How Your Body Fights Viruses: Mounting an Immune Response to Coronavirus, HPV, the Herpes Virus (cold sores), and more.
With the COVID-19 virus currently surrounding us, many of us are looking for natural ways to support our immune system.
The way the body fights off infections like COVID-19, HPV and even cold sores caused by the herpes virus, are similar. Ensuring optimal function and balance of the immune system through nutrition, stress reduction, exercise and supplementation helps the body respond to all viral invaders.
So, what leads one person to develop symptoms caused by a virus and not another?
The answer lies in the unique functioning of our immune systems.
How Our Immune Systems Fend Off Foreign Invaders
The immune system can be divided into the innate and the adaptive responses.
The innate response gets activated initially, launching immune molecules to rapidly eliminate pathogens.
The innate immune system includes natural killer cells (NK).
NK cells are important at limiting the early phases of viral infections and attacking self-cells that have become malignant.
The adaptive immune system steps in second, when the innate needs assistance, providing a more specific and amplified response to neutralize pathogens.
The immune system usually does a good job of identifying what a self-molecule is versus a foreign invader, preventing attack from disease. However, a number of factors can limit the immune system’s ability to properly do its job:
- Age: Naturally, the immune response deteriorates with age. As we get older the body produces fewer immune molecules to help fight off infections.
- Disease: The immune system is linked to other systems in the body, like the nervous system, gastrointestinal system and endocrine system. In order to maintain balance, the other systems also need to be healthy. When something is compromised in the body, energy expenditure to the immune system will be impaired.
- Inflammation: Lifestyle factors, like diet and stress, also play a role in our bodies ability to tag unwanted pathogens and produce immune molecules to them. If these systems are compromised, more energy will be needed to direct immune molecules elsewhere, weakening the immune response.
There are a number of ways we can naturally support the immune system. The approach to fighting off viruses like COVID-19 is the same as how we prevent against HPV and other viruses.
Naturally Support Your Immune System
1. Eat a fruit and vegetable-rich diet
What we put into our bodies directly interacts with our immune system through the gut-associated lymphoid system. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is needed for all cells, including immune cells to function properly.
A number of dietary interventions have been found to improve measures of gut health or reduce gut inflammation:
The Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, fish and healthy dietary fats has been found to reduce chronic inflammation.
Consuming probiotic-rich foods has also been found to reduce inflammation and enhance the barrier function of the gut.
2. Avoid or limit sugar and refined and processed foods
Simple refined carbs include white sugar, white bread, white flour and white pasta. Opt for whole grains instead; the more complex the carbohydrate, the healthier it is for you.
Simple switches like white rice to brown rice or quinoa, white bread to multigrain and white flour to sweet potato can make all the difference, not to mention helping keep you full and satisfied!
3. Reduce Stress
One of the most important factors in optimizing proper immune system functioning is stress reduction.
Modern humans rarely face stimuli that require us to fight-or-flee as our ancestors had in times of predation. Instead, we are faced with numerous daily stressors, leading to chronic stress.
The change in immune activation has been found to down-regulate specific immune responses in the body causing immunosuppression. The longer in duration and intensity a stressor lasts, the greater the level of immunosuppression.
We can reduce daily stressors through mindful activities like mediation, spending time with loved ones, exercising, and journaling.
4. Supplement with anti-viral herbs like Astragalus
Herbs can provide added support to the immune system.
Astragalus, a dried root, used as an adaptogen, has been found to help the body adapt to physical, mental and emotional stress.
Astragalus does this by stimulating the immune system through enhancing the activity of our natural killer cells and killer t-cells. These immune molecules attack and neutralize invading pathogens in the body.
Astragalus also plays a role in the adaptive immune response, stimulating production of white blood cells, antibodies, and production of interferons, which respond to viral invaders.
Check out our blog article to learn more about the immune boosting benefits of astragalus
5. Supplement with anti-viral medicinal mushrooms like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Medicinal mushrooms have been traditionally used in response to a variety of viral infections for centuries. They help prevent viral diseases, help the body overcome existing infections, and speed up recovery.
The biochemical mechanisms of antiviral herbs include improving the virus-specific and nonspecific immune response (including improved antibody production) and direct antiviral activity (mostly by inhibiting their ability to multiply).
As traditional medicine and recent research have proven, medicinal mushrooms can help against many viral infections, including:
- parainfluenza and rhinoviruses (the common cold)
- influenza (the flu)
- herpes simplex (HSV-1 and HSV-2)
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
- herpes zoster or shingles (Varicella zoster virus)
- mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus)
- hepatitis viruses, and many other viral infections.
If you are already supplementing with Papillex, you are getting both of these anti-viral herbs, Astragalus and Reishi, in a daily dose.
A Multi-Faceted Natural Response
Together, the diet, lifestyle, and targeted supplementation factors listed above can have a profound impact on our total body function.
They can help us reduce the severity of symptoms of a variety of viruses.
During challenging times like these, it is important for us to remember that we have the ability to optimize our immune system response to viruses, naturally.