The first thing that comes up when we think about the immune system is a cold. Yet the immune system does much more that just protect us from a cold, it is basically here to protect us from all invaders and stressors. It acts as the armed forces of our body.
It consists of different branches that work together. Basically like border control, army, navy, air force and coast guards which are referred to in the medical terms as the antibodies and immunoglobulins IgA, IgG, IgE, IgM, and IgD. Each of which has a distinct role that protects us and allows us to survive, think, move and do a lot of other stuff.
Technically there four different immune systems in the body and each can produce the five types of antibodies as immune responses above. A large immune system is found in our gastrointestinal tract, our gut. The second one is in the liver called the Kupffer cells. The third comprises the white blood cells found in the bloodstream. And the fourth are the glia cells in our brain. All of these four system operate separately yet follow the same scheme of operation based on two arms.
The first arm is the cellular or innate immune system which acts the protective guns firing chemical bullets. And the second arm is the humoral or adaptive immune system which is the heavy artillery thats called in when the first needs backup.
When the bodies is faced with a stressor such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, offensive proteins from foods or mechanical stressors such as micro tears in fascia and muscle induced by the tension created by the load used in weight training the innate/cellular arm produces cytokines, the biochemical bullets that are first responders. The cytokines recognize, destroy and repair whatever they consider a threat to the bodies optimal function. There a different cytokines produced and the immune system determines which one to launch. If the cellular arm of the immune system can’t get the job done the immune system calls for the big guns. This is when the humoral/adaptive immune system kicks in which launches targeted missiles called antibodies.
This is a complex system that works every second of the day to protect, repair and maintain optimal body function. We can differentiate the stressor in the larger ones, such as potent viruses, bacteria or severe mechanical damage such as an muscular injury. And smaller ones such as eating gluten when being gluten sensitive or recurring mechanical damage such as from training especially weight training as this taxes the immune system more than most forms of training due to the damage on fascia and muscle induced by the high levels on tension on the tissue created by the resistance used.
Muscular hypertrophy is basically putting the muscle under stress and then waiting for the muscle to get repaired and ending up stronger than before in the process called supercompensation. Basically you squat 150kg for 6 reps today and thats you 6RM, so you couldn’t do another single rep. You took the muscles involved to their maximal output of work in that exercise-specific movement pattern, which is a stressor to the system. Then the body recovers and adapts, so next time you will be able to do 7 reps with 150kg or 6 reps with 152,5kg as the body has prepared for the stressor it has experienced before. Thats is super compensation and one of the primary mechanism of any form of training.
So when we are speaking of the immune system and muscular hypertrophy the repair and adaption process of the muscle tissue is governed by the immune system. Which leaves the immune system as a clear pillar of training progress. An strong and well-functioning immune system is therefore crucial for the recovery process of muscular hypertrophy. Having a well-functioning immune system is not just supporting it by taking certain micronutrients as well as plant- and mushroom extracts and getting good nights of sleep. It also means avoiding further stressors, with some being harder to avoid like bacteria and viruses and some being easier to avoid such as chemicals from medication, environmental toxins such as metals, food intolerances and disturbing the gut through malnutrition and poor food choices.
All the Best strengthening the Immune System for more Muscular Hypertrophy!
For more info on the immune system and musculoskeletal growth sign up for the YPSI Autoimmunity & Gluten Sensitivity Seminar on September 15th/16th this year at the YPSI in Stuttgart, click here for more info
Parts of the above information are an excerpt of Dr. O’Bryan’s book „The Autoimmune Fix“, for a full review click here
Picture: An illustration of the immune system.