Why It's Important To Know Your Immune System Personality
Immunity is everything. COVID-19 has caused you to become more aware of your own immune function, but immunity is so much more than just staying healthy during a pandemic. Like the nervous system and the microbiome, immunity connects inside to outside. It's a translator in search of balance. It's also a system of rapid turnover—1 million new white blood cells every 10 seconds—and interventions can really spark change.
My experience in personalized, functional medicine has led me to new ways of thinking about immunity, and in the wake of COVID-19, that work feels even more urgent. By connecting some dots in the scientific literature, I've come to recognize that there's a simple question everyone needs to ask: What kind of immune system have you built for yourself? In other words, what's your immune system personality?
Your immune system has a personality.
That's right, I strongly believe that each immune system has a personality. Once you understand that your immune system has its own identity, you can begin to personalize the therapies and interventions you use to support it.
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This is a different approach, so let me restate it a bit. Your immune system matters on a daily basis, and it's special to you. I've come to think of five main personalities here—let's call them immuno-identities—to help us all get past the one-size-fits-all approach to supporting immunity. We need to cater to our own unique needs, and getting in touch with your personal immune system can help.
Get to know your immuno-identity.
Here are five immuno-identities to consider—discover which one sounds the most like you:
What is it? With a Sensitive immuno-identity, your body responds in a big way to small triggers. Allergies, skin rashes, and GI distress are hallmarks.
What do I do? Focus on supporting your microbiome with fiber-rich foods and probiotic foods. I also recommend a high-quality fish oil supplement that contains beneficial pro-resolving mediators (PRMs). I'm also a fan of getting more quercetin in your diet, which is derived from anti-inflammatory phytochemicals found in foods like grapes, broccoli, and buckwheat, or via supplementation. You'll also want to avoid triggers like smoking or alcohol.
What is it? If you’re locked into cycles of brain fog, fatigue, or joint pain, then this might be your immune system personality. The Angry immuno-identity maintains low levels of activation from perceived threats for months or years, making it harder to find a better balance.
What do I do? There are some adjustments you can make with your diet to help calm down a chronically overreactive immune system. I recommend incorporating more cruciferous vegetables, olive oil, garlic, and green tea. Intermittent fasting can be an especially powerful tool for this identity.
What is it? When your immune system just won't defend you from bacteria and viruses, you have the Withdrawn immuno-identity. You likely catch every bug, and it knocks you down for longer than most. This is about underreactivity, not overreactivity, and it poses a problem for both fighting off viruses and promoting cellular renewal inside the body.
What do I do? Sleep (seven hours at least), social interaction, and daily exercise are a vital foundation for immune-rejuvenation here. I also recommend including supplements like zinc and vitamin C, along with mushrooms, like cordyceps and reishi.
What is it? A Confused immuno-identity attacks itself, mistaking healthy cells for threats. Personal health concerns can run the gamut here, with more serious complications that may develop over time in your skin, joints, brain, gut, and even your heart.
What do I do? Vitamin D is a VIP for immune function—check your levels and supplement accordingly. Same goes for those PRMs in fish oil. You'll likely need to address balance in your microbiome as well, so avoid sugars and unnecessary antibiotics, and consider a high-quality probiotic.
Everyone's body is unique, but getting better acquainted with your immune system may help you make healthier choices. Of course, if you are experiencing any chronic issues, it's important to speak to a medical professional for better insight.