Hi, I’m Dr. Chad Larson. One of the most important things that we should be concerned about today in this viral global pandemic is the health of our mucosal immune systems. Your mucosal immune system is like the body’s first line of defense. It’s in all the mucous membranes of your entire respiratory system, and actually down through your digestive tract as well. And it’s really key to have an understanding of your mucosal immune system and the kinds of things you can do to influence its health.

There are basically three layers to it. The top layer is mucus. Mucus can operate as a kind of trap for pathogens. It has other purposes as well. It allows us to breathe and swallow our food, so it has lots of jobs. But it can also serve as a kind of trap where viruses and pathogens and debris can get stuck in the mucus. Then it just gets kind of dragged out through the digestive tract and it never had an opportunity to penetrate deeper into your system.

However, if the mucus isn’t robust enough to trap some kind of pathogen, then the pathogen is allowed to penetrate a little bit deeper into this next layer, called the immunoglobulin-A antibody layer. Immunoglobulin-A, or IgA, is your body’s next line of immune defense. It lines up here on top of these epithelial cells and acts like a barricade, like a barrier system that stops penetrating pathogens from going even deeper into your epithelial cells. And there’s a whole variety of things that can influence the health of your IgA antibodies.

The next layer is your innate immune system that’s built into your epithelial cells. But you don’t want to wait until your epithelial cells have to take care of everything, because this is where your DNA is. This is where the virus is trying to penetrate so it can tap into your DNA and that’s where it’s able to replicate. So we really want to emphasize how we can support the upper layers.

When I test a patient’s total IgA and their total IgA is low, my first thought is that there’s some kind of stress to their system. They’re stressed out generally, or there’s some other kind of problem going on in their body that’s stressing it out. And there’s three main kinds of stressors.

We have mental/emotional stress. When you think, “I feel stressed out,” that’s mental/emotional stress. There’s physical stress from something like an unresolved injury, or headaches, or something like that; a physical stress. And then there’s biochemical stress which can be a whole variety of things. It could be a toxicity of chemicals or heavy metals, but it also could be, and this is a very common one, blood sugar dysregulation.

We know that blood sugar dysregulation can influence immunoglobulin-A in a few different ways. One is that it can influence the health of the adrenal glands and the whole HPA axis, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, and that in turn can influence the health of IgA. Also, stress can directly influence IgA itself. So, blood sugar dysregulation, adrenal health, stress, all these things can influence the IgA.

One of the most important anti-stress strategies we can use is to do everything we can to optimize sleep. Sleep is the regenerative and repair time when a lot of this stuff gets fixed. But if we’re constantly sleep deprived, this can keep carrying over until eventually it can stress out the system and we can see IgA really drop. So it’s really important to optimize for sleep, and that’s a great way to manage stress to the system, no matter which of those three types of stresses the body might be having.

Another thing is that you have to keep the blood sugar balanced. Let’s say blood sugar starts out normal. When glucose goes up, when your blood sugar goes up, even from just a fairly moderate amount of sugar, that suppresses your immune system for an extended period of time. And that can make you a susceptible host to a whole bunch of opportunistic pathogens, like viruses. So you don’t want to do anything to cause your immune system to weaken.

 

So we already know that missing sleep and consuming sugar each can influence the health of your mucosal immune system very directly. Those are a few things from a dietary and lifestyle management side. We also know that there are certain nutrients that can support the integrity of the mucosal immune system. We know that vitamin D and vitamin A, two of what we call fat soluble vitamins, are very important for your local immune system. Your immune system needs them in order to function optimally.

-Dr Chad Larson

 

We know that vitamin D and vitamin A, two of what we call fat soluble vitamins, are very important for your local immune system. Your immune system needs them in order to function optimally.

 

Take Vitamin D

To get vitamin D, we can go outside, just get some sun. Even in the winter months, if the sun is shining, even though it might be cold out, try to expose as much skin as you can to absorb the sunlight. UV radiation converts to vitamin D in your system. If you live in a place where you just can’t get much normal sunlight, you can take a supplement of vitamin D and that will help to boost up those levels.

 

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Vitamin A is also super key. We prefer to get vitamin A from a dietary source like leafy greens. Certain fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, the oilier Atlantic fish, those have more vitamin A. So, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, cold water fish, these all have a lot of vitamin A. It’s important to get food sources of vitamin A, but you can also take supplements as a way to boost up those nutrients if those food sources are not as abundant for you.

 

Zinc

We know that zinc is important for your mucosal immune system. And one that is frequently forgotten but is very important is: water. Basic hydration. Remember, the vast majority of the makeup of mucus is water. And if you’re dehydrated, you know what it feels like. Your mouth is dry, the mucous membranes don’t feel right. So this is really key: basic hydration. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water every day so you have the foundational building blocks to support this whole mucosal layer.

So there’s three layers here. We’ve got the mucous layer, we have the IgA, and then we have the epithelial cells. All three levels of this barrier system are very important. The more robust they are, the less chance that a virus will penetrate all the way down deep. So, consider some of those lifestyle things we talked about.

 

Say Goodbye to Sugar

Getting the sugar out. We know sugar really suppresses your immune system, and it’s also a stressor to your adrenal glands. We know that when the adrenal glands are stressed, that’s going to influence your IgA.

 

Say Hello to Quality Sleep

Supporting your sleep. Sleep is one of the best anti-stress things that we can do, so really optimize for sleep. Exercise can be good, and spending time in nature is a big destressor. That can help your IgA go up.

 

Get Outside

Spending some time in nature, getting some sun so you get vitamin D. Getting vitamin A from food sources ideally, but supplement them if you have to. These are a few very simple things that you can do on a daily basis to help support the entirety of your mucosal immune system.

You know, these pathogens are just a part of life, a part of our world. But we can actually make a conscious effort to support our mucosal immune system. So try to incorporate as many of those things as you can. I will keep reading the studies and bringing you the information. Until then, keep it real.

 

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