Do you get sick often? What about your best friend, family members, or neighbors? Have you ever wondered why some people get sick more often than other people? This is because everyone’s immune system is set to a different level based on their genetics, lifestyle habits, and how their immune system has been groomed over their lifetime. We are continually exposed to organisms that are inhaled, swallowed or inhabit our skin and mucous membranes. Whether or not we get sick from these organisms is decided by the integrity of our body’s defense mechanisms, our immune system. When our immune system is working properly, we don’t even notice these organisms. But when we have an under or overactive immune system, we are at an increased risk of developing infections and other health conditions.
The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. The immune system consists of the tonsils, thymus gland, lymph nodes, spleen, appendix, bone marrow, lymphatic vessels, and all your beautiful immune cells – white blood cells. For your immune system to be working at its best it needs the right nutrition, rest, and a stress-free environment.
The immune system is made up of two subsystems– the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
The innate immune system defends from pathogens that enter the body through various passageways (mouth, skin, nose, and digestive tract for instance). It acts primarily through immune cells called killer cells and phagocytes (eating or engulfing cells) which fight pathogens that enter your body.
The adaptive immune system targets particular pathogens already encountered by the body’s innate immune system. It’s also referred to as the acquired or specific immune response. The adaptive immune system adapts to changes in the various types of bacteria and viruses in the body so that it learns to defend the body over the long-term for repeated exposures.
Having a healthy and adaptive immune system is critical to long-term health and vitality. Here are some of the things we focus on at the San Clemente Vitality Center to help support and strengthen our immune systems.
Stress management! Stress levels have a direct effect on immune system function and too often this fast-paced life drives us into a “fight or flight” response, or “sympathetic overdrive”. As the sympathetic nervous system is engaged to save our lives from an eminent danger, or just our stressed perceptions from our busy lifestyles, all the normal housekeeping done in the body, (like a good immune system function, good sleep cycles, good digestion, etc) get put on hold until the danger has passed. Your brain and body can’t tell the difference between a real life threat and one that you are imagining.
The immune system is affected by the nervous system through the connections with the endocrine (hormone) and the autonomic (internal organ control) nervous system. As well-seasoned Chiropractors we regularly see this sympathetic overdrive situation and we gently adjust your nervous system and body/mind back into balance. In a normal session we talk with the body to understand how it holds its tension and how to release and rebalance it. This puts the body in a deep state of relaxation which allows for healing to happen and produces an empowered feeling and embodied sense of strength. Having a solution for managing and relieving stress is critical to a healthy functioning immune system.
Strategies to Heal Your Gut The immune system is particularly interconnected with gut bacteria. We have learned that most of the human microbiota (bacteria living in the body) lives in the gut, and as it turns out, so does 70-80% of the body’s immune system. The relationship between the two is symbiotic (they help each other) where human bodies and bacteria have evolved together to ensure that the body is protected and eliminates any harmful pathogens that it comes into contact with.
The interaction between the two begins at birth, which is the moment the body encounters bacteria for the first time –as the birth canal contains large numbers of healthy bacteria to be passed along to the baby during this process. Children born by C-section may need some additional support as they missed this moment of exchange with mom. Over time, the immune system forms the diversity of the microbiome (gut bacteria) and the gut then influences the strength and development of the immune system. Throughout life, other factors also shape the composition of the gut flora, i.e. diet, environment, lifestyle habits.
The gut and the immune system support one another to promote a healthy body. For example, the gut microbiome acts as a gatekeeper and a trainer for the immune system. It teaches immune cells, called T-cells, to tell the difference between foreign invaders from our own tissues and cells. When antibodies can’t attack certain pathogens that have managed to infect our cells, T-cells take over and destroy the infected cells – this process is called cell-mediated immunity.
When everything is running smoothly, the gut sends signals for the immune system to create healthy adaptive immune responses. In exchange, the immune system helps to populate the microbiome with health-promoting microbes. When these two are communicating and working well the body is equipped to respond to pathogens and tolerate harmless bacteria, preventing an autoimmune response, and ensuring overall well-being.
Research shows that when your microbiome is unhealthy (containing more bad bacteria than good bacteria), your immune system is weakened. Digestive issues like chronic indigestion, acid reflux and leaky gut negatively affects your immunity.
High Quality Nutritional Supplements A healthy diet rich in whole foods and good fats is the best way to maintain a strong immune system. But in today’s busy world that is not always what we achieve. As the poor nutritional quality of many foods purchased today leave people full but malnourished, nutritional supplements are a convenient and easy way to ensure that nutritional needs (vitamins and minerals) are met. Conventionally raised produce today contain far fewer vitamins and minerals than they did a half-century ago. You can credit pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and solo-crop planting with disrupting soil quality and depleting it of vital nutrients. Conventional production of meat has relied on regular hormones and antibiotics as well as using feed that is not natural for the animals depleting the quality and causing us to consume what they have treated the animals with.
Taking nutritional supplements just to take them is not the answer either. High quality supplements are required because they must be absorbed into your body to do you any good. Unfortunately many supplements on the market today are not high quality and so do not enter the bloodstream to provide you with the benefit you are looking for. In the Center we have and use high quality nutritional supplements to help give your body and immune system what it needs to function at its best. Don’t be shy about asking for advice – it can save you money and help you get the change you want.
Essential Oils – the power of plants Many essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties that help to support your immune system and fight off infections both safely and naturally. Most of our medications come from knowledge gained by studying the plants used in native and grandmother remedies to understand how they were effective in treating various conditions and diseases.
Some of the best essential oils for your immunity include eucalyptus, oregano, myrrh, lemon, frankincense, ginger, peppermint and cinnamon. Oregano oil has been shown in lab research to have powerful immune boosting properties against bacteria – this one is our personal go-to favorite before the use of antibiotics.
The bottom line is that there is no magic pill or a specific food guaranteed to bolster immunity and protect us from any virus or bacteria. But there are ways we can take care of ourselves and give our immune system the best opportunity to do its job. At the SC Vitality Center we share this information with our clients to help them live with Vitality.
Call the office today to begin improving and supporting your immune system.