We all know our immune system is central to maintaining optimum health. How many of us though only consider boosting our immune system, whereas perhaps we should really think about balancing immune function? And how does CBD fit into all this?
Our Immune System – an Overview
As we go about our daily life, we are constantly exposed to infectious diseases, bacteria, and viruses (antigens). Our immune system – a complex network of organs, cells and proteins – is designed to protect us from these outside invaders, and without it, we’d be constantly sick or even worse.
White blood cells called leukocytes play an important role; destroying unwanted visitors, helping our body to remember past attackers, and eating up foreign intruders before they wreak too much havoc.
In winter months, much is made of the need to boost our immune system in order to ward off flus and colds. But there’s much more to immune health than eating a few oranges and necking a bottle of echinacea.
What we do know is that our immune system can become dysregulated. However, rather than just being weakened (and making us susceptible to flus and colds), it can also go the other way and become overactive.
Why is this a bad thing?
Part of how our immune system responds to a perceived attack is through inflammation, releasing chemicals such as histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins causing heat and swelling. Phagocytes, a type of white blood cell, then eat up the virus or bacteria, as well as consuming any damaged cells or tissue.
However, in certain instances, this inflammation response fails to turn itself off, and the immune system attacks its own healthy cells, a common cause of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes.
Allergies are another example of a heightened immune response, whereby a usually harmless substance is perceived as a threat by the body resulting in the production of histamine, and a host of symptoms like swelling, itchiness, wheezing or sneezing.
No one knows for sure why autoimmune diseases or allergies occur. However, by employing a few common sense measures, we can give our immune system the best chance of doing the job it was designed for; keeping us free from illness.
1. Don’t Scrimp on the Z’s
How many of us have burned the candle at both ends, and then swiftly come down with a cold or flu? Turns out lack of sleep negatively impacts on the production of T cells, a type of white blood cell key to protecting us against bugs and infections. Not only that, sleep deprivation can make us more vulnerable to heart disease, obesity, and depression.
2. Reduce Stress
Cortisol, a hormone released when the body is under stress, is known to dampen our immune system by decreasing the production of white blood cells and and NK cells (a type of lymphocyte that kills cancer cells). Indeed, studies suggest psychological stress makes us more likely to catch the common cold.
Urban living is stressful and being MEDAhuman isn’t about avoiding all stress in our lives. The key is learning to manage our stress levels so that they don’t become chronically elevated. Mindfulness – cultivating present moment awareness through meditation techniques – might seem like a modern day, self help buzz word, but it’s got 2000 years of wisdom behind it. Research shows that regular mindfulness practices reduce cortisol levels, which can only be good news to our immune system.
3. Eat Well
Whether we are boosting immunity or reducing excess inflammation if it’s become elevated, there are certain dietary basics that give us a better chance of a balanced immune system.
We all know that sugar is bad for us, however, studies suggest that sugar intake can both lower white blood cell levels and increase inflammatory markers. Either way, if you’re looking to get your immune system back into equilibrium again, sugar comes bottom of the class.
How many of us instinctively turn to vitamin C when we sense a cold coming and thankfully it’s a healthy choice backed by scientific data. Try to refrain from hitting the vitamin bottle and go straight to the source, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet.
If too much inflammation is your problem, there are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods to opt for, such as ginger, turmeric, and anything containing Omega 3 (oily fish, nuts and seeds).
4. Look After Your Endocannabinoid System
Back in the 1990s, scientists were researching the effects of cannabis on humans. They discovered a vast network of cell receptors and cannabis-like chemicals that together regulate all biological activity. Appetite, sleep, reproduction, memory, mood, pain and of course, our immune response, are all kept in balance by our endocannabinoid system.
In fact, a class of endocannabinoid receptor, CB2, is found almost exclusively within the immune system, and its activation creates an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Our endocannabinoid system can be stimulated by compounds in hemp called cannabinoids. In fact, scientists now believe that by introducing cannabinoids, an out of whack endocannabinoid system can be corrected.
Cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid abundantly found in hemp, does not directly activate either class of endocannabinoid receptor, but has an overall anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
However, CBD does increase the half life of the natural cannabis-like chemical, anandamide. So once it’s produced, anandamide gets to hang out in the body doing its anti-inflammatory effect for longer. For many years, scientists thought this meant CBD was immunosuppressant. These days, it is generally accepted that CBD regulates our immune system rather than just suppressing its activity.
At MEDA we pledge to give you the tools to support your immune function. While we can’t tuck you into bed at 10pm every night, we can ply you with our MEDA Defense immune system fortifying tonic. Each shot is infused with 15mg of nanoemulsified CBD, alongside a host of natural herbs, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc, pomegranate and echinacea, carefully selected to give your immune system some much needed TLC.