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This time of year brings lots of respiratory illnesses including the influenza virus.  Similar to most doctors’ offices, we have been seeing and treating lots of sickness in our internal medicine patients.  Why do some people seem to never get sick whereas others come down with infections frequently?  Why do some people ward off infections quickly and easily on their own whereas others need to get to doctors quickly or bad things occur such as pneumonia?  Our immune systems play a large role in whether/how we obtain illnesses and what occurs to fight these infections off.

Does weight control impact the immune system?  There are numerous studies that do show, in fact, that obesity negatively impacts the immune system.  Here are the (boring scientific) reasons:

  • Decreased cytokine production
  • Altered monocyte and lymphocyte function
  • Natural killer cell dysfunction
  • Reduced macrophage and dendritic cell function
  • Decreased response to antigen/mitogen stimulation

We usually think of other more popularized co-morbidities that are helped lots by weight control such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer risk, sleep apnea, etc.  However, add the immune system to this list.  Also, I will change the old adage from:

“Eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away” to:

“Eat your Serotonin-Plus Phase 1 plan each day to keep the doctor away”