As we age, particularly beyond age 40, our immune systems become less effective and we become more susceptible to deterioration in health, a process labeled immunosenescence. This phenomenon has broad implications and has been associated with increased potential for infections, autoimmune diseases, and cancer—i.e., diseases that become increasingly common as we age.
Can we slow or reverse the process of immunosenescence and thereby reduce or avoid these common consequences of aging? I believe we can.
Restoration of vitamin D, as we do in the Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs, provides a substantial boost in immune system function. This is why, for instance, while most people around you are coughing, suffering runny noses and fevers from viral infections through the winter, you are likely to remain completely free of such annoyances. The reduction in airway inflammation that comes from banishing all wheat and grains also makes you less susceptible to airborne viral infections. You may have noticed that, while you may have experienced two, three, or more viral infections every year in past, you likely now have none or a rare bout, all reflecting your improved immune system function.
The oxytocin-boosting effect of our L. reuteri yogurt also comes to the rescue in preserving immune system potential or even reversing the process of immunosenescence. A variety of observations have been made that point towards a dramatic increase in protective immune responses with oxytocin. These phenomena include:
- Enlargement of the thymus—The thymus gland is the seat of much of the immune system, especially T lymphocyte production, a major participant in the immune response. The thymus shrinks (“thymic involution”) as we age. L. reuteri and oxytocin have been shown to restore youthful thymus gland size. At least from the standpoint of immune system function, the thymus gland is regarded by some as the Fountain of Youth. And it is likely that, the longer you consume the L. reuteri yogurt, the more powerful this effect becomes.
- Oxytocin provokes protective immune cell production in the bone marrow
- Interleukin-10 (IL-10), a protective inflammatory mediator, is increased, while interleukin-17 (IL-17) that provokes inflammation is reduced by L. reuteri and oxytocin.
- Other inflammatory mediators such as TNF-alpha are reduced.
- L. reuteri, in addition to its oxytocin-boosting effect, is also an effective antibacterial species because it colonizes the upper gastrointestinal tract and produces bacteriocins, i.e., natural antibiotics against unhealthy bacterial species, such as the Enterobacteriaceae of SIBO. This helps keep blood levels of lipopolysaccharide and metabolic endotoxemia in check, thereby reducing intestinal and body-wide inflammation.
Following our Wheat Belly lifestyle and consuming our L. reuteri yogurt therefore are not just a means of reducing skin wrinkles or turning off appetite, these practices are also enormously effective in improving your immune response, even counteracting the expected decline in immune function with age. The full implications of these exciting discoveries are only just beginning to become clear, but it part of the broad swath of age-reversing or anti-aging changes we achieve on this lifestyle.