With Immunity season upon us, we’ve been thinking about how all the isolation, distancing, masking and hygiene hyper-vigilance have affected our immune systems.
Here’s what the research tells us.
Evidence supports the “hygiene hypothesis,” that young children exposed to more microbes (germs) build stronger immunity (specifically, they’re less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune disorders like hay fever, asthma, or inflammatory bowel disease.)
But by the time we’re adults, our immune systems seem to be fully developed, so exposure to more germs is likely to render the same benefits as when we were young.
So fears that social isolation may be weakening our immune systems because we’re not being exposed to as many germs seem to be unfounded...BUT that doesn’t mean that social isolation isn’t weakening our immune systems!
Peer reviewed research* indicates that anti-viral responses are suppressed by loneliness, and that more social ties (with a spouse, parents, friends, co-workers, or members of a social group) make people:
a) less susceptible to the common cold,
b) produce fewer symptoms, and
c) shed (or pass on to others) less of the virus.
This relationship was found to be stronger for those who had a more diverse social network, and these findings were not affected by virus type, age, sex, season, body mass index, education, and race, among other controls.
Why there hasn’t been more subsequent research on this topic, given the mainstreaming of quarantine in the past twenty months, is beyond us.
What we do know is this: there are many things you can do to strengthen your immunity, and we'll be breaking them down in future posts soon. But one prediction we can make based on the scientific research: whatever may result from taking a shot of traditional tonics known for immune-boosting benefits, like Fire Cider or Elderberry Syrup, the positive impact on your immune system will be greater if you take a shot with a (healthy) friend, loved one, or community member.
Help us prove our theory! Take a shot with friends and report back.
* Peer reviewed means that the design, procedure and findings of these studies have been subject to review and scrutiny by other experts in the same field, a form of academic and scientific quality control. AKA not just some random person saying a thing.