Our Lifestyle First Immune Health Philosophy
At Zamia Life, we take a lifestyle first approach to overall health and Immune wellness. By supporting and optimizing different aspects of lifestyle we set our entire body up to thrive and perform. We recognize that central to keeping healthy is the immune system.
Historically, it was thought the role of the immune system was simply to help us fight off dangerous microbes. And indeed, we live with microbes throughout our environment. Some of these microbes are essential to keeping us healthy, while other microbes are pathogenic – they make us sick.
Our immune system helps us discriminate between the dangerous microbes and the beneficial ones. A healthy immune system allows beneficial microbes to prosper while destroying those microbes that can make us sick. It keeps the microbes in balance.
While the immune system’s role in microbial control is essential, the immune system does so much more than that, which is why we believe immune health is critical.
In fact, the immune system interacts with most other systems in the body, including our hormones, neurotransmitters, gut, and lungs. It circulates systemically which allows it to touch every aspect of health and performance.
How do we keep our immune system healthy to perform all these functions? Eat nutritiously, sleep well, encourage calm and exercise daily.
Sleep is Healing
Sleep well. That seems easier said than done sometimes. Yet sleeping well is important for immunity. Poor sleep, such as insomnia, not sleeping long enough, or having a disturbed sleep/wake pattern, can increase inflammation.
This relationship between sleep and inflammation is bidirectional. In other words, if we are experiencing inflammation, it is more difficult to sleep, and not sleeping makes inflammation worse. The pattern of poor sleep repeats until the inflammation is treated or sleep is improved to decrease the inflammation.
It has long been noted that recovery from infection improves with good quality sleep. One reason for this may be the nocturnal pattern of inflammatory cytokine secretion.
This makes our immune system better able to target an infection overnight. Likewise, when we get an infection, often our response is to ‘sleep it off.’
As it turns out, this is our bodies wisdom as our immune system increases efficiency when we sleep. If we have an infection, sleeping helps our immune system fight it.
Fight or Flight
When we’re stressed, our adrenal glands make cortisol to alert our body that there’s a stressor. Cortisol is considered the flight or fight hormone. It increases the sugar in our bloodstream to give us energy for running from the stressor – flight. Cortisol can also divert energy from ‘non-essential’ functions to preserve the energy for ‘fighting’ the stressor. This can slow our immune system down.
In the past, a stressor might have been a dangerous animal or a war – things that were life-threatening. However, today our stressors are different than they were in our past. Absent of a lion sitting outside our front door, other things can be stressors, such as bad traffic or social media.
To our immune system, the effects of stress are the same regardless of the cause, and our adrenals shut down our immune systems. Cortisol transcription inhibitor’s such as ikB and decreases cytokine production.
Fortunately, our immune system can also interact with our nervous system (brain and neurotransmitters) to calm our bodies down during stress. Cells of the nervous system express cytokine receptors and cells of the immune system express neurotransmitter receptors. Thus, both systems can quickly communicate with each other. When our immune system and nervous system are calming our moods, they are calming inflammation too.
While we start to relax and let go of the stress, our body is simultaneously repairing underlying inflammation that we may have from old injuries, times when our diet has not been good, and other minor damages to our bodies.
Exercise and Exertion lead to more Than Fitness
Another reason to appreciate our immune system is that it does not stop there! It can also interact with our lungs and musculo-skeletal system to give us energy and help keep us going.
Whether we’re trying to increase the mileage on our walks or runs, or showing off our spin class chops, or just getting through a long day of Zoom meetings and entertaining home-schooled children, optimizing our immune systems and its relationship to lungs and muscles can improve our endurance. If our immune system is not healthy, a long day of physical exertion can lead to inflammation.
Just like our muscles, the immune system needs to maximize mitochondrial efficiency to produce ATP for energy. Muscles and the immune system do this together so that the immune system can keep our bodies healthy.
In fact, the relationship between exercise and physical endurance and the immune system is bi-directional. Not only does having a healthy immune system increase our physical endurance, exercise also improves immunity. Moderate exercise is anti-inflammatory.
Furthermore, regular exercise decreases immune dysfunction that happens with aging. As we age, the number of cells in our immune system decreases, as does the function of the cells. As it turns out, exercising every day for less than 1 hour per day can decrease these processes. Thus, having good endurance not only improves our physical strength and athletic prowess, it also improves our immunity.
In a perfect world, everything we need to achieve health each day would be best supported with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle.
This can be really, really tricky: Genetics, age, geography, and dietary opportunity can all impact stress, sleep, exercise and focus, each with their impact on performance and our immune system.
That is where our lifestyle first approach comes into play: aim to fill your plate with nutrient-rich foods and support performance through purposeful self-care.
After all, we believe that lifestyle and nutrition is the bedrock of a health and performance - and we want to help you to feel confident about performing every day.
We always take a closer look at what nutrition and self-care looks like in practice for a fuller day – from the science of what's on your plate and daily practices. Let's help our body's innate ability and capacity to perform make life a little easier, together.