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Covid-19 is just the tip of the iceberg

By Dr. Sharon Stills, NMD

As we continue to navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic, you’ve probably wondered about the state of your immune system and immune health.

I am glad your immunity is on your mind because there’s something you need to know. Roughly 50% of women suffer impaired immune function. We’ll talk about why in a moment. The present danger is that immune-compromised people have clearly suffered the most advanced and dangerous episodes of Covid-19. But the threat goes far beyond  coronavirus. Having weakened immune function is a risk factor for other significant diseases and disorders too.

A woman supporting her immune health by getting outside to soak up Vitamin D.

it’s important to recognize that stronger doesn’t mean better immune function. There’s also an epidemic of overactive immune response — a key reason 80% of all autoimmune disease occurs among women. So when we say your immune system is weakened or impaired we mean both its power and its self-regulation.

The good news: there’s lots you can do to support your immune system to protect your health now and in the future. But let’s go back to the underlying causes — most of the solutions start there.

What’s undermining your immunity?

Are you part of the 50% with lowered immunity? To begin to gauge the health of your immune system and how best to support it, let’s look at the things that undermine it.

A woman looks up information about immune health on her computer

Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders are one of the fastest-growing categories of disease.  When you have autoimmune issues, it means the immune system is in overdrive – it’s actually attacking your own body. The diseases themselves compromise immune function, and the medications used by conventional doctors to treat them suppress immune function further.

These drugs can sometimes be helpful short-term, but only to suppress or hide your symptoms. You feel okay, but under the surface, your immune function has diminished. As a result, when a real external threat arises, the immune system doesn’t have the ability to deal with it. This is why patients often present with autoimmune disorders and chronic infections as “comorbid” (happening at the same time) conditions.

An immune health infographic showing tissues affected by autoimmune attack

Systemic inflammation 

It was only a decade ago that most conventional doctors laughed at the very idea of systemic inflammation (chronic inflammation). For the most part, they believed all inflammation was temporary and local as a result of a wound or injury. Today almost every medical practitioner recognizes that chronic inflammation is not only real, it’s the development pathway for so many chronic and degenerative diseases, from heart disease to cancer.  We are just beginning to understand how much chronic inflammation suppresses immune function.

Good gut health is important for immune health

Compromised gut health

A similar pattern is seen in dysbiosis, which refers to the dysfunction of the microbiome (intestinal flora). Up until a few years ago conventional medicine ridiculed the idea that gut health played a role in disease. Now we know it is a vector for nearly everything we suffer, from cancer to heart disease, from depression to Alzheimer’s, with new connections discovered almost weekly. Again, what very few recognize is that gut health is a key driver of immune power; with dysbiosis, the immune system is impaired. Some doctors — including me — say today that the microbiome is the major immune organ of the immune system. In fact, we now know that 70-75% of all our immune cells are in the gut.

Stress negatively impacts women's immune health


Let’s not forget stress. Daily life is full of it. And in the current pandemic you are likely suffering even more. Stress creates dysfunction with cortisol production that makes the immune system less able to respond to infections. And not just a little less – radically less able. As I always tell my patients, 99.999% of all diseases have some connection to stress. If you are feeling that kind of stress right now, start on the road to reducing your load. I’d recommend checking out our blog Easing Anxiety with Deep Breathing. You may not think that just breathing differently can boost your immune function, but your vagus nerve regulates your autonomic nervous system, and in turn much of your immune system — and it’s regulated by your breathing.

Woman experiencing fatigue

You’re tired all the time 

Constantly feeling exhausted, even after just waking up from a full night’s sleep, could be a warning sign from your immune system. According to researchers, when immune function is struggling, the body will attempt to funnel more energy to the immune system to get it back up to speed. This added effort can leave the rest of you feeling depleted and tired.

A woman concerned about improving her immune health

Is age a factor? 

Age is actually the traditional explanation for the gradual decline in immune function.  There’s some truth to that perspective. A conventional doctor will say that immune decline and dysfunction is a natural – by which he/she means, inevitable — consequence of aging.

A holistic doctor (like me) thinks that explanation is upside down. I would say that the rate at which you age is in large part determined by how quickly your immune system declines.  If you support your immune health, you’re much more likely to live a long and very vital life.  And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

From here, the list of immune suppressing factors goes on… Other medical conditions, medical treatment, medications (including most of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, from statins to birth control pills), toxins, too much sugar in the diet, pesticides and dozens of other factors also suppress immunity. By the way, this list is not an advanced theory of the alternative health community – it’s settled science recognized by government health authorities.

The problem is that nobody talks about it. Covid-19 may be changing that – that would be the silver lining for this stressful time we’re living through. Very few conventional doctors assess the power and resilience of your immune system, even though it’s known that the time to support your immune system is before it becomes impaired. By the time it’s truly impaired, the damage is much more difficult to reverse. Still, it’s never too late for improvement.

Immune health is the health of the future

I promised you some good news and I am here to deliver. We have developed a number of resources for women to assess their immune health right now and get research-based  immune function support in the form of high quality immune health supplements, including our breakthrough Immune Support Combo.

Get started on improving your immune health with these articles and videos:

5 surprising signs your immune system needs added support

Learn the role Vitamin D plays in immune health

Foods that strengthen your immunity

We’ll gradually be adding more content about rebuilding your immune power, what you can do to prevent its decline, and how to protect yourself and those you love.  Meanwhile if you’ve got questions or concerns you want us to answer or explain, get in touch with us at support@womenshealthnetwork.com. We’re here for you.