Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
September 27, 2020
But for the most part, what makes you the person you are and what makes me the person I am is the remaining 0.1% of our DNA. Over the last 200,000 years of evolution, modern man (homo sapiens) has gone through a lot. Life was pretty harrowing.
About 100,000 years ago, the average lifespan was between 30-35 years. Early deaths were caused by infant mortality for various sanitary and medical reasons. Then there were uncontrollable virulent infections, accidents, tribal warfare, being eaten by wild animals, and a host of environmental factors that are not in existence today. Over the course of these many millennia, our DNA slowly developed to what it is today. And our immune system continued to function as our “armed forces” to keep our body healthy.
Most importantly, our DNA knows what it needs, and it certainly knows what it does not need. What it requires is also critical for the development of an efficient immune system. So, don’t fool with the genetic motherboard.
At one extreme in our Blueprint, our DNA is very clear about what it requires to stay alive. At the other extreme, it is just as forceful in telling us what it can’t tolerate. Basically, she says, “Give me what I need, and you will thrive. But force me to take what I cannot tolerate, then you will die.” It’s that simple.
Then why would we prevent our body from getting what it requires as well as stuff it with junk and poison day after day?
Our basic needs are clear. We must breathe clean air; eat nutritious food; and drink untainted water. Neglect any of these three requirements, then we surely will be doomed.
At the other extreme, if we put toxic substances into our body, we will suffer. Make no mistake about it. If we insist on challenging our DNA by putting stuff into our body that we never evolved to detox, digest, or rid itself of, then our human machine will suffer, deteriorate, and die.
Everything In Between
Our DNA Blueprint is the written story. But how the story can be told and unfolds is practically all controlled by our environment and lifestyle. We have many options between the extremes of our blueprint.
Our food and the way we live can “turn on” or “turn off” our genes. If we have a genetic predisposition to a disease, we can manipulate our environment to “turn off” those bad genes. Although our genes are our blueprint, controlling our environment determines our future health or sickness. The way each of us lives our life will determine to what degree we survive and to what degree we thrive. All of us can flourish by making choices that will improve our overall wellbeing. And the way we heed the needs of our body, we can improve our immune system to function at peak performance. As I said, our immune system acts as our “armed forces” to keep us healthy.
The Immune System
Thriving is dependent on a robust immune system.
The immune system is a complex network of barriers as well as proteins, white blood cells, and microbial cells. The organs of the immune system include skin, mucous membranes, and the lymphatic system (i.e. bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, lymphatic vessels, spleen, adenoids, tonsils, and specialized cells called Peyer’s Patches in the small intestine).
This powerhouse creates substances which help the body fight infections, cancers, toxins, and other diseases. Each of us is a highly integrated machine, and our immune system must function optimally to make it great. Whatever is required within reason to strengthen the immune system should be paramount. I identify 9 proactive steps that you should consider to strengthen your immune system.
9 Proactive Steps
- Consume nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods. Various ways of healthy eating provide necessary nutrients while avoiding over-processed carbohydrates, added sugars, unhealthy fats, chemical ingredients, and irritating foods. Check out my way of eating in the Better Belly Blueprint.
- Practice intermittent fasting. Almost everyone will benefit from eating this way. Eat within a widow of 6-8 hours and fast the remaining time. For example, end your dinner by 8PM. Then do not eat anything for the next 16-18 hours. Your first meal will be on the next day between noon and 2PM.
- Maintain a healthy gut. Consume specific probiotics, prebiotics, amino acids, and immunoglobulins to (1) improve the population and quality of the gut bacteria, (2) restore a healthy mucosal layer, and (3) repair damage to the epithelial gut barrier., My Protocol to Restore Healthy Gut Bacteria explains the specifics.
- Consider specific herbal extracts. Echinacea, Astragalus, Korean Ginseng, and Ashwagandha have been shown to strengthen the immune system by restoring and enhancing its ability to prevent and fight infections. I prefer liquid extracts which are not mixed or compounded with other unhealthy chemicals.
- Exercise efficiently. This includes a combination of (1) some aerobic exercise, (2) brief, high-intensity interval training 1 day a week, (3) strength training 1-2 days a week, and (4) non-exercise movements during the course of every day.
- Sleep restoratively. Sleep about 7-8 hours a night starting between the hours of 9 PM to 11 PM. Make the room dark, cool, and quiet.
- Reduce stress. Meditate; practice yoga; try diaphragmatic breathing; and experiment with progressive, total body muscle relaxation. Emotional stress will damage the gut microbiome and cause “leaky gut”, which will lead to significant and ongoing chronic systemic inflammation. This will tax the immune system, which could become compromised and unable to mount an aggressive attack when needed to destroy serious invading pathogens.
- Get out in the sun. Sun exposure creates Vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is essential for the strength of the immune system., Your Vitamin D blood level should be between 40-60 ng/ml. If necessary, consider taking supplements of Vitamin D3 along with Vitamin K2. Other minerals and vitamins are required for proper biological functions of Vitamin D. These are available from a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet.
- Practice effective oral hygiene. Your gut bacteria and your mouth bacteria “talk” back and forth. Make sure you remove unhealthy accumulations of bacteria from your mouth. Brush your teeth at the gum margins, floss and clean the surfaces between each of your teeth, and scrape the topside of your tongue to remove odor forming bacteria and microscopic food remnants. Do not use any antimicrobial mouthwash or toothpaste daily because they will kill not only bad bacteria but also good bacteria. Here are my 4 Steps to a Healthy Mouth. Also, make sure you don’t have any of these 14 potential “splinters” in your mouth that could cause inflammation and infections.
Three Immune System Biomarkers
Various conventional blood tests have been suggested as a means to measure the health of the immune system. These include identifying the quality and quantity of various white blood cells as well as cytokine levels in the blood system.
But I suggest three specific biomarkers that may have more clinical application and predictive results for overall wellbeing. They are:
- hs-CRP (High-sensitivity C-Reactive Protein)
A biomarker of general and cardiac-related inflammation (goal = <1.0)
- Glycemic Variability (reported as a standard deviation)
A biomarker of the fluctuation of blood glucose levels 24/7 (goal = <14)
- 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D
A biomarker of the blood level of vitamin D (goal = 40-60 ng/ml)
Your DNA is the blueprint that made you who you are! Your immune system is the armed forces given the task to keep you healthy. The influences in your environment play critical roles in the strength of your immune system and your overall wellness. Let me reassure you. You have control over your environment. Be proactive, and be the best you can be. Monitor your success to stay on the right path. Set yourself up for greatness as you go about your life.
Check out my new training on the Better Belly Blueprint! You can watch it HERE.