I think we can all agree: You can’t trust anyone these days. But what has become very alarming is that we can’t even trust the “science” anymore. If the past 2 years has taught us anything, it’s that our immune system health is so crucial to our overall health and well-being. And while you can’t trust the medical ‘experts’ there is one thing you can always trust: your body. And heart rate variability (HRV) is used to understand what our bodies are telling us. Let’s take a look at how you can improve immune system health using HRV.
There’s nothing cynical or conspiratorial about saying “don’t trust the medical experts.” But when it comes to the 3-letter organizations, it becomes more about politics and less about YOUR health. When it comes to your immune system and your overall health, you CAN listen to the guidance from the medical community. For example, they say vitamin D and C are great for improving your immune system health, but the best second opinion is HRV.
HRV is simply a way for individuals to gauge immune health (among many things). It’s simply translating what your body is trying to tell you in a human readable format with the help of wearable technology.
What is Heart Rate Variability
Heart rate variability is the naturally occurring variation of our heart beats. Typically measured in milliseconds, it’s the time difference between each successive heartbeat. The higher the variability, the better. And changes in HRV are signals from your autonomic nervous system (ANS).
You’ve heard of fight-or-flight? Rest-and-digest? Those are responses coming from the ANS. Stress is a real phenomenon. Whether it’s physical or mental, heart rate variability can actually determine when there’s stress in your body.
For example, when you are exercising, your brain will alert the rest of your body and organs to supply extra blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. This is a stress response and puts your body in fight-or-flight mode. High stress will trigger HRV to decrease. If you had an HRV monitor handy, you would see your HRV fall.
STRESS, IMMUNE SYSTEM AND HEART RATE VARIABILITY
Your immune health and HRV are intimately linked. According to more than 15 studies, the autonomic nervous system has a critical role in mediating interaction between the nervous system and immune system. Both systems have a significant link to stress. Which once was seen as an ambiguous term, we can now put a real number on stress and analyze it using HRV.
A healthy HRV is crucial for an efficient immune system and nervous system. Think of a car, that has thousands of parts that are interlaced and rely on one another for the vehicle to function. A dirty oil filter can cause engine damage, and in the long run can ruin your vehicle.
Our bodies are like that… except 1,000 times more complex and millions of moving parts. The difference is, our body doesn’t have a check engine light. Until today.
HRV IS THE GOLD STANDARD IN HEALTH
Anything that triggers a stress response in your body can be captured using HRV technology and the proper HRV monitor. The list for what could trigger a stress response is endless. For example, digestion, anxiety/nervousness, viral infection, alcohol and other drugs, changes in altitude, environment changes, vaccines and so much more.
Furthermore, there was a study conducted on the immune changes of astronauts after space missions. The study discussed the importance of the autonomic nervous system as a predictor of potential immune system issues. Since HRV is one of the only tools that can gauge the ANS, it has incredible potential. Also this interesting excerpt from the study:
“The understanding of stress related immune challenges in space is of high relevance to understand the biology of cancer, immunology and inflammation in astronauts as well as in the young and ageing population on Earth.”
If you really think about it, HRV is even better than the check engine light. The latter will only inform you once something in the car has broken down. Heart rate variability will warn you prior to a ‘breakdown’ in your body.
HOW TO TEST IMMUNE SYSTEM STRENGTH
The only way to test the immune system nowadays is through bloodwork, and it’s still not an exact science. Something along the lines of measuring the number of T cells or other types of cells inside your blood stream. It’s quite the guessing game. Usually, we just go by feel and how easily someone gets sick.
If you measure heart rate variability, you can gain serious insight into your immune system. Using HRV for a few weeks will help you establish YOUR baseline, which is your average HRV and is a bench mark of your immune health. Any deviation from that (to the negative) you will see immediately and make conclusions from there.
HOW TO INCREASE / IMPROVE IMMUNITY
There really is no secret or hack on how to improve your immune system. Typically, people look to vitamins to boost immune system but it’s not that simple. The body is so complex, it will take time, and with the right tool, you can make sure you’re on the right track and that you’re optimizing your health. That tool is the right HRV monitor.
The best way to boost your immune system is to understand your body. How is it affected by the foods you eat, exercises your perform, daily stress, sleep and so much more. HRV is a tool you can use to understand that and really gauge immune health.
BEST HRV MONITOR
Choosing the best HRV monitor might be easier than you think, probably because there aren’t many of them out there. Here’s a few:
If you have the budget, this might be an option. The Apple Watch has a heart rate variability feature that is considered hidden by many. You have to search deep within the setting of the Apple health app, but it’s there.
There are two main methods to capturing HRV: 1) using the optical sensor (BPM) or 2) using ECG. The majority use BPM, which has its pros and cons (more on that here). It’s definitely not a main focus but if Apple is a company you trust, it might be a good start
THE AIO SMART SLEEVE BY KOMODO TECHNOLOGIES
The AIO Sleeve is the only wearable HRV monitor that uses an electrocardiogram (ECG / EKG) to capture heart rate variability data. What does that mean? Basically it’s a lot more accurate (here’s why). Komodo’s main focus is HRV so the attention to detail doesn’t go un-noticed.
The AIO Sleeve uses a Health Score, where you record your HRV for two minutes and you receive a score out of 5 stars at the end. It makes the complex data more digestible, and fun to follow along. The app saves your history and tracks your progress making the tracking of your immune using HRV much easier than other devices.
This is another popular product. Made famous by Joe Rogan and his podcast, Whoop is primarily focused on fitness and sleep. The product is a bracelet with no screen, and connects to their proprietary app via Bluetooth.
Training and recovery are important when we talk about internal health and immune system. If you can optimize your HRV for training and sleep, it can have a positive impact on other aspects of your health. If you’re looking for fitness optimization, this product could be a good choice for you.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY TOPICS
COVID-19 AND YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Heart rate variability can potentially be a tool used to detect COVID 19 and other viruses and infections. Since current PCR testing has proven to be extremely unreliable, HRV is an excellent alternative for testing immune health and responses by our bodies.
This study concludes that the autonomic nervous system can initiate the process of antibody development within the body to fight inbound viruses.
“These findings not only show that the brain can stimulate antibody production by its autonomic output, it also suggests that the power of LPS as adjuvant to stimulate antibody production may also depend on its capacity to activate the brain. The role of the autonomic nervous system in the stimulation of the adaptive immune response may explain why mood and sleep have an influence on antibody production.”
Since heart rate variability provides the most accurate assessment of your ANS, it can detect when the body is producing antibodies when fighting viruses. It’s quite amazing to think about
The best way to boost your immune system all comes down to time, and what tools are you using. Take time to monitor your HRV and learn how your body responds to different environmental situations. How does your HRV respond after eating, training, alcohol, medication, etc. Make the proper adjustments and remove high stressors from your life.
Using the right HRV monitor will also be key because you’ll need to record HRV several times a day. With these two things in mind, you can optimize your health, immune system, and life. Have an optimal running system within your body and live a long happy life.