How Our Immunity is Influenced by Our Environment?
There are really only 2 things that exist in this world -- ourselves and everything outside ourselves. The latter is called the environment and ironically determines much of what actually happens inside of human health and well-being.
When presented with threats from the outside world like infectious diseases and contaminants in our ecosystems, our body activates a robust defense system composed of different forces, all with their own functions. Some of these forces attack intruders, others help us heal, while still others clean out the dead cells that perish during these battles between body and environment.
The degree to which environmental health affects public health has always been up for debate, but science is far more certain as to what environmental impacts are determinants of our health outcomes (and health problems). The most crucial of these factors are:
- Air Quality of Both Indoor Air and Outdoor Air (pollutants, emissions, harmful aerosols)
- Access to Healthcare
- Nutritional content of our food consumption
- Access to clean drinking water
- Physical Safety and Environmental Hazards (ie, crime, housing)
- Natural disasters (ie. hurricanes, pandemics)
There are of course more factors that could be included when it comes to environmental risk factors, but these are some of the purely physical environment factors that influence our immune system. It’s also known that as people age, the environment’s impact on health effects and health issues grows stronger, which is all the more reason that we need a healthy environment in order to have a healthy life. Unfortunately, it's not a completely alien concept to link our health status and health concerns to climate change and other factors and burden of disease that come directly from where we live, with a low-income community's poor living conditions being an entirely separate branch of this concern worth its own discussion.
The best way to study the effects of the environment on our immunity has been extensive identical twin studies. The reason being that because identical twins come from the same egg, their genes are nearly identical. The findings from these studies are fascinating and give us a window into genetic heritability versus epigenetic (environmental) factors.
The study concluded that the farther we get away from childhood, the more our environment determines our immune system function, and thus our quality of life. Specifically, the results showed that variation in blood cell frequencies and functions is more determined (58%) by non-heritable factors than by heritable ones. Environmental factors seem to also either assist or hinder our innate immune responses, making the effects of the environment and the need for environmental protection even more pronounced.
As curious scientists and researchers, Caligenix decided that it might be interesting and helpful to create a tool that could tell you how good/bad your environment is based on hard data. We pulled data from all over on air pollution, healthcare, cold and flu occurrences, water quality, allergens and many more factors.
Dr. Andrew Battles, a data scientist and creator of the tool says, “There are plenty of sources that give you one-off information on environmental factors, but none that give you this aggregated data in combination. By utilizing AI and machine learning, we are creating a Health Risk Index that will also provide recommendations to help mitigate environmental risks.”
We invite you to use this incredible resource and to tell us how your environment fared: