It can be difficult to know how well natural defenses work. How strong is your immune system? It can be hard to know how well your body’s natural defenses are working unless you’re sick. However, according to Chief Scientific Officer, Ashley Jordan Farrar, Ph.D., a few quick tests can help you figure it out.
Below, she explains how to tell if your immune system is in top shape:
Complete blood count
“A complete blood count would definitely be the No. 1 baseline to see if there are any dysfunctions in any of your major classes of immune cells,” says Ferrara.
While this test measures all of the different characteristics of your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, the white blood cell count can be very telling: the different types of white blood cells (e.g., neutrophils, lymphocytes, basophils), etc., can shed light on your immune response.
Ferreira says: “We know, for example, that the number of neutrophils increases when you have an infection. However, a CBC test can highlight these different responses and offer some insight.
Markers of metabolic health and inflammation
“Metabolic health and inflammation – these mechanisms go hand in hand with immunity,” Ferrara continues. Immunity and metabolic health are interconnected because your immune system acts as a sensor of your metabolic state.
That’s why Ferira suggests checking metabolic markers of health – you know, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, lipids, and some of the others listed here.
“In the inflammatory zone, test things like C-reactive protein,” she adds, as well as serum ferritin and D-dimer; these unique labs can signal your inflammatory response.
Vitamin D status
Ferira then states the importance of nutrition. Specifically, vitamin D levels: we probably don’t need to remind you of the link between vitamin D and immunity and the doctor says a blood test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D can determine your levels.
“It’s a biomarker of your vitamin D status,” she notes. “If you don’t know your baseline, I recommend that you get a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D test.”
Vitamin C levels
A less commonly tested, but still significant measurement is vitamin C levels. “This is the level of ascorbic acid in the plasma,” explains Ferreira. As you may know, vitamin C plays a big role in the immune system: in particular, it helps to multiply lymphocytes (remember, they’re a type of white blood cell) to fight foreign invaders in the body. Vitamin C also helps neutrophils (another white blood cell we mentioned earlier) “eat” and destroy bad germs.
Finally, there’s zinc: the trace mineral is crucial for the development and function of many immune cells in your innate (neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells) and adaptive immune (B cells and T cells) responses. To test your natural zinc levels, Ferira recommends asking for a serum test.