Almost poetically, a stronger immune system is linked to improved muscle growth and increased muscle mass is also linked to a stronger immune system.
The two complement each other perfectly.
In the past, we have written about how increased muscle mass can help the body survive illnesses such as cancer, protect your bones from injuries, and improve insulin sensitivity.
But now, it appears as if a healthy immune system can help fasttrack your muscle growth and vice versa.
The Immune System and Muscle Mass: Immune Health Correlates With Muscle Growth
When muscles repair themselves following strenuous training, acute inflammation is required to shuttle nutrients in order to repair the damaged cells.
Although chronic inflammation has been associated with practically every disease and should be avoided, acute inflammation is the body’s way of beginning the process of recovery following either trauma or deliberate training stimulus in the gym.
According to one study [R]:
“Diseases of muscle that are caused by pathological interactions between muscle and the immune system are devastating, but rare. However, muscle injuries that involve trauma and regeneration are fairly common, and inflammation is a clear feature of the regenerative process. Investigations of the inflammatory response to muscle injury have now revealed that the apparently nonspecific inflammatory response to trauma is actually a complex and coordinated interaction between muscle and the immune system that determines the success or failure of tissue regeneration.“
And thus, a healthy, functioning immune system is needed to give way to acute (healthy) inflammation required to begin repairing those damaged cells.
Poor immune health will diminish the body’s capacity to repair damaged muscle tissue, hindering the body’s potential for recovery and muscle growth.
For this reason, we advise against the consumption of certain vitamins (C & E), anti-inflammatories, curcumin, etc., around training as it may interfere with your recovery.
Increased Muscle Mass Can Boost Your Immune System
Conversely, increased muscle mass can also give your immune system a much-needed boost when facing life-threatening illnesses.
Many life-threatening diseases can lead to an instrinsic loss of muscle mass and fat as the body fights to stay alive.
This condition is known as cachexia and is believed to be responsible for up to a third of cancer-related deaths.
But holding more muscle mass can help increase your odds of survival and act as a back-up to your immune system.
One study notes [R]:
“CD8+ T cells become functionally impaired or “exhausted” in chronic infections, accompanied by unwanted body weight reduction and muscle mass loss. Whether muscle regulates T cell exhaustion remains incompletely understood. We report that mouse skeletal muscle increased interleukin (IL)–15 production during LCMV clone 13 chronic infection.
“Muscle-specific ablation of Il15 enhanced the CD8+ T cell exhaustion phenotype. Muscle-derived IL-15 was required to maintain a population of CD8+CD103+ muscle-infiltrating lymphocytes (MILs). MILs resided in a less inflamed microenvironment, expressed more T cell factor 1 (Tcf1), and had higher proliferative potential than splenic T cells.
“MILs differentiated into functional effector T cells after reentering lymphoid tissues. Increasing muscle mass via muscle-specific inhibition of TGFβ signaling enhanced IL-15 production and antiviral CD8+ T cell responses. We conclude that skeletal muscle antagonizes T cell exhaustion by protecting T cell proliferative potential from inflammation and replenishing the effector T cell progeny pool in lymphoid organs.“
In summation, your muscle mass can be partially recruited to fight off life-threatening illness as well as protect you from a brutal condition that accounts for a third of cancer deaths.
“If the T cells, which actively fight the infection, lose their full functionality through continuous stimulation, the precursor cells can migrate from the muscles and develop into functional T cells,” Lead researcher Dr. Jingxia Wu noted.
Researcher Dr. Cui stated: “In our study, mice with more muscle mass were better able to cope with chronic viral infection than those whose muscles were weaker. But whether the results can be transferred to humans, future experiments will have to show.”
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