Many environmental, lifestyle and nutritional factors affect immunity. Nutrition studies on immune function are probably the most well know, and show that nutritional deprivation at an early age is associated with developmental failure of the immune response. Sugar alone can suppress and reduce T-cells for an hour or more after consumption. The data on life style factors such as lack of sleep, or stress affecting immune function are also pretty well known, at least on a surface level understanding. The immune system is suppressed during periods of stress to serve as a protective function in the evolution of our species, but chronic stress has been shown induce an alteration of the function of thyroid axis that alters the immune response dramatically.
One thing that majorly affects the immune system that seems a little less known is exposure to heavy metals. Heavy metals have a toxic and suppressive effect on the immune system. Mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, and aluminum are poisonous heavy metals. It is estimated that more than 25% of the US population alone suffers from heavy metal poisoning resulting from things people often give little thought to: industrial pollution, drinking water, processed foods, lead and aluminum from cooking cookware, cigarette smoke, second hand smoke, mercury fillings, aluminum from antacids, and metals used in solder.
Mercury, for example, is prevalent in our environment and is one of the oldest pollutants. Neurologically, mercury has been found to be decreased production of white blood cells, including T cells. Mercury has been shown to inhibit the primary, secondary and memory immune responses. Today mercury is readily found in pesticides sprayed on yards and conventional produce, many cosmetics, dental substances, tuna, swordfish and many pharmaceuticals.
Aluminum, another toxic heavy metal, is easily found in food additives for breads and other processed foods, antacids, baking powder, aluminum foil, and many pots, pans, and cooking utensil. Aluminum toxicity has been associated with Alzheimer’s, constipation, certain cancers, and schizophrenia.
Cadmium is present in air, food, and water and because it’s a cumulative poison it is a serious health problem. It is especially prevalent in water, cigarette smoke, conventional coffee, and gasoline. Cadmium toxicity leads to stunted immune response due to its detrimental effect on the kidneys, liver, and T cell production. Both lead and cadmium exposure results in suppression of many aspects of the immune response. This suppression often occurs at very low dosages and therefore is detrimental to immune health by doses much lower than the typical well-documented high dose levels.
Choosing to avoid the above metals in the things we ingest, put on our bodies, cook with, and work with, is the best preventative method to avoid immune suppression and toxicity. Prevention is best, but natural ways to reduce present metal toxicity include: having mercury filings safely removed, consuming metal chelating foods such as garlic, cilantro, and chlorella, or consider including milk thistle to increase liver health, allowing the organ to more easily do exactly what it is intended to do- clean up!
So what does the perfect metal detox day look like at The Juice Barn: The Energizer Juice (contains beats) or the Afternoon Delight Smoothie (contains cilantro), with a scoop of wheatgrass, chlorella, or spirulina. Then leaving with an Organic Milk Thistle supplement to add to your daily routine. Love when the key to better health can be obtained with delicious juices and smoothies!
Koller, L. D. (1980). Immunotoxicology of heavy metals. International journal of immunopharmacology, 2(4), 269-279.
Koller, L. D. (1973). Immunosuppression produced by lead, cadmium, and mercury. Am. J. Vet. Res.;(United States), 34(11).
VREDEVOE, D. L., & LEVY, L. (1985). Effects of dietary metallic ions on immune processes. Frontiers in longevity research: applications of nutritional and other discoveries in the prevention of the age-related disorders, 183.