Each year, as we go into cold and flu season, people search the internet for ways to “boost” the immune system. But do you always want to do that? Or how do you improve your ability to fight off illnesses? At The Wellness Way, we emphasize the importance of a balanced immune response for health recovery. If you are constantly creating an emergency response by triggering your immune system, your body will not be in any state for growth or healing. The idea is to calm the immune response by removing the things that are triggering it. When in a more balanced state, the body is much more able to accept and utilize nutrients, respond to chiropractic adjustments, and repair – both inside and out. It all starts with testing and addressing the immune response.
What is The Immune Response?
There are many definitions out there for the immune system or immune response. It can be confusing. To best explain, Dr. Flynn describes the immune response as follows:
The immune response is…
“All the mechanisms used by the body as protection against environmental agents (both internal and external) that are foreign to the body.”
These agents can be microorganisms or chemical byproducts that come from microorganisms. They can also be allergenic or toxic foods, chemicals, drugs, pollen, animals, and even abnormal cells.
What Are The Components of The Immune Response?
Most people know that white blood cells are a major part of the immune response. However, there’s much more to the immune response than just white blood cells. It’s actually a collection of physical barriers, organs, and tissues. The immune response is made up of both innate immune and adaptive immune responses.
Your first line in the immune response is your skin. The skin not only serves as an external barrier; it also contains immune tissue. You probably already knew the skin is the largest organ in the body. But did you also know it has more immune response cells than the gut? It’s true. The skin is a critical part of our immune response and is covered with its own microbiome –its own microscopic army of defense. We also have internal barriers: the mucus barriers of the gut and lungs and the stomach acid. These barriers also help prevent infectious agents from getting into the body.
Primary Organs of The Immune System:
Like all other body systems, the immune system is made up of a collection of organs working together. The main organs involved in the immune response are the following:
- Adenoids – Small masses of lymphoid tissue behind the nose that helps trap bacteria and viruses.
- Thymus – Trains immature T (immune) cells to become functional mature T cells.
- Tonsils – Lymphatic tissue that serves as a trap for bacteria and viruses coming through the mouth and nose. Set off the immune response by capturing infections and presenting their antigens to the B/T cells to produce antibodies.
- Bronchi – Monitor the passage of air from the trachea (airway) into the lungs. Help expel dirt and infectious particles through the mucus lining of the lungs.
- Bone Marrow – A loose collection of cells within the bones that are responsible for red blood cell production. B cells primarily develop in the bone marrow. T cells leave the bone marrow and finish developing in the thymus gland.
- Peyer’s Patches (intestine) – Lymphatic tissue in the small intestine. Helps analyze and respond to pathogenic microbes in the ileum.
- Appendix – A small pouch at the end of the large intestine containing lymphoid tissue. It stores beneficial bacteria so that the body can replenish the gut more efficiently after illness, keeping the immune response robust and ready.
- Spleen – The “filter of the blood.” This major lymphoid organ launches the immune response to pathogens in the blood.
- Lymph System – The vessels, cells, and organs that carry fluids to the bloodstream. It filters pathogens out of the blood and provides a space for immune responses.
Innate vs. Adaptive Response
One of the key characteristics of the immune response is that it is made up of two types of responses: Innate and Adaptive.
Innate Response – This immune response is what you were born with. It’s fast, nonspecific, has no memory response, identifies and removes foreign particles, and it activates the adaptive immune system. The innate response includes the cells of our gut, skin, sinuses, and mucosal membranes. Innate immune cells include basophils, eosinophils, mast cells, monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, natural killer (NK) cells, and neutrophils. Neutrophils make up the vast majority of innate immune cells.
Adaptive (Acquired) Response – This immune response uses specific antigens (triggering substances) to mount an immune response. It’s activated when exposed to pathogens and uses its “memory” to learn about the pathogen and how to respond to it via B cells and T cells. It’s slow, highly specific, and highly diverse, and its memory leads to a faster response. All the adaptive immune cells are lymphocytes. But these white blood cells are further divided into B-cells, which mature in the bone marrow, and T-cells, which mature in the thymus gland. They all work in unique ways to create protection.
There are five types of antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) created by the adaptive immune system to respond to invaders:
- Immunoglobulin G (IgG) – Secreted by plasma cells in the blood. The antibodies can cross the placenta to the fetus.
- Immunoglobulin E (IgE) – Responsible for allergic reactions, including anaphylactic responses. Protects against parasitic worms.
- Immunoglobulin D (IgD) – Found on B cells as a part of the receptor. Activates basophils and mast cells.
- Immunoglobulin M (IgM) – May be found on the surface of a B cell or in the blood during an active infection. Responsible for early stages of immunity in babies.
- Immunoglobulin A (IgA) – Present in mucous, saliva, tears, and breast milk.
All of these can be elevated when the immune response is triggered. An added note is that practitioners often will see IgG antibodies and refer to them as “sensitivities” rather than true allergies. That is actually an inaccurate description, because either way, you’re triggering an immune response and all the inflammation and other downstream effects that occur with it.
What Triggers an Immune Response
The immune system is designed to respond to various triggers from the surrounding environment. That environment can be internal (an infection or stressful thoughts) or external (a physical injury or exposure to chemicals). These environmental triggers can be categorized into the three Ts: traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
Traumas are the stressors that affect your body physically, creating imbalance, inflammation, and dis-ease. Examples of traumas include childhood trauma, a traumatic injury, sexual assault/rape, car accident, witnessing violence or a natural disaster, military combat, divorce, a death in the family, a severe illness or infection, sleep deprivation, surgery, or even having a baby, which is a major stress on the body.
Toxins are stressors that affect your body biochemically. They enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin. Toxins in the body compromise the functioning of major systems, leading to inflammation and dis-ease. Toxins come from food additives, GMOs, pesticide or herbicide residue, artificial sweeteners, smoking or other drugs, medications, environmental pollution, infections, pollen, mold toxins, non-native electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), and more.
Thoughts are the emotional stressors that cause a person to stay in a constantly triggered state. Stress can come from work deadlines, relationships, money troubles, and watching the news (fear/worry). It can come from pivotal life changes, such as marriage, a new baby, divorce, moving to a new city, or the grief of losing a loved one. A negative attitude or outlook is another contributor to ongoing mental and emotional stress.
All these triggers are not a problem if your immune response can address them and then return to normal. The problem comes in when the immune response is chronically triggered. When that happens, there are many downstream effects. All these stressors then impact other systems in the body, such as the nervous system, the intestinal microbiome, and the immune system. This can increase inflammation and pain and decrease the immune response.
How Can You Support a Balanced Immune Response?
Supporting a healthy immune response is all about testing. You need to know your baseline before figuring out how to support it. There are ways to test the immune system and find out whether it is overactive or underactive. You can find out how well different aspects of the immune system are currently working.
It all starts with testing. At The Wellness Way, we test your immune response in a few different ways. We can run an immune panel, test your food allergies, and even test your gut health to find out if intestinal infections or overgrowth are undermining your health.
- Immuno Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Immune Panel: The Access Custom Immune Panel gives a detailed analysis of lymphocytes, including Natural Killer cells, B cells, T Cells, and a CD4/CD8 ratio.
- Autoimmune: Autoimmune 30+ The Wellness Way Store
You likely will not need to do all these tests. The most common ones to start with are the food allergy test and the GI Effects gut health test. Additional testing, depending on your situation, may include a viral panel, cardiometabolic panel, diabetes panel, cancer panel, or others.
Most immune testing done by the medical done is just includes one marker: IgE. Immunoglobulin E is only a marker for the “E-mergency” type of allergies that send people to the emergency room with a constricted airway. However, IgE isn’t the only immunoglobulin or antibody. There are three more that you can test: IgG, IgA, and IgM.
Once you have your results, it’s time to take action! Wellness Way practitioners will provide you with a personalized nutrition and supplement plan to help get your immune response back working in harmony. Of course, getting adequate sleep, fresh air, sunshine, physical activity, and social support is a given. Here are some Wellness Way supplements that you can use to support the immune response: (There are many more)
- Liquid Albizia – Supports normal immune response (especially in the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract), including antibody reduction.
- Immune Glandular – Contains grass-fed spleen, grass-fed liver, and grass-fed thymus gland for powerful immune support.
- Mushroom Immune – A synergistic blend of 14 powerful organic mushroom mycelia that support a normal immune response.
- Colloidal Silver and Colloidal Silver Nasal Spray – An all-purpose antimicrobial that works against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungal infections.
- Wellness Zinc – A critical mineral for the immune response, it’s often deficient in Western diets.
- Elderberry Tincture – Contains organic elderberry fruit, honeysuckle flower, reishi mushroom, cinnamon bark, lemon, and ginger root to enhance the immune response.
We need to reemphasize here that testing is of utmost importance. Not all immune-supporting supplements are good for everyone. Certain herbs can swing the immune system in one direction or the other. If you’re already dominant in one type of T-helper cell activity, you don’t want to tip it further in that direction, or your symptoms may worsen. Additionally, certain supplements only help the immune response if you’re deficient. If you have plenty of zinc in your system, taking more is not better! That’s why we don’t guess—we test.
The Wellness Way Can Help!
Find out how well your immune system is functioning. Testing is the only way to know whether you’re at an increased risk for autoimmunity or cancer. It can also help you find out the cause of chronic pain or other signs of dis-ease. It’s incredible how hidden food allergies can keep you in an inflamed state, preventing you from achieving optimal health and wellness. Make an appointment with a Wellness Way clinic near you to get started. We also work long distances, so please reach out. We can’t wait to work with you on your journey to health!