When I was a child, all I thought about immunity was whether I was stuck in bed at home from school feeling crummy or feeling fantastic and being able to run around at the playground. As a teenager I thought immunity only had to do with white blood cells, lymph glands or whether you washed your hands often enough. The biggest question is – how does the body know when something is affecting it that shouldn’t be there?
The body has an incredible ability to distinguish between the body’s own cells, recognized as “self” and foreign cells, or “non-self”. Every molecule in your body carries distinctive molecules that identify it as “self”, therefore not being rejected by the body’s immune defences. Any substance that is capable of triggering an immune response is known as an antigen or pathogen. This can either be a virus, bacterium, fungus, parasite or even a portion or product of one of these organisms. When the immune system realizes that there is a cell or organism in the body carrying molecules that brand them as “non-self”, cells called phagocytes are given the task of eliminating these intruders. Additionally, the phagocytes tell all of their mates to be on high alert and this response leads to natural immunity.
In some unfortunate cases, the immune system can make the horrible mistake of confusing “self” for “non-self” and launch an attack against the body’s own cells or tissues. This is what happens in autoimmune conditions. Examples of this include migraines, asthma, sinusitis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, coeliac disease, gut diseases such as IBD, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diabetes mellitus. Tissues or cells from another person (except an identical twin) also carry “non-self” markers and are recognized as pathogens and will be rejected. This is why sometimes tissue transplants may not be accepted by the body either.
So what is the best way to keep your immune system working at its best?
The most important thing to remember is that the immune system is controlled and regulated by the nervous system. Chiropractic adjustments may reduce nervous system irritation allowing greater regulation of the body and immune system allowing it to perform at its best.
The next most important consideration for optimum immune function is to ensure that your diet consists of plenty of vegetables together with smaller quantities of fresh fruits and free range grass-fed meat. Avoiding processed foods and refined sugars is also recommended. When possible try and eat organic foods to decrease the amount of nasty pesticides entering your system. The addition of fermented foods is also very important. Why? Because it is a fantastic source of good probiotic bacteria, an absolute necessity for good gut health and immunity and are particularly helpful in the management of autoimmune conditions. Try adding some sauerkraut, kimchi or miso to your diet. It’s delicious and your gut will love you for it! To top it off, add some of Sarah’s bone broth!
Also attempt to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days, even if it is just a nice leisurely walk around the block. Getting enough sleep is absolutely essential too. This is the time the body repairs its cells and your sympathetic nervous system can finally take a break. The brain normally needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night to get the best cognitive function the next day but remember that each person’s needs are different and some may need slightly more or less depending on the current condition of their body (e.g. if they are fighting a chronic illness, increased stress at work). Stress is the biggest culprit of a decreased immune system in our modern world so by learning to manage this, you may find your immunity improving. Get enough sleep, learn some relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, exercise, take time out for yourself or build a support network of people you can talk to especially in times of stress.
With your body functioning at its optimum, it can heal you as it should, when it should. Your health is your responsibility, so why wouldn’t you have it functioning at its best?
Yours in Health,