Podcast Notes: Biohacking the Immune System (Episode 1 Brawn Body Podcast)
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In this episode, I discuss some uncommon biohacks to help optimize your immune system during the current COVID-19 situation. Biohacking, a term coined by Dave Asprey, is the process of using what we know about biology to optimize or upgrade your mind, body, and life.
In this episode, I reviewed:
What is a virus, and how does a virus harm the body?
How does our immune system respond to an infection?
Nutritional superfoods you can use to optimize your immune system
Lifestyle changes you can make to optimize your immune system
Below are some notes about each section:
1. Viral Infections
Packaged set of genes, not a living cell
Hijack our body's cells to reproduce/multiply. Can kill the host cell
Tendency to mutate more frequently/rapidly than some other microbes
Humanity has faced dozens upon dozens of viral diseases/epidemics in our history: HIV, Swine Flu, West Nile Virus, Influenza, SARS, Zika Virus, Ebola
2. Our Immune System
Our body's defense against antigens: any "non-self" invader in our body
Primary immune organs: Thymus & Bone Marrow
Secondary immune organs: Spleen, lymph nodes, GI, bronchial mucosa
Bone marrow stem cells can travel to the thymus & become T lymphocytes (the majority of lymphocytes) or remain in the bone marrow and become B lymphocytes
3 types of T cells:
T helper cells: help B lymphocytes produce antigens
T suppressor cells: Kills virus/tumor cells recognized as antigens
T memory cells: Long-term antigen recognition
B lymphocytes differentiate into immunoglobulin-producing plasma cells (which produce antibodies to fight antigens)
5 phases to the immune response
1. Recognition Phase: Immune receptors bind to the antigen, immune recognition of the antigen
2. Amplification Phase: Production of T & B Lymphocytes (build the army - our body's concept of a draft)
3. Effector Phase: Kill the antigen
4. Termination Phase: Lower immune response after antigen is killed
5. Memory Phase: Build long-life T & B lymphocytes
3. Nutritional Superfoods
Local analgesic (AND MORE.)
“Its magnitude is compared to such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as naproxen(...)”
We are not 100% certain of exact mechanism of action of honey
Coats the inner lining of the throat, destroying harmful microbes while soothing the throat
“(...) honey is superior to other treatments for cough induced by upper respiratory infections, including dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine”
Reference (Note, this source had a great diagram depicting the benefits of honey)
I take a spoonful of local raw honey daily, typically as part of my daily cup of greek yogurt or daily superfood smoothie.
Organic, Raw Apple Cider Vinegar w/ “The Mother”
Proven effective as antibacterial and antifungal
More research needed to determine antiviral roles
I take a shot of organic, raw/unfiltered apple cider vinegar with The Mother prior to every meal. I prefer Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, which you can buy here.
Activates natural immunity
"Enhances vaccination-induced immune response, providing stronger protection against influenza virus infection and disease onset”
For more on the reason I use organic cacao, not cocoa, check out this article. I add organic cacao to my daily superfood smoothie or greek yogurt for a delicious and healthy boost.
Found to decrease the production of inflammatory markers such as NO, TNF-α, IL-6, and PGE2
High levels of antioxidants phenolic acid and flavonoid
Showed antiviral activity against RSV, Respiratory syncytial virus
Common spice in Asian/Thai dishes
Shown to act against influenza virus, hepatitis C virus, HIV and strains of Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas
Exerts a wide array of antiviral effects against many different viruses (such as Herpes, RSV)
I take about 1g of Turmeric daily. Research presents it as a potential natural alternative to Ibuprofen/NSAIDs without major side-effects. There's many ways to consume Turmeric, from foods, golden milk, capsules, etc.
Fresh ginger > dried ginger
Blocked viral attachment/internalization of HRSV in respiratory tract cell lines
Allicin, a compound in ginger, can act as an anti-influenza cytokine
This study also references turmeric/curcumin again, as another potent antiviral agent
I mentioned drinking organic ginger and turmeric tea daily. Although I bought mine locally, here's a site that has it available online. Additionally, I referenced Dr. Chris Kresser had a recipe for homemade ginger tea, which you can find here.
4. Lifestyle Factors
Please wash your hands. Take care of yourself. Do I need to say anything else?
Important for maintaining circadian rhythm
Influence immune functioning
Important for the development of immunological memory
Lack of sleep = more likely to get sick after exposure to a virus
Lack of sleep impacts recovery time from infection/illness
Chronic sleep deprivation is bad: elevated risk for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and more.
One of the ways I optimize my sleep is through wearing blue-light blocking glasses at night, typically 2 hours before bed. Blue light inhibits melatonin production in your brain - melatonin is important since it acts as your body's sleep hormone. If you're interested in purchasing a pair of blue light glasses that I use, click here to get to Swanwick's website.
Note, I receive a small commission for sharing their product, and this commission helps to support this business. I refuse to promote any product I do not personally use. My focus is providing information and resources about holistic health and fitness, and will not link to anything that does not fit this purpose.
Febrile (Hot) temperatures boost the probability of an effective immune response
Ever get a fever while sick?
Sauna exposure may boost the immune system
Sauna reduces susceptibility to common colds and prevents infections in otherwise healthy individuals
"Ancestral" or stress cold-exposure appears to activate the immune system
Personally, I've found many people struggle to find a means to access hot temperatures (like a sauna) and cold temperatures (like an ice bath) in their home settings. I will often switch my showers between hot and cold water as a way to activate both. Try 1 minute of hot water, followed by 1 minute of cold water, the next time you shower. Bonus: you might be motivated to take a shorter shower, and you can use that extra time you have to check out our Instagram page, @brawnbody.
High-stress levels are common (especially right now with COVID-19)
"Ancestral" fight or flight stressors elicit potentially beneficial changes in the immune system.
Chronic stressors are bad, impact the immune system in a detrimental way
Note, some ideas to help alleviate stress include meditation, prayer, deep breathing, yoga, exercise, sex, or reading. I also find cooking to be very relaxing for me. Find what works for you, and incorporate it into your daily lifestyle!
Exercise is good!
Moderate levels of exercise found to lower the risk of respiratory infections
Moderate exercise can be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk daily.
Exercise may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways - thereby reducing chances of catching a cold/flu or other illness.
Exercise increases body temperature - which could help prevent bacterial growth. This also helps the immune system fight any potential infection. Sound like the "heat' section again?
That's it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed tuning in, and hopefully learned something along the way! Please share this podcast with anyone you know who could benefit from this information.
Last, I wanted to remind you again that we are operating on limited research about COVID-19 and are learning more daily. As a result, I was unable to reference any articles about, say, Ginger's impact on COVID-19 for example. There's still a lot to learn!
Stay healthy everyone!
Information in this post is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Consult your primary care provider prior to making any changes in your diet or lifestyle habits as discussed.