I’m sure you’ve heard of your immune system. But how much do you know about it?
It’s essential to understand how important the immune system is and in which manner it protects us from disease and infection. The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infectious organisms and other invaders through a process called the immune response. The immune system actively fights foreign pathogens that invade the body and cause disease. Five essential bodily functions occur throughout the body, which are components of the immune system:
The Five Key elements of the immune system:
Lymphatic system: The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes and vessels that function by eliminating toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The lymphatic system transports fluid containing white blood cells (lymphocytes) which are deployed to destroy the pathogens.
White blood cells (lymphocytes such as B and T cells): White blood cells protect your body from infection by moving through blood and tissue, looking for foreign microbes.
Spleen: The spleen filters blood by excreting old or damaged red blood cells or platelets. The spleen also produces antibodies and lymphocytes.
Bone marrow: Bone marrow is the soft tissue found inside your bones which produces red and white blood cells along with platelets and yellow marrow.
Tonsils and the thymus: Produce antibodies to attack foreign invaders.
What happens during an immune response?
When the white blood cells come into contact with foreign antigens, an immune alarm goes off, setting off a chain reaction of cellular activity in the immune system. The bodies first line of defence is made up of innate cells including macrophage, neutrophils, basophils and dendric cells. These cells respond quickly to foreign cells to fight infection, battle a virus or defend the body against bacteria.
When the first line of defence is not able to destroy the pathogen, the body utilises T and B lymphocytes.
Although antibodies can recognise an antigen and lock onto it, they need the help of the T-cell to destroy it. There are two main types of T-cells. Helper T-cells and killer T-cells.
Helper T-cells send a chemical message to B-cells to produce antibodies and help killer cells develop. Killer T-cells destroy antigens tagged by antibodies. B- cells fight bacteria and viruses by making Y-shaped proteins called antibodies, which attach to each pathogen. The antibodies remain in a person’s body so when the T-cells recognise the same antigen it can destroy the microbe before it can multiply and make you sick. That’s why someone who gets infected with a disease, like chickenpox won’t get sick from it again.
What are the symptoms of a compromised immune system?
Feeling sick, tired, and other nagging symptoms can often mean you have a weakened immune system.
There are some common warning signs.
- You always have a cold or infection
- main symptom of a compromised immune system is susceptibility to infection.
- Normal for adults to get around 2-3 cold per year. Most people feel completely recovered after ten days. It takes four days for the immune system to develop antibodies and fight off germs. Continuously catching colds or not being able to get rid of a cold is a clear sign your immune system is struggling to keep up.
- You experience frequent gut problems
- 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. Your gut contains bacteria and microorganisms that defend your gut from infection and support the immune system. If you experience frequent diarrhoea, gas or constipation that could mean your microflora is unbalanced, therefore lowering your immunity.
- Your wounds heal slowly
- you get a cut, scrape or burn your body works to heal and protect the wound by sending nutrient-rich blood to the injury to help regenerate new skin.
- A wound to heal correctly healthy immune cells are required. If your immune system is compromised, your skin will not be able to regenerate, and your injuries will have a longer healing time.
- You feel tired all the time
- you know you are getting enough sleep, but you still feel run down and tire it’s usually a sign your immune system is trying to tell you something. When your immune system is struggling so is your energy levels.
- of the factors that affect immune function include:
- Lack of sleep
- Smoking & Alcohol
- Poor diet
- Exposure to certain germs
All of the above factors affect gut health and compromised gut health lowers immune function. It begins and ends in the gut. Boosting your gut health is the primary factor in boosting your immune system. It’s best to start by eliminating irritants including processed foods, sugar, dairy and gluten. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and fermented foods. Include herbal support in the form of medicinal mushrooms. Specific immune-boosting mushrooms are Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga and Lions Mane. Include immune-boosting supplements like Vitamin C, D, Zinc and Omega 3’s. Omega 3 also provides secondary benefits to brain and cardiovascular function.
Other necessary steps to ensure are adequate sleep, proper stress management, exercise and skincare that supports the skin microbiome. Avoid stripping and over-cleansing your skin.
It’s the small changes that count. Do what you can, what feels right, and your immune system and skin will thank you later.
Written: By Gabby Wills
It is somewhat ironic that vitamin D, through a historical accident, became classified as a ‘vitamin’, owing to the fact that vitamin is conventionally defined as ‘essential item needed in the diet’. The paradox with ‘vitamin D’ is that diet per se is usually poor in vitamin D except for cod or other fish oils or food fortified with this vitamin.
Vitamin D is actually a fat-soluble prohormone steroid that has endocrine, paracrine and autocrine function. The endocrine effects of vitamin D are mainly involved in serum calcium homeostasis. Vitamin D and calcium are often used in the same sentence because they work closely together, vitamin D’s primary role is to control the levels of calcium found in the bloodstream by constantly allowing calcium and phosphate absorption from the intestine or taking calcium from bones.
Sources of vitamin D
There are only 3 known sources of vitamin D; sunlight, diet, and vitamin D supplements. Insert diagram
There are several ways that being vitamin D deficient might impact your skin.
Healthy levels of vitamin D have been demonstrated to prevent skin ageing. Skin ageing can be demonstrated molecularly, by the shortening of telomeres, the caps of genetic material on the free ends of DNA strands. These telomeres shorten with age, rendering the DNA more and more unstable, until the cell dies. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that telomeres were “significantly longer in patients with the highest serum vitamin D levels, compared to those with the lowest … equivalent to five years of aging.”
Vitamin D is crucial for skin protection. Further, calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D) helps in skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism as well as prevents skin aging. But too much sun leads to accelerated skin ageing, ultraviolet light (sun light) does cause direct DNA damage, skin injury and skin cancers. Hence, sunlight is not the best way to get your vitamin D.
Other ways Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the health of your skin are:
- Can help prevent chronic inflammation and regulate the immune system
- Influences genes that ensure skin cells die, shed, and don’t clog pores
- Increases the absorption & utilization of magnesium, phosphate, vitamin K2, and other nutrients
- Plays a role in insulin secretion (too much insulin can be a nightmare for acne).
- Some studies have found that vitamin D can help treat skin conditions like dry skin, psoriasis, or eczema.
- People over the age of 50 have less ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight and are at a greater risk of osteoporosis and arthritis, fractures, muscle weakness, and cancers.
Deficiency in vitamin D is a real problem for acne – a recent study found that 95% of people with acne were deficient in vitamin D. It’s hard to understate the importance of vitamin D when it comes to acne.
Vitamin D supplements may help with many skin conditions, including dry, itchy skin, psoriasis and acne
Researchers are establishing a firmer link between vitamin D levels and acne. Acne (clinically known as acne vulgaris) is a skin condition where your pores become blocked or clogged, causing red bumps or blackheads to form on your skin. Acne can be caused by changes in hormone levels, bacteria, oils, and more. If you have acne, a vitamin D deficiency may be part of what’s causing symptoms or making them worse.
In 2006Trusted Source, researchers estimated that over 41 percent of the U.S. population was deficient in the hormone called vitamin D. Vitamin D is not listed as an official risk factor for acne, according to the Mayo Clinic. But researchersTrusted Source are starting to explore how vitamin D regulates the immune system. This immune system link might explain the relationship between vitamin D levels and skin health.
In a 2014 studyTrusted Source, people who had nodulocystic acne were at risk for more severe symptoms if they had low levels of vitamin D. In another studyTrusted Source, people with acne experienced significantly improved symptoms when they took oral vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D has antimicrobial properties. If the acne you have is caused by bacterial overgrowth, using topical vitamin D might calm your symptoms. More studies are needed to confirm how this could work.
Vitamin D also has an anti-inflammatory property. Having adequate levels of vitamin D in your system may help addressTrusted Source the inflammatory symptoms of acne. Taking vitamin D supplements could also be an alternative way of treating recurrent acne that appears red and inflamed.
How to use vitamin D for acne?
If you’re deficient in vitamin D, sitting out in the sun won’t fix your acne. Doctors agree that prolonged exposure to sunshine is not the best way to get vitamin D. Exposure to the sun without using a protective sunscreen can put you at risk for skin cancer. Taking dietary supplements and consuming foods rich in vitamin D are the best ways to increase your vitamin D levels to help treat acne.
There are few foods naturally rich in vitamin D. Dairy products, like milk and cheese, are a great source of the vitamin, but have been found in some studiesTrusted Source to make acne symptoms worse. If you’re lactose intolerant, you may already be considering taking a vitamin D supplement. People who don’t consume milk regularly are at a higher riskTrusted Source of being deficient in vitamin D.
If you do use a vitamin D oral supplement, keep an eye on the dosage. Make sure that other supplements you’re taking, such as a calcium supplement or prenatal vitamin, aren’t putting you over the recommended amount of 100 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day. And since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it can build up in your system. Vitamin D supplements are best taken with a meal.
Topical application of vitamin D3 has been foundTrusted Source to be an efficient way to get vitamin D levels up with fewer side effects than oral supplements, but more research is needed.
Potential side effects and risks
Taking too much vitamin D can result in serious side effects. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has set a limit of 100 mcg per day of vitamin D for men and women who are not pregnant or nursing.
The most common side effect of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood, called hypercalcemia. Hypercalcelmia can cause nausea and vomiting. Taking too much vitamin D over time can result in heart arrhythmias, tissue calcification, kidney stones, and organ damage.
Vitamin D levels can also be decreased when taking corticosteroid medication.
If you have recurrent acne that hasn’t resolved with other kinds of treatment, you may have a vitamin D deficiency. So have your serum levels checked.
- Forrest KY, et al. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. DOI:
- Lim SK, et al. (2016). Comparison of vitamin D Levels in patients with and without acne: A case-control study combined with a randomized controlled trial. DOI:
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Acne.
- Sadat-Ali M, et al. (2014). Topical delivery of vitamin D3: A randomized controlled pilot study.
- Yildizgören MT, et al. (2014). Preliminary evidence for vitamin D deficiency in nodulocystic acne. DOI:
- Zeratsky K. (2018). What is vitamin D toxicity, and should I be worried about it since I take supplements?