Low Immunity, Functional Medicine: How to Calm the Storm & Repair the Damage

Don't let your immune system hold you hostage - here's how to reclaim your health

Our complex immune system is central to optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. 

A weak immune system can make us feel like we’re constantly battling our way through infections, certainly more frequently than what we may feel is ‘normal’.

Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity blog flyer with dark red immune cell on dark green background

And immune system issues can be linked to other more complex health issues that often get missed by conventional doctors.

The good news is that the Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity takes an in depth, comprehensive holistic approach to the true root causes of immune system issues.

Table of Contents

Low immunity signs and symptoms

If your immune system is compromised, you’re probably sick and tired of feeling constantly run-down, lacking in energy and motivation, and fatigued by one infection after another.

The knock-on effect of an immune system not firing on all cylinders, on your ability to work, perform optimally, and give to those around you, can be significantly affected.

The connection is less obvious, but an imbalanced immune system could be the reason why you’re experiencing:

What’s often going on behind the scenes, is a process called systemic low-grade inflammation, where the immune system is causing a subtle inflammatory process, that then causes havoc to how our cells and body systems work.

Systemic inflammation can, for example, slow down how we’re converting food to energy, which is one example of how the immune system can affect energy levels.

We have small energy-producing factories in our cells called the mitochondria, and they are highly sensitive to inflammation.

It’s a mechanism that’s well established in conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

We’re all now more aware about immune system problems than we have ever been before due to the recent pandemic.

In our clinic every day, we’re working with clients struggling with immune system issues that are manifesting in so many different ways.

Many of these symptoms are brushed off as ‘normal’ by doctors, or where a problem is recognised, you may find that doctors have so few options available to them to help you.

The Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity gets to the root cause of low immunity.

Book your free 15 minute Discovery Call with Dee Brereton-Patel now

Why the conventional medicine approach to low immunity comes up short

Conventional medical solutions like antibiotics, painkillers, steroids (and other anti-inflammatory medications), and bedrest, might work to a degree.

But because they don’t get to the root cause, often these conventional medicine approaches aren’t enough for us to feel completely better, especially in the long term.

Rebooting your immune system so it’s back to 100% – and is innately more effective at protecting us from foreign bacteria, viruses, and other environmental exposures – requires a deeper level of work.

Conventional medical solutions don’t look for, and treat, the true – and often hidden – root cause or causes of low immunity, and therefore the conventional medicine approach is ill equipped to provide the answers you need.

In the Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity, we’re less concerned with symptoms, and more concerned with finding the root cause or causes of low immunity.

When we resolve the root causes of low immunity, the symptoms will take care of themselves!

Immune system ‘stressors’

The immune system cells and their interconnectedness with each other, is a highly complex (and fascinating) communication network.

We have many immune cells such as:

Which are responsible for different aspects of immune function and signalling.

Viruses, bacteria, allergens and other pathogens

Testing the levels of these different immune cells can provide huge insights into immune system health, and in understanding whether the immune system is activated in response to a virus, bacteria, allergen, or other pathogen.

A low level, but persistent immune reaction (that we might not even feel) to a chronic problem, can be one reason why your immune system isn’t functioning optimally.

A chronic issue can include:

When we dig deep enough with our clients, we can identify highly specific and often hidden immune system ‘stressors’.

When we eliminate them, immune system health can be transformed.

For example, with one of our clients, their systemic inflammation symptoms – headaches, joint pain, frequent colds, dizziness, fatigue, exercise intolerance all disappeared once we fixed her digestive issues and cleared the bacterial overgrowth in her small intestines.

Chronic stress

Another chronic underlying issue, causing immune system imbalances, can be chronic stress.

In fact, you probably know of someone who is experiencing high levels of stress and is also frequently struggling with infections.

Stress hormones and immunity share a very close association, and what happens with one, eventually impacts the other.

We regularly perform adrenal stress hormone testing with our clients as it can help us to understand if cortisol / DHEA hormone imbalances are the driver of sub-optimal immunity.

At Coho Health, we’re huge fans of the DUTCH tests (for very good reasons) for adrenal stress hormone assessment:

Addressing these chronic issues that might be acting as a stressor to your immune system is a critical step in addressing immunity issues.

We know from our experience of working with thousands of clients, that addressing underlying immune-related issues has a profound effect on overall health and long-term immunity.

Looking for these stressors is a critical aspect of the Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity.

Book your free 15 minute Discovery Call with Dee Brereton-Patel now

The gut microbiota and the immune system

Immune cells start to develop from stem cells in the bone marrow, but once developed they circulate around the body. 

Immune cells can be found in lots of different areas of the body – they are located in the:

Amazingly however, around 70% of our immune system (1) (some research papers quote this figure to be higher) is located in the gut.   

And we’re not making this up!

There are thousands of research papers linking the digestive system to immunity, but have you ever heard of your conventional medicine doctor talk about fixing your gut issues to reduce your risk of infections, pain, headaches or even your skin problems?


Connecting these seemingly unconnected dots is the foundation of the Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity.

A healthy intestinal tract has a barrier covered with a layer of mucus. 

These mucosal cells help with the absorption of nutrients and in stopping harmful microorganisms and toxins entering through the intestinal wall into the blood.

Underneath the mucosal lining in the gut, are special regions called gut-associated lymphoid tissue, or GALT, the largest immune organ in the body (2).

The GALT is highly concentrated with immune cells that help with immune surveillance – controlling what is absorbed and fighting off anything the immune cells identify as ‘foreign’ or harmful. 

How our immune cells function is therefore directly influenced by the gut microbiome

A healthy gut microbiome supports a balanced immune system that responds appropriately when it needs to.

It fights off what really is harmful to us, but it doesn’t try and fight something that is actually safe.

At Coho Health we frequently perform gut function and microbiome testing with our clients for a range of reasons, but it is certainly always something we want to consider when helping clients with chronic immune system issues.

The reason being that there’s such a close relationship between the gut environment and immune cells (3, 4).

Diet and lifestyle are really important influential factors for microbiome health.

Our gut microbiota can respond drastically to dietary changes in as little as three days, as demonstrated in a landmark study published in 2013 (5).

While it is important to take care of any ‘bad’ bacteria, yeast or parasitic infections in the body, we also want to optimise levels of the beneficial (‘good’) bacteria.

Some examples of beneficial bacteria species are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria and Akkermansia.

These bacterial species provide the right tools for the immune system to work better.

Low immunity & the microbiome: probiotic supplements

You might be thinking about probiotic supplementation now, which can definitely help, but it’s so important to support the microbiome in more specific ways.

When we test the gut microbiome, we can see exactly which strains of bacteria are low and which are high, and adjust accordingly.

Good probiotic companies are using specific bacterial strains for specific reasons (often the bacteria has a number in the name), for example ‘Lactobacillus salivarius LS01’, a strain that has been studied in mild eczema in children and adults. 

Lactobacillus salviarius LS01 has been found to significantly improve symptoms of mild eczema, including itch, after just 4 weeks in a group of 43 children aged from birth to 11 years (6).

These specific strains of bacteria, in supplement form, have often been researched to see how they can benefit a particular health condition.

In our clinical experience, this level of research is essential because specificity is so important in dealing with such a complex and important system.

Immune supportive nutrients

While most people probably associate the immune system with vitamin C, by far the most popular nutrient considered for chronic immune issues is actually vitamin D.

Sub-optimal vitamin D levels are so common that doctors now usually recommend for most people take a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin A is also critical for immune function, playing a key role in regulating immune responses, and in the development and proper functioning of various immune cells of the innate immune system (7).

Vitamin A and D work synergistically to regulate the immune system (8) but are vitamins that are frequently low in many people. 

Genetically, a good proportion of us humans – may be up to 45% of the population (9), don’t metabolise plant-based sources of vitamin A to its active form (retinol), and so those following a vegetarian or vegan diet may potentially have lower levels.

Vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc are also critical for the healthy function of the gut barrier – which can become damaged with:

Vitamin C has demonstrated a beneficial role in acute infections and stimulates efficient functioning of white blood cells.

Vitamin C is not stored in the body in any significant amounts, and therefore a regular intake of vitamin C rich foods is necessary for optimal immune function.

Researchers, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the medical community, all recognise that vitamins A, C and D are frequently low in children. 

This has led to policies that promote the supplementation of these vitamins from 6 months of age (10).

We know from our experience of working with parents, that so often people aren’t aware of these government-led supplemental recommendations for children.

You can read all about the Coho Functional Medicine approach to children’s health here.


Can also be game-changers for effective immune system health.

Lastly, a quick note on protein – amino acids derived from dietary protein are crucial building blocks for various immune proteins, therefore ensuring adequate protein intake (high quality sources of course), could be what your immune system has been missing.

Properly assessing and correcting nutrient deficiencies is a key factor in our Functional Medicine approach to low immunity.

The Coho Functional Medicine Approach to low immunity: functional testing

As we’ve mentioned, the gut microbiome is critical to proper immune system function.

Microbiome testing can help reveal any imbalances in bacteria and yeast levels.

Testing levels of key nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, iron and essential fatty acids can help be insightful and should be the basis of any immune supportive protocol.

In addition to this, further investigation into potential immune system stressors such as:

Can help reveal any less evident causes of low immunity.

Book your free 15 minute Discovery Call with Dee Brereton-Patel now

The Wrap...

Feeling constantly run down with a weak immune system can impact all areas of your life, and can be leading to further, more serious problems if left unaddressed.

A thorough assessment can reveal what your immune system might be lacking, and the underlying factors behind the immune confusion.

With a wide range of tools available, the Coho Functional Medicine approach to low immunity can reset and retrain the immune system to functional optimally, the benefits of which can be experienced in a host of different, and often surprising, ways.

To your optimised, healthy future,

Dee & the Coho Health team

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