Now more than ever, immunity has become a super hot topic—and for good reason. But when it comes to supporting a healthy immune response, what are the most important factors? Enter: the immune kettle. On a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, functional medicine doctor Kenneth Bock, M.D., explained his approach to immunity, plus why we all ought to pay more attention to our “immune kettles” and their boiling points.
What is the immune kettle?
In short, “The immune kettle is how I envision health,” Bock says. “It’s the health of the immune system but also just general health.”
So what goes into it? According to Bock, there are a lot of different layers, with the first being your basic genetic predispositions, which we can’t control.
On top of that, there are the factors that we can control, like stress, diet, environmental toxins, and more. “I think stress is very important,” he says. “The value of the immune kettle is that, yes, frequently stress may be the largest component of the immune count.”
Then you add in factors like allergies, sensitivities, hormone imbalances, and of course, big infections. “These are things that can really add layers to the immune kettle. And the key is that these layers can be different sizes,” he explains. “So if they’re small, they’re low. The lower you reside in the immune kettle.”
Importantly, Bock notes that, depending on how well you handle stress, it could be the very factor that puts you over the edge, to your kettle’s boiling point. An overload of stress, he says, is what increases many people’s susceptibility to illness.
It can certainly feel daunting to cater to all these different immunity factors. But the good news is, according to Bock, nothing is set in stone. “The thing I love about the immune kettle is, No. 1: the genetics are just predispositions. You can actually modulate genetic expression […] so that’s the encouraging thing.”
Plus, he adds, flexibility and resiliency come into play in a big way. If your immune kettle is low (i.e., not coming to a boiling point), stress may not affect you as much as someone whose immune kettle is about to boil over the edge. But if you feel the effects of stress strongly, and it causes symptoms, you’ll want to think about managing stress, along with addressing the other factors influencing your symptoms.
It all comes down to “the ability to recognize that you have to accept life on its terms,” he says. And that doesn’t mean resignation but rather being able to accept where you are and being flexible enough to move forward. “We have to be flexible enough to handle it and move through it.”
The next time you think about your immune system, consider your kettle and all that goes into it. Remember that an element of your health (and your immune kettle) is always in your hands, so be sure to keep those stress levels in check as much as possible.