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Signs of a Weak Immune System

By: Karl Zarse, MD

There has been a lot of attention towards the immune system over the past three years. Many of my patients are now extremely interested in not just their overall health, but how to tailor their strategy toward optimizing their immune system. 

The first question many have is, how do I know if I have a strong immune system? Rather than dive into deep scientific physiology facts that may put you to sleep, I am going to give you two patients I have. Joe and John. Joe has a weak immune system. John has a robust immune system. Let us look at the two men and compare them. 

Joe has a weak immune system. He is 45 years old. He gets sick every flu season even though he gets a flu shot every year. He gets the covid vaccine and then gets covid. He gets the booster and then gets it again. He has allergies and chronic sinus infections. He takes no vitamins or supplements and does not focus on his nutrition at all. He does engage in strength or stamina exercises. His skin is pasty white, his muscle tone is poor, and his posture is stooped with a sizable amount of belly fat. He has a lot of trouble sleeping and relies on a good amount of alcohol to wind down and even get to sleep. All of this leads to a poor mental outlook for Joe, and he has constant anxiety mixed with depression. 

John has a strong immune. He is 60 years old. He never gets sick. If he does, it is very brief, and he bounces back quickly. He is extremely focused on taking vitamins and supplements. His focus is on antioxidants and molecules that optimize his innate and adaptive immune function, such as Vitamin C, D, Magnesium, Zinc, Melatonin, and quercetin to name a few. He focuses on his nutrition and does intermittent fasting to keep his body fat low and insulin sensitivity high. He engages in exercise daily, alternating between interval training for cardio, and resistance training for strength and bone density. At night he engages in a deliberate sleep routine and takes his magnesium and melatonin before bed and gets a restful night’s sleep. He has taken full advantage of sleep regenerative ability, releasing growth hormone and a variety of other signaling molecules that optimize his immune system. 

You should have two noticeably clear visualizations of these individuals. Let us look at what sets them apart so that you can use this to your advantage. Here are three key elements you should be looking at every day to optimize your immune system and overall health. 

  1. Vitamins/Supplements/Nutrition: Your immune System requires certain molecules and antioxidants to perform at its optimal level. This is an incredibly detailed discussion, but I advise all my patients to take Vitamin C, D, Magnesium, Zinc, Melatonin, and quercetin daily. I also want them to take a daily superfood that contains whole food antioxidants, as well as a protein powder of their choice. This first meal will set you up for success. All high-level athletes know that if you do not give your body everything it needs it cannot perform at its best. 
  2. Daily exercise. The tissue that houses your immune system is in extremely specific areas of your body. You must pump blood to these areas so these cells can do their job. Being sedentary on the couch waiting to get better is the worst thing you can do. Get up and get your blood flowing so you can clear the infection. 
  3. Sleep. This is the most regenerative phase of your day. Poor sleep robs you of the proper healing hormone release that normally occurs. You need to make it a priority and be intentional about your sleep preparation. Spend a good forty-five-minute winding down. Take melatonin and magnesium an hour before bed so it can exert its calming effect. Take a hot shower or hot tub. Do some gentle stretching. Shut off all outside inputs and let your mind calm down. Prior to falling asleep, engage in some positive mental reflection of things you are grateful for and what you are looking forward to the next day.

These may sound common sense, but few people engage in all of them daily. Optimize your nutrition, push your body beyond its comfort zone, and regenerate at night. If you do, I guarantee you will be much healthier and you will optimize your immune system. 

Do not be like Joe. Be like John. You will be happy you did. 

Karl Zarse M.D.
Board Certified Interventional pain specialist
Board Certified Anesthesiologist
Nutrition and Exercise Expert

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