Your Immune System is the only defense mechanism your body has to ensure that health is a part of your daily life. Exposure to environmental toxins, bacteria, viruses and poor digestion exact a toll on your immune system and create imbalances. Without replenishment, our ability to maintain a properly functioning immune system deteriorates with age and sets the stage for many health challenges.
What is an Autoimmune Disorder?
There are countless people diagnosed with autoimmune disorders. Many of us have heard the word “auto-immune” but what does this really mean? Basically it means that a person has a condition where their immune system cannot separate a “bad” invader from their own body tissue.
How does this work, or not work, for a person? When the body identifies a foreign substance, it does so by recognizing outer surface proteins on the foreign substance called “antigens.” The role of the antigens are to alert the immune system of a threat; as a result our body produces antibodies which initiates an appropriate immune response to neutralize their “harmful” effects. In a healthy person’s body, antibodies serve to quickly locate foreign invaders and debris, such as viruses, bacteria and toxins. In an autoimmune disorder, the immune system becomes overwhelmed because it has to do extra work besides fighting foreign invaders, and in the process the body damages its own tissue. Another common autoimmunity occurrence is when there is either an overaggressive or insufficient response to an antigen.
Autoimmunity and Food
Some people’s immune systems view certain foods, such as wheat, corn or peanuts to be a threat and form antibodies against these foods. Other people may form antibodies against certain molds or pollens. In a normal and healthy immune system, the body recognizes harmful viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Upon recognition of the antigen (threat), something called an “Immune Complex” is created. This is where the antigen is met with an antibody. It is our body’s way of protecting ourselves, and works great unless the Immune Complexes cannot be properly eliminated from our body.
Immune Complexes (IC’s) and the Immune Response
Immune response and our Immune Complex creation will not be the same for everyone. This is because we all have different levels of stress, we handle stress differently, we have different diets, in some case poor ones, and various toxic exposures both over our lifetimes and in the present.
These immune complexes (IC’s) circulate around the body until they encounter a “macrophage.” Macrophages are scavengers of the immune system that can devour all sorts of foreign debris, including IC’s. In an unhealthy person, the progression of IC size starts off small, and then has the ability to clump together and grow into larger IC’s (multiple antigens with multiple antibodies).
At some point the number of smaller ICs can grow in number, overwhelming our body defenses, organs and glands. What happens to these smaller and very plentiful IC’s that are floating through our blood? They end up embedding themselves into any tissue.
Does auto-immunity mean the body has gone rogue?
At some point we have so many IC’s that our macrophages (our little vacuum cleaners) can’t handle any more so the body sends out an alert to another part of our immune system to serve as “back up” called the “complement system.” The complement system is a series of immune proteins activated during an immune crisis, which provide most of the problems we experience during autoimmunity. This happens because our body’s immune system has been overwhelmed. One role of the complement system is to release powerful destructive enzymes to help clear IC’s.
These enzymes are released in order to reach many of these deeply embedded IC’s, but their release wreaks havoc on our tissues. In the process, healthy and “good” tissues, such as organ and gland tissue, gets treated by these enzymes as something to be removed. This makes it seem like the body cannot distinguish between our good tissue and our bad: this is the conventional belief regarding having an auto-immune condition.
So is the body really attacking itself because its immune system has gone rogue? Not really – actually, the body is doing what it is supposed to do. The body is trying to get rid of these Immune Complexes by using every available resource, any way possible, no matter what. The body is trying to reach all those IC’s, even if normal tissue is “in the way” of what it needs to do. The side effect is that a person then experiences the common autoimmune flare ups and remissions.
So the immune system calls for help – how does this affect me?
When immune complexes basically “call for the troops” (by sending out signals to alert the complement system), the body begins to experience other health issues. These immune complexes can embed in the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), pancreas (Pancreatitis), skin (Scleroderma, Bullous Pemphigoid), ears (Meniere’s disease), nervous system (Multiple Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome), kidney (Glomerulonephritis), colon (Crohn’s disease), T-Helper Cells- a type of immune cell (HIV/AIDS), joints of the hand (Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriatic arthiritis), joints of the spine (Ankylosing Spondylitis), connective tissue and more. Anywhere blood can flow, IC’s are free to circulate, embed, and create problems.
Depending where IC’s embed, we experience a variety of problems. Inflammation, fatigue, decreased function (hypo) of an organ or gland, and in some instances increased function (hyper) of a gland, such as with the thyroid, are all possible outcomes in autoimmunity. When IC’s embed in our joints we may experience stiffness, discomfort and decreased range of motion which is typical in joint degeneration.
So what is the connection between my auto-immune issues and food?
A significantly overlooked way we get ourselves in this situation with our immune system and contribute to the formation of antigens in the blood, starts with the incomplete breakdown of proteins in the blood. This happens because any incompletely digested food is viewed by our body as a foreign substance. As we age, our ability to create enzymes that our entire body needs diminishes.
These enzymes are our little scrubbers – without them our blood is left with fats, proteins, and sugars in the blood that can confuse, delay, and inhibit many normal immune processes. Without proper enzyme support, our immune system works overtime to clean up the leftovers (partially digested and foreign debris) instead of fighting viruses, bacteria, fungi. When our body has the enzymes it needs, then our immune system can focus on fighting invaders instead of overtime housekeeping.
Enzymes which can activate in the pH of the blood, have the ability to remove Immune Complexes. There are vast amounts of research showing the connection between exogenous enzyme preparations and Immune Complex Clearance in the blood and other tissues.
How can we regulate our Immune Response?
Inside every immune cell are a series of enzymes which regulate their activity, like a throttle regulates engine output. Like an engine, our immune cells can idle at too high or too low of an RPM. When our immune cells are too revved up, they can respond over aggressively, and cause more damage than wanted. Likewise, our immune cells can idle “too low” and not respond sufficiently to a threat, allowing it to become more of a problem. We incorporate special nutrients which help establish “normal RPM”, thereby regulate their activity (output).
Although we’ve highlighted two commonly overlooked mechanisms required to establish an optimal immune system, we must also incorporate an “entire body approach” to effectively address autoimmune cases. The first step is to perform a comprehensive autoimmune assessment. This can be done using sensitive and specific assays that provide information beyond the traditional autoimmune antigen array.
By utilizing comprehensive autoimmune testing practices, we can understand what is happening to the immune system and blood at the cellular level. We also investigate if you are nutritionally depleted of critical nutrients that are needed to help keep the body on track and to be healthy versus chronically sick.
Once we know this information, we can take steps to help your body to:
- Regulate the production of Immune Complexes by the body.
- Regulate the over and under activity of our Immune System, involved with all autoimmune cases
The outcome of this should be a body back in balance, so that the Immune Complexes, Antigens and Enzymes are humming optimally and focusing on their main task: keeping you healthy.
References (used for this blog article):
1. Immune Complexes in Autoimmune Conditions- National Institute of Health.
2. Macrophage and Complement Response in Autoimmune Conditions- Journal of Experimental Medicine.
3. Protease Enzymes Neutralize Membrane Bound Immune Complexes- Journal of Experimental Medicine.
4. Exogenous Protease Enzymes Degrade Immune Complexes in Unhealthy Kidney Patients- Journal of Clinical Investigation