DNA, Epigenetics & Immunity | Immune Response

  •   Danielle L’Ami

This recorded livestream takes a deep dive into immunity and immune response and how to increase same via DNA & epigenetic testing insights.

An image of a phone with the MyTBG app

Immunity and Immune Response Livestream
February 19, 2021
Hosted by Dr. Erika Gray


Here’s a quick re-cap with some added detail from our recent livestream, all about immunity and improved immune response.


(Preview) Immunity & Improved Immune Response from My Toolbox Genomics on Vimeo.


Vitamin D

The livestream dives into vitamin D as the first nutrient of interest and where are the potential areas you need to focus on more, such as inflammatory response. In a previous post I wrote, I focused on the benefits of vitamin D and how it boosts our health and wellness overall. 

Most people are vitamin D deficient unless you are:  a lifeguard, your job requires you to be out in the sun quite a bit, or you live around the Equator. Many people living in the upper latitude of the world struggle to make enough vitamin d3, especially in the winter as the sun does not come in at a steep enough angle. 

Deeper within the app, you can see the different genes of interest and the various recommendations. Do ask your provider for a Vitamin D3 test so you can determine how deficient you are. Additionally, remember that you need many co-factors to enable your vitamin D to properly work, including magnesium, vitamin K and adequate fat. 


B-Cells and T-Cells

There is a lot of information around immunity, but the important message is the differences between B-Cells and T-Cells. Essentially, the B-Cells are responsible for attacking invaders outside the cells, while the T-cells attack invaders on the inside, such as bacteria. 

Innate immunity is the first line of defense. This is why skin is so important. This is also why people with eczema or broken skin may have a poor immune system because you are enabling bacteria and viruses to enter through the lesions on the skin. 

Our bodies are really smart; they don’t like to repeat the same mistake. It can teach itself to recognize a former invader through its B-cells, otherwise known as antibodies. Then the T-cells will be the ones to kill the bacteria or invaders in the body. T-cells are also the cells we want to have when talking about a viral response. 


How To Support Immunity?

We then need to ask ourselves; how do we support immunity? The following are key areas on which you want to focus. 

Targeted Nutrients:

  • Vitamin D3, Selenium, Vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin A
  • High-quality sleep
  • Keep glucose levels at optimal levels
  • Be mindful of stress levels
  • Strategically use exercise
  • High-quality food (non-processed)

The supplements can be affected by genetics, but you should still verify and check with a blood test. There are resources out there that you can order without a doctor Ultra Labs or Direct Labs. 

Sleep, or rather, high-quality sleep is an absolute must. This will be a topic in our next livestream. Next, pre-diabetic or diabetic tend to have a compromised immune system. Something to keep in mind if you fall within this category.

Moving on, stress levels are also a significant factor. If you are constantly stressed, you are continually activating cortisol and adrenaline. This, in turn, keeps you in a constant state of fight or flight mode. This also lowers your immune system. 

Cortisol is a steroid, and when it’s high, it’s going to suppress  your immune system. Therefore, we need to be aware of tools that can help lower it. Mindful breathing, meditation, heart-rate variability, nose breathing, and going for a walk are all ways to activate your paracentric system to help bring them down. 

Keep in mind that this is not to say that cortisol is bad. For example, we want cortisol to rise in the morning to push melatonin down, otherwise, we may not get out of bed. Adrenal fatigue or burnout can be the result of too much cortisol being pumped out of our adrenals for long periods of time.  

We also need to be aware of the impact of  blue light at night as this is another way in which we tend to raise our cortisol levels. We want low cortisol levels in the evenings so we can sleep. Being mindful of nighttime activities is important for the health of our adrenals. 

Therefore, strategic use of exercise is imperative; for those who love to run, no 5k after the sun has set. The setting sun signals to the body to raise melatonin and trigger sleep. Therefore, if you are a runner, aim to run in the morning when you want your cortisol levels higher. 

If you can’t get your workout in earlier in the day, evening workouts are fine but try a different workout strategy, such as weights, yoga, or Pilates. We must also ensure that what we are putting into our bodies is high-quality food. Anything found in a box, or that which has multiple ingredients, raises insulin levels, and therefore, we risk introducing high glucose levels and further inflammation. 

Returning to the topic of Vitamin D, its importance ranges from calcium absorption as well as having anti-inflammatory qualities and cardiovascular and immune-supporting effects. We absorb this vitamin through diet or skin from the sun. Vitamin D3 works much of its magic on the immune system by helping you have a robust immune system.  Individuals with lower Vitamin D levels developed more severe symptoms of the virus. 

Both vitamin D and vitamin C play a significant role in the innate and adaptive immune systems. Vitamin C naturally regulates your inflammatory response; therefore, high histamine levels may mean a person has low vitamin C levels. 

Vitamin C can reduce cytokines. Those are your TNF alphas and Interleukin 6; a lot of research has been done around the virus and cytokines. It’s a normal response, but if the body goes into overdrive, we don’t want that. 

Too many cytokines are bad. In times of stress, those with diabetes or are elderly, tend to have lower vitamin C levels. With Covid-19, when they gave IV vitamin C to increase their levels, time spent in the ICU on ventilators was lowered.

Essentially, with the vitamin D status, you want to target between 50-60. Vitamin D lower-level individuals tend to have higher Interleukin 6, a cytokine as well as TNF Alpha. And as we just mentioned, good levels of vitamin D are good and can aid in fighting the virus. 


Zinc, Gene GPX1, and Sleep

The next topic is zinc which is an important nutrient that affects growth, development, and immune function; it is used by all the organs. Zinc deficiency is common in those who drink alcohol, and males and elderlyeldergy are more susceptible to zinc deficiencies.  

Elderly subjects 55-87 were given 45 mg of elemental zinc and had a dramatic reduction in incidents of infection as well as plasma-oxidative stress. Oxidative stress dampens our immune system and zinc is a very helpful mineral to help fight off viruses.

A diet high in phytate can be damaging. This is because phytate binds to zinc and other minerals. Therefore, plant-based diets may lead to zinc-deficiency.  You can measure intracellular zinc levels with  Red blood cell (RBC) zinc.  Aim for between 25-50 mg to reach desirable levels. 

Returning to the GPX1 gene discussed in the beginning that was associated with increased risk for colds and flu. This gene is important in regards to the virus and it is going to help prevent oxidative stress from developing. Unchecked oxidative stress tends to promote the progression of viral changes. 

Sleep is critical when you are fighting a virus as the body takes more energy to fight it off. It can’t do that if you are not asleep, in a dark room, with no tv or phone; it requires a deep sleep. When you are not sleeping, your immune system is under more pressure to perform and it won’t work efficiently for you. 

Additionally, when we sleep cytokines are released and get checked. We don’t want the pro-inflammatory cytokines; therefore, sleep is essential to keeping them down. When we don’t sleep, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, which can all be the result of lack of sleep. 


Questions from Q&A:

Question One:

Tammy asked: How do CYP1A1, CYP1B1, and CYP2C0 play a role in flushing out a virus and vaccines in estrogen detoxification?


We do know that Cyp1A1 metabolizes different toxins, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). When you blacken or char your meat or burn coal, oil, gas, etc, you will release PAHs. CYP1A1 is responsible for detoxifying these PAHs. While 1A1 does also play a role in estrogen, Cyp1B1 is even more important. 1B1 is found in the uterus, ovaries and breast tissue and it’s job is to convert estradiol (a major form of estrogen) into its metabolites through hydroxylation: 2OH-estradiol and 4-OH estradiol. 

Question Two:

Debbie asked about chronic stress, immune system and genetic snps, and epigenetics. 


With epigenetics, you want to look at the inflammation section to see what your score is. Your goal is to be in the “healthy” category.  Also, you want to look at the immune section and also the stress section to see genetically what your default might be. This way you will have some insights around your response so you know the best way to support yourself. 

Also, it’s important to know that chronic stress is going to dampen your immune system; when you have genes that make you more sensitive to stress, more robust, or have too active an immune system, that inner play is really important.

Question Three:

Denise is asking about the gene’s immune response around the current villain, that is, COVID-19. 


That was covered that with our earlier details with vitamin D and C and the roles they play with the virus. 

Question Four: 

Marilyn asked how a family history of A1C issues and prediabetes change our immune response to sleep, heart, and stress.


As touched upon earlier, elevated glucose levels are going to lead to increased insulin, and increased influnction. So, the big thing around elevated glucose, and therefore  A1C levels, is that your immune system isn’t focused on immunity, but is instead distracted by inflammation. We want it focused on our immune system and keeping us healthy. Inflammation is going to play a role in heart disease.  

Question Five:

Linda had a mild asymptomatic case of COVID in early March, any ideas?


Research suggests that it’s been around longer than we realize, finding cases of it in Italy in September and October of 2019. 

Question Six:

Arthur: If genes affect sleep patterns, are there things you can do to override your genetic makeup?


Yes. If you know more, such as are you a night owl or an early riser? You can take steps to help. Take a look at our sleep livestream for more details. 

Question Seven:

Donna: How far are we off from using epigenetic tests to actively managing health, and will it be covered. 


Our current medical model is focused on sick care, not health care. Epigenetics is not covered by health insurance, not yet. 

Question Eight:

Amber is asking about the sprinter gene. 


It’s called ACTN (ACTN3); the counter to that is the endurance gene. What they find is that for those with the sprinter gene is that HIIT is a great exercise to aid those with this gene. They have more flexibility in their joints, so they are excellent sprinters but lack distance. Or they are more prone to injury and overuse of joints. You want to tailor your workouts to either one of the genes.

Question Ten:

Tammy’s question is about weight loss and toxicity. 


When you lose weight, often toxins that live in your tissue that are fat-soluble get released. We want to make sure our liver and digestive systems are working well and that we are sweating regularly to ensure everything is working optimally to get rid of the toxins that may be released during weight loss.

Question Eleven:

Miriam: What happens if the source of the disease is removed. For example, with thyroidectomy for Hashimoto’s; do the genes trigger in other areas? 


Yes and no. If you have certain immune genes like the HLA’s that trigger auto-immune conditions, such as in Hashimoto’s, and you have removed your thyroid gland, it may go after other tissues. 

So, the same genes that may cause Lupus may also cause rheumatoid arthritis and have a role in psoriasis. So, I don’t think it will solve the problem because it’s an immune response, therefore, again we need to focus on diet, exercise, lifestyle, supplements to keep that in check. 

Question Twelve:

Dawn: How can I influence a high impact of COMT when it comes to blood flow and oxygen in my gut for digestion?


You may be a slow COMT metabolizer and therefore slow to break down your adrenaline as well. You tend to feel stressed or overwhelmed easily.  Additionally,  increased adrenaline means you tend to live in the  fight or flight mode more than others.

This, in turn, will push more blood out of your gut and therefore make it hard to digest your food. Certain bacteria will use adrenaline to multiply faster, and you likely have IBS. If you have a slow COMT, mindful strategies are key, because you are more sensitive to smaller amounts of stress and are triggered more easily. 


This concludes the question-and-answer portion of the video. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @mytoolboxgenomics or Dr. Erika personally @thegenewhisperer.

Danielle L’Ami

Danielle L’Ami is a logophile who writes her passion and loves to connect with others through her thoughts and personal experiences. When she is not writing, you can find her watching hockey with her husband, torturing her children with new recipes, or practicing yoga to keep herself balanced.

My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.