Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
As the global pandemic raged over the past year, everyone, it seems, has been looking for ways to boost immunity. After all, the immune system is our most important protection against everything going around. So it might seem to make sense that we’d want to ramp up our defenses. But when it comes to immune health, balancing is far better than boosting.
What this means is that when our bodies face threats from invading microbes, we want our immune systems to mount a proper response, not to underreact or overreact, because either of those can lead to serious health problems.
Loading up on supplements such as echinacea, for example, can overstimulate the immune system, which can trigger a dangerous overreaction leading to runaway inflammation or and/or confused immune cells attacking the body—especially dangerous for anyone with an autoimmune condition. Even worse, an overstimulated immune system can set off a potentially deadly cytokine storm.
On top of that, an overstimulated immune system can get worn out. And if you’re boosting the wrong immune cells, you may not even get the microbe-defeating response you were hoping for in the first place.
So instead of giving your immune system a boost, give it balance—with complementary solutions that help fine-tune and train immune activity for optimal responses. Because a well-balanced immune system is truly your best defense.
A Whole-System Approach
The immune system is made up of thousands of moving parts that all need to work together with balance and harmony, including:
- Natural killer (NK) cells, which mobilize when your body detects infectious microbes or cancer cells
- Helper T cells, which send instructions to B cells and killer T cells
- Killer T cells, which kill off any of your cells that have been infected by an invading pathogen
- B cells, which produce targeted antibodies to fight specific invaders (a common cold antibody, for example)
- Cytokines, which end the signals that activate immune responses and inflammation
The key to a proper immune response involves activating the right cells at the right time and shutting them down once the threat has been neutralized. But if the immune system is out of balance, that carefully coordinated response can go off the rails.
When Your Immune System Is Out of Balance
A healthy, balanced immune system responds to threats, neutralizes them, and then goes back into “watch and wait” mode. It doesn’t underreact or overreact. But an immune system that’s out of balance simply can’t work properly.
When your immune system underreacts, you’ll fall victim to all sorts of infectious viruses, bacteria, and other invaders, leading you to get sick more often and stay sicker longer. That’s because an immune system that underreacts can’t keep the bad guys out and can’t defeat them when they cause infections.
When your immune system overreacts, it sets off a dangerous series of events triggered by the master alarm protein, galectin-3. In this situation, galectin-3’s alarm signals don’t shut down when threats disappear. The immune system keeps sending out troops even when there’s no real enemy to fight, and those overstimulated immune cells start to attack the body’s own cells, which can:
- Cause an autoimmune condition, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Cause ongoing systemic inflammation, which can lead to a range of chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
- Trigger potentially deadly cytokine storms, which can severely damage the lungs and other organs.
Boosting your immune system—especially if you do it every day—works sort of like giving candy to a toddler. They get that immediate “sugar high,” supplying energy and stimulation, but aftewards they either pass out from the sugar crash or go into an uncontrolled tantrum. Similarly, a constant supply of immune-boosting substances can lead to an immune system that underreacts (like a sugar crash) or overreacts (like a tantrum).
Balancing the immune system, on the other hand, delivers the protection you want. When you take steps to keep your immune system in balance, it effectively:
- Strengthens your defenses.
- “Trains” your defensive immune cells to respond properly.
- Neutralizes pathogens.
- Controls inflammation.
- Prevents attacks on your own tissues and organs.
- Stops dangerous overreactions—like cytokine storms—before they start.
A well-balanced immune system keeps you healthy and vital. So if you’re not feeling your best, at least on most days, your immune system may be letting you know that it needs help.
5 Signs Your Immune System Needs Support
If your immune system needs support, you want to know it before you catch a dangerous infection or develop a chronic, debilitating condition. Listen to your body. It will let you know—loud and clear—if your immune system needs help. Here are five warning signs that your immune system is struggling to keep you well:
- You catch a lot of colds, and they last a long time.
- You get multiple or recurrent infections, such as ear infections, sinus infections, or walking pneumonia during the year.
- You feel exhausted most the time.
- You’re constantly stressed out.
- Your injuries, like cuts and bruises, heal too slowly.
Any of these warning signs may indicate that your immune system can’t keep up. But with the right support, you can get your immune system back into balance and ready to keep you safe and healthy.
6 Ways to Balance Immune Function
It’s easier to keep your immune system in proper balance than you might think. By taking these simple steps, you’ll deliver steady, effective support and nourishment to your immune system—just what it needs to keep you well.
1. Forest Bathing: While it might sound like you’d need to go skinny-dipping in a woodland lake, forest bathing really refers to immersing yourself in a natural green setting. Studies show that spending time in green spaces—like a forest or meadow—helps balance and improve immune function.
2. Yoga: The ancient practice of yoga combines physical postures, focused breathing techniques, and mindfulness to deliver a variety of health benefits. Studies show that yoga helps reduce inflammation and improve immune function, especially with consistent long-term practice.
3. Meditation: Meditation enhances your awareness and your ability to remain clear, calm, and focused in your life, while enriching your health and wellness. Clinical trials show that meditation helps reduce inflammation, improve cellular immunity, and support antibody response to infectious microbes.
4. Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP): The researched form of MCP (ecoNugenics Pecta-Sol C) supports balanced immune function in several critical ways:
- MCP blocks the alarm protein galectin-3, helping prevent immune system overreactions such as cytokine storms.
- It enhances activity of NK cells, T cells, and B cells so they can work effectively.
- It detoxifies heavy metals and other substances to reduce their toxic burden on the immune system.
- It helps reduce inflammation and maintain healthy cellular function.
5. Tibetan Herbal Formula: For generations, Eastern traditional medicine has made use of a classical Tibetan herbal formula to treat a wide variety of health conditions and support overall wellness. This antioxidant-rich formula (ecoNugenics PADMA Basic) is backed by more than 30 published clinical trials. It reduces inflammation, balances immune function, and supports the body’s ability to fight off infections. Studies show this blend can:
- Reduce chronic inflammation by decreasing production of inflammatory cytokines.
- Support immunity against infectious bacteria and viruses.
- Improve circulation and cardiovascular health.
- Provide strong antioxidant protection.
6. A Botanically Enhanced Mushroom Formula: Medicinal mushrooms act as “trainers” that improve your immune system over time. They optimize immune responses and help them stay balanced, neither underreacting nor overreacting.
At the same time, many medicinal mushrooms have powerful antiviral activity, especially against viruses that infect the respiratory system. Medicinal mushrooms—including reishi, cordyceps, and coriolus—deliver the best results when used together. They work synergistically, each enhancing the immune-balancing effects of the others.
Botanical enhancement can make mushrooms even more potent and effective. Botanically enhanced mushrooms, such as ecoNugenics Ten Mushroom Formula, are cultivated on a blend of adaptogenic, immune-balancing herbs that enrich the mushrooms with additional healing compounds.
Nourishment and Care
Your immune system faces constant threats—pathogens, toxins, unhealthy lifestyles, chronic stress, and more. Working overtime to keep you healthy means your immune system—and your entire body— need nourishment, replenishment, and care, not overstimulation. These harmonizing strategies can provide the balancing support you need to optimize your defenses, and your long-term wellness, naturally.