approximately half of your per pound body weight in ounces of filtered water every day (150lbs, 75oz of water per day). Drinks high in added sugar or artificial sweeteners should be strictly avoided. Alcohol consumption should be limited as it has a negative impact along several immune parameters. Herbal teas as well as green/black tea or coffee may be consumed in moderation.
2.     Exerciseiv v vi
  • Aerobic exercise is especially beneficial, but maintaining a comprehensive exercise routine is best. Consider seeking out local classes on T’ai Chi and Qi gong, as these ancient forms of exercise have been shown to improve immune function (other exercise styles, such as yoga, which consider the mind-body connection are also useful).. A minimum of 30-60 minutes of varied “moderate-intensity exercise” 3 to 5 times per week is a health promoting goal. (Moderate intensity includes: brisk walking, water aerobics, tennis, gardening, dancing, or similar activities).
3. Lifestyle Recommendationsvii, viii, ix
  • Meditation: Integrative Body-Mind Training, Pranic Meditation, and other types of meditation and stress reduction techniques have been shown to be very effective at optimizing immune function.
  • Gastrointestinal Health: Aim to have regular bowel movements every day. Speak with your naturopathic physician if you experience regular digestive discomfort, as a healthy GI tract is crucial to optimal immune function.
  • Sleep: The role of restful sleep and optimal immune function has been well studied. Aim for 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep, adjusting recommendations as needed. Proper sleep hygiene includes sleeping in a dark room with special care to reduce exposure to blue-wavelength light (TV, computer, phone), noise reduction, and sleeping in a comfortable temperature setting.
4. Supplement Protocolx
There are many supplements which may be useful, but these must be selected based on a trained ND , as natural does not always mean safe. A few to consider include:
  • Vitamin D: Have your 25-OH Vitamin D levels tested. Discuss adding Vitamin D to your health plan with your naturopathic physician if your levels are low, as optimal levels improve immune function.
  • Probiotics and Prebiotics: If you’ve received high doses of antibiotics recently or have an under-functioning immune system, consider adding more fermented foods to your diet or a probiotic supplement.They’re not right for everyone, but can be helpful to support your immune system.
  • Green Tea: The constituents in Green Tea have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing. Aim for 2-4 cups per day, but be cautious of consuming too much caffeine (note: most of the caffeine comes out of the tea leaves within the first minute, so pouring out that first cup may be a useful way to naturally “decaffeinate” your tea).

[ii]Bhaskaram P. Immunobiology of mild micronutrient deficiencies. Br J Nutr . 2001;85(suppl 2):75-80.
Meydani SN, Erickson KL. Nutrients as regulators of immune function: introduction. Faseb J . 2001;15(14):2555.
[iii]Meydani SN, Erickson KL. Nutrients as regulators of immune function: introduction. Faseb J . 2001;15(14):2555.
[iv]Natale VM, Brenner IK, Moldoveanu AI, et al.Effects of three different types of exercise on blood leukocyte count during and following exercise. Sao Paulo Med J/Rev Paul Med 2003; 121(1):9-14.
[v]Ho TH, Wang CW, Ng SM, et al. The Effect of T’ai Chi Exercise on Immunity and Infections: A Systematic Review of Controlled Trials. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE 2013; 19(5): 389–396.
[vi]Wang CW1, Ng SM, Ho RT, et al. The effect of qigong exercise on immunity and infections: a systematic review of controlled trials. Am J Chin Med. 2012; 40(6):1143-56.
[vii]Fernandes CA,  Nóbrega YKM, Tosta CE. Pranic Meditation Affects Phagocyte Functions and Hormonal Levels of Recent Practitioners The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2012;18(8): 761-768.
[viii]McDermott AJ, Huffnagle GB. The microbiome and regulation of mucosal immunity. Immunology. 2014 May; 142(1):24-31.
[ix]Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan;463(1):121-37.
[x]Rech MA, Hunsaker T, Rodriguez J. Deficiency in 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 30-day mortality in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Am J Crit Care. 2014 Sep;23(5):e72-9.
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