Our immune system works vigilantly to address underlying causes of inflammation and keep our bodies in homeostasis. Causes of inflammation range from free radicals, which can be caused by over exercising, poor energy production, glycation (protein molecules coated in sugar), pesticides, chemicals, radiation, cigarette smoke and other environmental factors. In order to keep this system happy we need to support it with a range of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and strengthen our defense system. This includes physical barriers like our gut lining, innate and adaptive defenses (types of white blood cells).
Food particles that aren’t sufficiently broken down upon entering the small intestine can cause a plethora of damage to our mucosal lining. Ever heard of the term “leaky gut”? I can imagine we all know what this looks like, but what happens in your body is the food particles that aren’t broken down into their molecular components begin to break through the mucosal lining in the small intestine. They then leak out into our body in places they aren’t intended on being and our bodies protection system beings attacking them as intruders. This is called an autoimmune attack, which is an example of dysfunction in the digestive system causing inflammation due to a poorly functioning physical barrier in the small intestine.
Our lymphatic system is the headquarters of our adaptive defense system. The primary organs in this system are our bone marrow and thymus. Bone marrow is where new blood cells and immune cells are created, and the thymus is the “school” that teaches our immune cells what to protect us against (our own personal military!). Our innate immunity is our bodies own ability to recognize molecules that are supposed to be here, flagging molecules that don’t fit that description. This is where we run into issues with processed foods and vitamins that are bound to fillers, dyes and other constituents that are foreign to our body.
Our immune systems are highly intelligent and when out of balance, can provoke a variety of symptoms and diseases. In order to support out immune system we need to be more in tune to factors like food sensitivities, toxins, and an overflow of stress. Eating foods that are rich in micronutrients like a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables will provide us with antioxidants to mitigate free radical damage. If our immunity is already somewhat impaired, we could benefit from more gut healing nutrients like the amino acid glutamine which can be found in bone broth and collagen. Carbohydrates and glucose are also necessary nutrients to support the production of immune cells.
The biggest take home in supporting our immune system and managing inflammation is being aware of how our body is responding. If we notice reactions such as bloating or gas after eating, headaches, joint pain, sinus congestion, skin irritation or brain fog, we could be experiencing an immune reaction from something we’ve been exposed to. Keeping track of these reactions, we can begin to pinpoint and narrow down possible irritants. We can then mindfully test these variables and note whether their elimination results in less pain, and inflammation, or not. Healthy immune function is imperative to warding off the nursing home. We can capitalize on the benefits of being more in tune with how our bodies are responding to our nutrition and lifestyle in order to support a healthy immune system, and continue on our path to being fit for life.