Just like our skin, our immune systems are prone to the ravages of time. As we age, they do, too, leaving us more susceptible to health challenges with every year that goes by. Thus, slowing down, even reversing the aging process, is more than desirable.
But how to make an old immune system young again?
Since we can’t literally turn back time, we can adopt a healthier lifestyle, turn to whole foods, try to become more active, and even start taking supplements for aging of the immune system.
So, let’s take a look at the existing data on immune system aging, get familiar with the most typical symptoms, and explore the ways to reverse the process in more detail.
Your body will thank you later!
Aging of the Immune System
Like the other systems in our bodies, the immune system gets older over time, especially after the sixth decade of life. Its aging process, or immunosenescence, is characterized by dramatic changes.
Therefore, seniors tend to be more prone to getting cold or flu more frequently, slow wound healing, impaired protection after vaccination, and even developing cancer.
Due to the impaired immune system function, our aging bodies also tend to get more prone to inflammatory diseases (e.g., gout). This is also known as “inflammaging.”
Additionally, patients with autoimmune diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis) are more prone to premature, accelerated immune system aging and developing various age-related conditions.
The fine mechanisms of immune aging are usually related to the lymphocytes. When metabolic changes occur, the immune cells suffer from chronic energy stress. This affects their ability to live long and function properly, deteriorating immune function.
The Immunological Theory of Aging
While research suggests that changes in the immune system result from aging, the so-called immunological theory of aging claims exactly the opposite.
According to this theory, aging and its symptoms (chronic diseases, a tendency to develop inflammatory conditions, etc.) actually result from a changed immune system.
The proponents of this theory also believe that the changes in immunity directly impact your longevity and overall well-being, as well as the development of various chronic conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, etc.).
Supplements for Aging of the Immune System
Certain micronutrients can create optimal conditions for the immune system to work properly and likely slow down its aging.
It’s well known that the following micronutrients play a particularly important role in maintaining the optimal immune response:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
It’s important to note that even marginal deficiency in one or more of these micronutrients can negatively affect immune function.
So, if you want to prevent your immune system from aging prematurely, it’s only natural to start taking such supplements to boost the immune system, keep it optimally functional, and potentially delay its aging.
There’s most scientific evidence for the ability of three micronutrients to support immune function — vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc. Research shows that they can help maintain your immune system youthful and functioning properly.
So, let’s check them out in more detail.
Scientifically Proven Anti–Aging Supplements for Your Immune System
Vitamin C is crucial for the immune defense, as it plays a vital role in both the innate immune system (the one we were born with) and the adaptive immune system (the one we develop).
It supports epithelial barriers that keep harmful pathogens from entering our bodies, destroying them and any toxic molecules they may produce.
Antioxidants like vitamin C are also some of the most potent weapons against free radicals. They neutralize the damage caused by oxidative stress and prevent tissue damage.
That’s why vitamin C is essential in skin care, especially when it comes to reducing wrinkles and fine lines and improving elasticity.
Vitamin D is a well-known immune response regulator. It can modulate both the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
This vitamin has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and helps reinforce the barrier against external pathogens, protecting us from them.
This is why this nutrient could be a welcome ingredient in supplements for the immune system aging.
Besides supplements, the main sources of vitamin D include adequate exposure to the sun, supplements, and food (e.g., leafy vegetables, dairy products, fish, etc.).
Zinc has a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
It supports the growth and normal functioning of immune cells. This includes lymphocytes (that produce antigens), neutrophils (that kill and digest bacteria), and macrophages (that detect and destroy harmful microbes).
Zinc also reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress markers, maintaining our well-being.
Zinc deficiency is linked with severe immune system impairment and reduced protection from various pathogens. So, it’s essential to make sure you regularly ingest enough of this nutrient through food or supplements.
Supplements for Immune System Rejuvenation and COVID-19
The recent breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic created immense interest in finding ways to strengthen the immune systems of those with relatively weak immunity.
This particularly relates to older adults, who are more prone to getting infected and suffering more severe symptoms mainly due to a declined immune system and various comorbid chronic conditions.
Strong immunity is thought to play a crucial role in the initial phase of the infection. Therefore, it’s crucial to find adequate therapies to prevent undesirable outcomes.
Therefore, many recent studies tackled rejuvenation and revitalization of the aging immune system to find a way to protect the elderly from the effects of this potentially lethal virus.
Besides eating a healthy diet and leading a healthy lifestyle (adequate sleep, regular exercise, etc.), experts recommend that we boost the immune system with certain supplements like probiotics, magnesium and other nutrients mentioned in the section above.
These substances may help strengthen the innate immune system, improve the antibody response, prevent respiratory tract infections (e.g., coronavirus), etc.
Still, to get more substantial evidence about the immune system anti-aging properties of all the substances mentioned above, we need more large-scale studies involving a large sample of people.
Getting old is a natural process. Since, just like all other systems, the immune system also ages, we can expect deteriorated function.
Though we can’t completely reverse the aging of the immune system, there are ways to help slow down this process and keep our immune systems optimally functional for a long time.
They include healthy habits like exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and using supplements for immune system rejuvenation and overall well-being.