I just had a conversation with someone who is frustrated that they keep getting sick and it got me thinking about aging and what happens to our immune system.
Being a scientist, I like to complicate things (although not as much as Darcy) and of course all scientists love their jargon, so I am going to introduce you to a couple of words/concepts that help explain what happens to our immunity as we age.
- Immunosenescence - wow, what an awful word, it’s so bad, it makes me laugh (only a scientist eh) – but to break it down, when a plant is in senescence it starts to lose its leaves (and sometimes die, but let’s not focus on that). Similarly for us, when our immune system is in senescence –“immunosenecence” - we experience a reduced ability to fight new infections because age has reduced our innate and adaptive immune systems (read more about innate and adaptive immunity here).
- Inflammaging – yes, another ripper of a word – the chronic low-grade inflammation that we experience as we age is termed “inflamm-aging” and is associated with immunosenescence! Basically, our bodies have a reduced ability to cope with the inflammatory triggers that we throw at them (poor diet, stress, poor sleep and infections) and can move to a chronically inflamed state. In aging, we also experience increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, acute phase proteins, and oxidative stressors. All of this leads to more chronic inflammation which makes us more susceptible to being sick (read more here).
Ok, so are you experiencing immunosenescence and inflammaging? Here’s what you can do!
1. Eat a healthy diet. Eat mostly anti-inflammatory foods which are rich in antioxidants and high in plant polyphenols, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fatty fish (like salmon). Cut down on processed foods, sugary beverages and alcohol. These can contribute to inflammation. Choose healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts. More and more data are showing we should avoid many of the highly processed seed oils, like canola, soyabean and palm – sadly, it seems a rule of thumb is the more expensive the oil, the healthier!
2. Regular exercise. Engage in regular physical activity. Exercise has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
3. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is linked to chronic inflammation. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce inflammation. Have a listen to our latest podcast with Dr Paul Kolodzik about metabolism and health if you want some inspiration (Listen here Episode 25).
4. Manage stress. Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation. Practice stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or hobbies you enjoy like gardening, walking or reading.
5. Adequate sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Poor sleep patterns can increase inflammation.
6. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hydration is essential for overall bodily functions, including an active immune system.
7. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can increase inflammation. Limit alcohol intake to moderate levels – or even better, none at all - I know, fun-police right?
8. Maintain strong social connections. Positive social interactions can reduce stress and inflammation.
If you would like to discuss any of this further, please contact Darcy or Anna (who you can contact at 027 599 2255 or 027 4861418 respectively) or via email@example.com.