Most people know the feeling of being run down – you've been run off your feet, burning the candle at both ends, and just when you need it least, you come down with a cold.
This would have to be one of the prime examples of life being unfair. Thankfully a group of researchers from the United States are trying to make things a little less frustrating for people who just can't afford to be sick right now, and may have come up with a solution.
They took a look at the mucosal defense system, which is one of our first lines of defense against pathogens. One of the things this system does is to secrete antimicrobial proteins in our body fluids, which helps cut down the numbers of invaders trying to make us sick. Researchers wanted to get a clearer picture of how sleep affected mucosal immunity, and to see whether or not exercise had any effect on the relationship.
A group of four men and four women completed two exercise tasks – The first was a 45 minute jog after a good night's sleep, but in the second, the 45 minute jog took place after the unfortunate participants had stayed up all night.
The researchers measured levels of the body's natural antimicrobial proteins in the saliva before exercise, immediately after exercise, and again one hour after exercise. Levels of these proteins in saliva give a good indication of how well the mucosal defense system is operating.
This research showed that exercise boosts the mucosal immune system. No matter how well the subjects had slept, levels of salivary antimicrobial proteins rose after a 45 minute jog, and climbed even higher one hour after exercise, indicating that this immune boost is long lasting.
Unexpectedly, this research did not find a connection between sleep deprivation and secretion of antimicrobial proteins, which means the fact that you get sick when you have the most to do is not due to reduced vigilance on the part of the mucosal immune system. Further research will be needed to determine the relative contributions made by other parts of the immune system and the inherent cruelty of nature to this observation.
What this does mean is that this link between exercise and the mucosal immune system has been proven, adding to the wealth of research out there on the benefits, physical and mental, of regular exercise.
The other way to optimise immune function is through nutrition. The right blend of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is a major prerequisite to general health. If you have a busy lifestyle, you may not be getting the nutrition you need – this is where a greens or superfood supplement can come in and make a big difference.
People who are training heavily can support their immune system with glutamine supplements, and anyone who is having trouble sleeping might like to check out the range of sleep and relaxation products available at Mr Supplement.
Gillum TL, Kuennen MR, Castillo MN, Williams NL, Jordan-Patterson AT. Exercise, But Not Acute Sleep Loss, Increases Salivary Antimicrobial Protein Secretion. J Strength Cond Res 29(5): 1359-1366, 2015