The Immune System

Nutrition for Special Groups 3(3+0)

Lesson 26: Nutrition for the Elderly

The Immune System

As the human body enters old age, the ability to fight off infection and other health problems diminishes significantly. The immune system, which is responsible for fighting infection, simply does not function as efficiently in older adults as in younger people.

The body's innate response to infection -- mounting a fever to kill cells causing illness, for example -- is not always automatic in older people. In fact, more than 20% of adults over age 65 who have serious bacterial infections do not have fevers. The body at this age probably still has the ability to generate fevers and other immunity weapons, but the central nervous system is simply less sensitive to immune signals and doesn't react as quickly or efficiently to infection.

Lymphocytes, which are cells produced in the lymph glands, are essential to the body's production of antibodies used to fight infection. The overall number of lymphocytes does not change greatly in old age, but the configuration of lymphocytes and their reaction to infection does.

As we age, we become less capable of producing lymphocytes to combat challenges to the immune system. The infection-fighting cells that are produced are less vigorous and less effective than those found in younger adults. When antibodies are produced, the duration of their response is shorter in older adults and fewer cells are produced than in younger adults. The immune system of younger adults, including lymphocytes and other types of cells, typically reacts more strongly and more rapidly to infection than does an older adult's.

In old age, one is more likely to produce auto antibodies, which attack parts of the body itself instead of infections. We are witnessing a vast number of auto-immune issues today, such as fibromyalgia. We believe it is significantly caused by third stage adrenal exhaustion and low serum growth hormone levels. Additionally, the auto-antibodies are factors in causing rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).


Last modified: Monday, 7 May 2012, 12:01 PM