When it comes to natural immunity, ever wonder why many folks feel healthier in the summer overall or their natural immunity seems to wane in the winter?
Since we’ve been dealing with the pandemic, a lot has been said about immunity — immune systems and their differences have influenced how some people exposed to COVID-19 get the disease with acute symptoms, while others with a strong natural immunity haven’t even known they have had it.
But there’s something else that goes on with our bodies even when there isn’t a global pandemic going on — seasonal immunity. Ever wonder why people with arthritis seem to have it worse during the winter when it’s cold? Or why many folks feel healthier in the summer overall or their natural immunity seems to wane in the winter?
“Summer immunity is our tendency to be healthier during the summer season,” says Elliot Reimers, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, M.S.(C), CISSN, CNC, in Eugene, Ore. “That’s because more fruits and vegetables are available, and we eat more of them. By eating nutrient-rich foods, it’s easier to really [get] daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. Summer is also when we’re more active and get a lot of exercise.”
In spring and summer, though, some people have acute reactions to pollen — everything from sneezing and watery eyes to headaches and scratchy throats. This occurs because the immune system detects the pollen as a threat and starts working in overdrive to counteract it. Our immune systems release histamine and that causes all these reactions.
Differences in natural immunity
Why are some people struggling with allergies in spring and summer while others have nary a sniffle? “Everyone’s immunity is different,” says Reimers. “It may also come with age. Adults tend to have stronger immunity, but older people may have a weaker immune response. Respiratory illnesses, migraines and autoimmune diseases are some of the conditions that get worse in the summer, aggravated by the rising temperatures.”
A group of researchers from the University of Cambridge published findings in 2015 from a study they conducted to determine how genes may also play a part in seasonal wellness and summer immunity. Through the study, “Widespread seasonal gene expression reveals annual differences in human immunity and physiology,” they wanted to learn more about the following:
“Various biological processes show seasonal variation in humans, including ones with important immunological roles, such as vitamin D metabolism. The loss of skin pigmentation as humans migrated out of Africa to more temperate and colder zones to increase sunlight-driven vitamin D production is a major example of the evolutionary adaption of humans to different environments. Yet, how seasons might more broadly impact the underlying molecular details of human physiology is unknown. Along these lines, we hypothesized that the anti-inflammatory circadian transcription factor, ARNTL (BMAL1), would display seasonal gene expression differences as daylight entrains circadian rhythms in mammals. Tissue-specific molecular clocks control a diverse range of cellular processes, influencing the immune response.”
Genetics and immunity
Regarding the immune system, they discovered the following: “Strikingly, we found ∼23% of the genome (5,136 unique genes out of 22,822 genes tested) to show significant seasonal differences in expression in the BABYDIET data set. Among the seasonal genes, two distinct anti-phasic patterns of gene expression were evident: 2,311 genes (2,922 unique probes) had increased expression in the summer (defined as June, July and August, mean fold change=1.2572) while 2,826 genes (3,436 unique probes) were upregulated in the winter (defined as December, January, February, mean fold change =1.3150), demonstrating that different transcriptional landscapes are present in the peripheral immune system during different seasons.”
Chiropractic care for an immunity boost
Reimers adds, “Chiropractic adjustments can help improve blood circulation and relieve the body from pain and stress, which helps boost the immune system.”
“Chiropractic care is much more than neck and back pain relief and management,” adds David Tannenbaum, DC, of Tannenbaum Chiropractic in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Regular chiropractic care and adjustments encourage spinal health, restore joint function, and therefore support the nervous system. As a result of improved function and mobility in your spine and body, you can actually boost your immune system … Your immune system may suffer from this compression of nerve pathways, weakening your body’s natural mechanisms for fighting off illness. As a result, studies have shown that chiropractic care designed to relieve stress, pain, and misalignment of the spine improves nerve function and can potentially boost your immune system by 200%.