WHOLE HEALTH SERIES
TAKING BACK YOUR IMMUNITY PART 1
Our immune system is fundamental to our survival and manages the relationship between or body and the outside world.
Our lifestyle and choices have a huge impact on its functionality. A report by …. Identified that if we lose 4 hours sleep in one night our natural killer cells (vital for identifying and killing cancer cells amongst other things) are reduced by 70%.
Our immune system itself is created and developed in our GUT. Vital to its ability to thrive is how we manage the billions of healthy bacteria that live in our GUT. Yet, contrary to supporting our gut health we choose to work long hours, not get enough sleep, and eat too much of the wrong foods which leads to an unhealthy, unbalanced microbiome. This in turn affects our hormone health, our detoxification, our mood and mindset, ability to absorb nutrition and our immunity.
So, my first question is, why do we not support and nurture ourselves, our body, our mind? Or actually more to the point, why, even when we try so hard, do we not manage to create optimal health? Because if we did, we wouldn’t just be well, we would be thriving.
OK, so let’s start by going back to basics. Let’s spend a little time getting to know our immune system, why we need to support it and what it needs to be the best it can be. In part one of Taking Back Our Immunity will look at :
1. What is the Immune System and how does it function?
There are a number of key tasks that the immune system must perform.
But the key to all of these is to respond appropriately.
There are three primary levels to the immune system response.
LEVEL 1 Barrier Skin and mucous membranes
Largest physical area of the immune system, the skin acts as a protective barrier, the fort walls you might say. Defending us against intruders. The skin continues internally with mucous membranes that capture air born or ingested pathogens and escorts them to the stomach where they are neutralised in stomach acid. We replace our skin cells every 42 days (adults).
LEVEL 2 Patrol Phagocytes and Macrophages
The next more advanced part are the Phagocytes. Imagine them as police officers patrolling the blood vessels seeking out foreign cells.
They constantly monitor and surveil the blood literally eating up any foreign or damaged cells. To give you some idea of how many phagocytes we have in our blood at any one moment, a single litre of blood contains 6 billion phagocytes.
They are crucial in fighting infections as well as maintaining healthy tissues by removing dead and dying cells that have reached the end of their lifespan. We replace our red blood cells every 90 days,
LEVEL 3 Specialist Response - Antigens and Antibodies, Thymus
Our advanced, specific immune response. These kick ass cells create protein responses (antibodies ) and T and B cell memory responses. They are used in relation to specific attacks on the body and are learned responses based upon exposure to specific antigens.
The memory is usually long lasting: for example, German measles - get once and immune system defends against it. Though in some cases its short lived (covid for example)
In a perfect world, our immune system is primed and ready to respond quickly to any pathogen wishing to dodge our super defences. It may have travelled in via air that you are breathing, you may have ingested eat whilst eating, or absorbed in via a cut on your skin. However it arrives our immune system is prepared to oust the microbe from the moment it is recognised.
Responding appropriately ensures that the immune system works within tight parameters. We wouldn't don’t want a SWAT team response to a simple cold virus but at the same time, we DO want our immune system to kick into action when a particular bacteria strain starts to multiply quickly which could lead to a disease taking hold.
Too much and our immune system overreacts to substances that are normally harmless leading to a flood of immune cells and chronic inflammation. We can develop allergies or even create auto immune disease such as Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Psoriasis. Too little and disease takes hold, we are more susceptible to getting sick, recovery time is extended or pathologies develop.
2. What Impacts our Immune System?
NUTRITION - nutrition delivers all the basic building blocks we need to create a healthy, whole living organism. The quality, and quantity of that nutrition coupled with anti-nutrition affects how our immune system functions.
LIFESTYLE - How we live affects our immune system. Late nights, high stress levels, sleep quality, medication, recreational drugs are all challenging for our immune system health. Fitness - do you exercise too much, or are you living a sedentary life? Either way you are impacting your immune system.
ENVIRONMENT - chemical products - beauty, cleaning, household, air quality - car pollution, industrial pollution, plastics, heavy metals, farming herbicides and insecticides,
MEDICAL - depending upon what medications you take, your immune system may become suppressed, leaving you more susceptible to pathogens.
What is the key to a healthy immune system? BALANCE
In Part Two of Taking Back your Immunity blogs we will be looking at
Alison Wilkins is health coach and trained with the College of Naturopathic Medicine.