A balanced immune system is essential to our health and well being. A functional immune system helps us build health and recover from illness. The traditional western medicine view of the immune system is the view that we are at war with the bugs of the world. However, the naturopathic and integrative model seeks to build the terrain and prevent exposures of microbes and toxins to our defense system.
The purpose of our immune system is to distinguish between the body’s own cells—self and foreign cells—non-self.
A Healthy Immune Response
Let's start here. The body’s immune defenses normally coexist peacefully with cells that carry distinctive “Self” marker molecules. When immune defenders encounter cells or organisms carrying markers that say “foreign,” they quickly launch an attack. Anything that can trigger this immune response is called an antigen. An antigen can be a microbe such as a virus, or even a part of a microbe.
A healthy and intact immune response requires coordination between skin, mucosal barriers, and both the innate and adaptive aspects of immune response. There are many things that affect our immune response:
- Inherited through family history
- Interactions with the environment
- Lifestyle choices
- Chemical exposures
- Microbial exposures
Our immune system must continually balance a state of readiness, having all the necessary biological responses prepared to defend us from infection, disease, or invasion of organisms while simultaneously maintaining a state of tolerance or trained immunity.
Immunity and Developed Resistance
We survive infectious diseases because our immune system identifies the infecting agent (bacteria, virus, fungus or parasite) as foreign and creates a defense system to contain the infection. In addition, our immune system has a memory. Once we survive an infection, we develop a resistance to re-infection because of the memory system.
The 4 Types of Immune Imbalances
There are four main categories of immune responses that are not balanced.
Infection Weak Army and Country invaded by Enemy
Infections result from a declined immune function and response that allows a microbe to create disease:
- Parasitic infections are invasions of microbes that never belong in our body.
- Opportunistic infections are overgrowths of microbes that do belong in our body but have grown out of balance.
Autoimmunity Out of control and Long war with Explosion that Hurts our own people and homeland
Autoimmune disease is an overactive immune reaction that occurs when the immune system mistakes the body as a foreign invader and attacks self.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Chron’s Disease
- Eczema, Psoriasis
Allergy Accidentally attacking our own troops
An allergy is an over exuberant reaction to a food, chemicals or environmental substances causing the immune system to react as if it is invaded. Our body's can have allergic reactions to food and environmental substances.
CancerTraitor that led to a military coup
An immune deficiency disease caused by the failure of the immune system to recognize mutated cells as foreign and destroy them. The mutated cells then multiply and become beyond the control of the immune system and invade other tissues.
Supplements and Immunity
Supplements and foods are important for helping to maintain a well-functioning immune system. In order to know what and how to take them it is beneficial to understand the general idea of how they work.
Strengthening Our Border Wall
The first line of defense of our immune system is the skin. The skin on the outside of our body and the MALT/GALT on the inside of our body.
The Mucosal/Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue is the mucous membrane that lines all the insides passages of our body from nose, mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines, vagina and bladder. It is essentially the inside skin, and prevents the toxins and microbes from entering.
Supplements that strengthen the border wall are:
- Collagen/Bone Broth
- Mucilaginous Herbs: Marshmallow, Aloe, Slippery Elm, Cat’s Claw, Licorice
- Whey Protein and Goat and Sheep Dairy
Building the Army
Other supplements and nutrients are focused on building your army and white blood cells that attack the foreign invaders. These include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, B-Complex Vitamins, and Zinc.
The Drones that Attack the Invaders
Herbal supplements and essential oils have the action of being antimicrobial for specific types of infections. Depending on the active ingredients they may attack viruses, bacteria, fungus, worms, or protozoa. Many herbs and essential oils can have the function of attacking multiple types of microbes. Some examples are:
- Echinacea for virus
- Oregano for bacteria
- Wormwood for protozoa
- Black Walnut for worms
- Tea Tree for fungus
Supplements for strengthening the border wall and for building the army can be used for prevention of immune problems. The supplements that act as the drones should be used for specific invaders.
With the basic understanding of the immune system and the role of nutrients for immune issues, we are able to create an empowered immune system as a foundation for our health.
Stay tuned for my next post when I cover the importance of understanding nutritional supplements, when to take them and how they can support your health in every way.
xoxox, Dr. G