A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM is both detective and defensive. It identifies potential threats and mounts an inflammatory response appropriate to the level of the perceived threat. Fevers, tissue swelling and localized inflammation are all normal responses (one which many try to snuff out before the threat is neutralized).
WHY ARE WE SO INFLAMED?
Inflammation is the body’s normal attempt to defend against foreign invasions and repair it from injury. Injury can result from trauma, infection, toxins, or foods (poor diet).
Chronic inflammation occurs when the injury is ongoing (continuous exposure to the trauma, infection, toxin or food) or a susceptible immune system fails at counter-regulation.
TWO TYPES OF IMMUNE RESPONSE: INNATE AND ADAPTIVE
Innate immunity is our primitive immunity (shared by all classes of natural plant, insect and animal life). But don’t confuse primitive with simplistic or unimportant! It is now understood as central to coordinating the entire immune response.
TRIGGERS OF INNATE IMMUNITY
- Microbes and foods
- Trauma (mechanical, chemical, heat, UV) and ischemia
- Toxins: chemicals, heavy metals, free radicals
Innate immunity can be thought of as first-line defense. It regulates pathogens with an immediate controlled immunity (e.g. a fever, usually within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body). Cells that participate in this response include dendritic, macrophages, Natural Killer and mast cells. Mast cells are innate immune sensors and orchestrators.
Adaptive immunity is exclusive to vertebrates and can be thought of as second-line defense. It is called into action against pathogens that are able to evade or overcome innate immune defenses. Our body can have a long pathogen-specific memory after infection or immunization, making for a faster response in the future.
TRIGGERS OF ADAPTIVE IMMUNITY
- Allergens (food, airborne, contact)
- Lectins: proteins, glycoproteins, glycolipids, synthetic chemicals
- Pathogens (microbial, multicellular)
- Cellular debris
It is when these immune responses go awry that we have serious or chronic diseases. Autoimmunity is the response of the adaptive immune system and is one cause of hypersensitivity.
Some familiar (and other surprising) examples of inflammation and autoimmunity include eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, sjogren’s syndrome, Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), Celiac Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), cancer, diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and more.
This is a very general view of how to heal inflammation. If you want help implementing a more specific plan, based on your exact needs, please work with a functional medicine practitioner. You can also seek help from a Health Coach to implement the food and lifestyle components for cooling off inflammation.
- Low Glycemic Load – to balance blood sugar
- High phytonutrient content – colorful vegetables and fruits
- Low Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio (4:1 or even 1:1 is desired)
- Low Saturated and Trans Fatty Acids
- Choose organic whenever possible – reduce overall chemical ingestion
- Drink sufficient clean water daily (sodas, coffee and tea do NOT replace)
- Manage stress – stress can deplete nutrients and directly cause inflammation
- Maintain a positive attitude
- Get plenty of rest and exercise
- Laugh! No, seriously, LAUGH!
- Foundational Supplements:
- Broad spectrum multiple vitamin to cover bases for enzyme production etc.
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Specific combinations of standardized botanicals and/or phytochemicals tailored to the patient’s clinical picture and response.
Once you have an inflammatory or autoimmune disease, it’s like being an alcoholic: you can go into remission, but repeated inflammatory behaviors will take you right back to the condition. Cooling off inflammation, once initiated, requires a permanent lifestyle change.