Not the direction you were heading, I think, but idle hands are the Devil’s plaything - and so apparently is an idle immune system.
I’ve heard tell that asthma, allergies, and some other autoimmune and hyperimmune related ailments may be the consequence of eliminating so many sources of infection through civil engineering, medicine, and so on. Perhaps the greatest thing about stimulating the immune system, with challenges that is, would be giving it something harmless or good to work on.
Now that’s a thing I hadn’t considered. Possibly the things that claim to stimulate the immune system simply give it something to work on. The way I’d always understood it was that your immune system(s) became more “alert?” or aggressive toward invading pathogens. I’ve been told that heavy exercise increases your white-cell count aside from its other benefits. It just occurred to me the other day to wonder whether this was entirely a good thing.
Exercise is definitely good for you, but strenuous exercise over very long periods releases a lot of stress hormones that can significantly impair your immune system. Cyclists in the Tour de France constantly complain about thier susceptibility to viral infections. Moderate exercise will increase the number of circulating immune cells, but it’s not clear that this directly translates to improved ability to fight off pathogens. It could just be that exercise causes immune cells to move from peripheral tissues to the bloodstream. This may or may not help with overall immunity.
Typing exercise leukocyte into Google Scholar yields this:
"After exercise, T cells declined progressively and, 2 h post-exercise, were less than 60% of their pre-exercise level. "
Here are a two more articles that might do better for giving a better “big-picture” of how immunity and strenuous exercise realte to one another. The take ome message for heavy exercise is defintely: don’t bonk out or exercise until your really, really hungry. Supplement your exercise with food both during and after your work out.
When I was taking an Avian Biology class, one of the things we were told was that a sudden change in environment (ie: suddenly going from warm to cold) can cause a temporary boost in your immune system. Not sure how long this boost lasts, but our professor assured us that there is one.
According to professor David Nieman, of Appalachian State University, when moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis there is a cumulative effect that leads to a long-term immune response. His research showed that those who walk at 70-75 of their maximum heart rate for 40 minutes per day had half as many sick days due to colds or sore throats as those who don’t exercise.
It wouldn’t hurt to check out some information about diet and immune system as well. Here’s a start.
On the other hand, when I tried echinacea my allergies went into overdrive.
Some peoples’ immune systems are already overdoing it - things like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are the immune system attacking the body, and the last thing these people need is a more active immune system.
The article also links to a page called Can you be too clean? which essentially says that our immune system needs to practice on rather benign bugs in order to be able to effectively attack more hazardous ones. Our immune systems wants to keep busy, better to give it something minor to work on before it goes nutso over dust. It is referred to as the “Hygeine Hypothesis.”
Hypervigilante Hygeine Police scare me. Usually they are pretty clueless about germ transmission. Oprah did a show to find out what was dirtier, the dirtiest thing she found was a shopping cart. Now they sell shopping cart inserts, groceries have antibacterial wipes, etc. Keep making those bugs stronger folks! Make us weaker, them stronger, that is the way to keep the species going!
When I was in a high school biology class, we were told to go around taking swabs of different things in the school to see if we could find where the most germs were. The cleanest thing we could find (our group found this) was the inside of a urinal. Among the dirtiest things were the doorknob to the classroom and the hand of one of the guys in the group.
Also heard somewhere (I read it on the internet, so it must be true!) that typically the most sanitary room in the house is the bathroom, and the least sanitary the laundry room. The theory is, both see lots of dirty clothes and what not, but unlike the laundryroom, the bathroom is normally cleaned regularly (in fact, the parts of the bathroom most likely to get dirty: The bathtub, toilet, and sink, would probably get flushed with water every time they got dirty anyhow).
Actually, another tangent, does anyone here watch Invader Zim? Remember the episode where he went batshit trying to stay away from the germs on Earth, when it hadn’t occured to him that he had spent all that time on Earth with the germs and came to no apparent harm?