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Understanding the Innate Immune System: Your First Line of Defense

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

The immune system is a system in our body with most of it being in the gut. You may have heard of words like, antibodies, white blood cells, antigens, cytokines, pathogens etc. We will be sharing about these in the next few posts, but today we want to focus on the Innate Immune System, but before we do, are you familiar with auto-immune conditions?

Auto-immune conditions

There has been a rapid rise in auto-immune conditions over the last few years, this is not because the immune system has gone slightly 'crazy', as a matter of act, the immune system does not do that without a valid reason or reasons. An auto-immune condition, is when the immune system starts to turn against your own body parts and believe us when we say 'this is not because the immune system has turned faulty', more on this in a later post, but for now keep this in mind, as once you understand the amazing intricate detail of the immune system, you may just wonder, 'how on earth are so many of us walking around without an auto-immune condition?' So let's get started the Innate Immune System.

The Innate Immune System

We will start with the INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM and move onto the ACQUIRED IMMUNE SYSTEM (which is just incredibly awesome) over the next post.

innate immune system

We are using an analogy, as the immune system can otherwise get rather complicated. Imagine if you will, a castle, with a fort and a moat. The moat, bridge, and fort is called the INNATE IMMUNE SYSTEM. The main castle itself is what is called the ACQUIRED IMMUNE SYSTEM.

The innate immune system is the PRIMARY LINE OF DEFENSE…this includes our

– Skin

– Tonsils

– Gut microbiome

– Nervous system

– Mucus membrane (this lines the respiratory and the digestive system)

– Lymph nodes

– Lymphatic system

– Stomach acid

So the above are equivalent to the moat, the fort, the bridge. All these have to be crossed and invaded before the pathogen (such as a virus) has a chance of getting into the castle. In other words the 'pathogen' in order to ‘spread and take over’ it has to have a clever plan, it will be looking out for 'weak points' that it can use to it's advantage as well as ensuring it is not detected to easily.

Did you know coughing is part of the innate immune system working? So trying to suppress a cough with cough suppressants is working against your innate immune system, it is like helping the 'enemy' cross the bridge to the castle. Also mucous production is not something to be frowned upon, it is the body's innate immune system, streaming nose, is not a 'Lemsip' deficiency, it is the innate immune system doing it's job.

immune system

The stronger this primary line of defense (innate immune system), the less likely the castle will be invaded, even if the pathogen does get to the castle, it will not win. The innate immune system NEEDS to be ROBUST, it has to have a great communication system with those inside the castle (the acquired immune system).

Communication is key

It is absolutely vital for the communication between the innate and acquired immune systems to be clear, efficient and precise. The innate immune system is;

- fast

- non-specific

- nimble on its toes’

Whereas the acquired immune system is slower and much more specific, it is more ‘professional’. In essence the NON-SPECIFIC (innate immune system) primes/warns the SPECIFIC (the acquired immune system). The innate immune system, not only does it's best to ward off and/or 'attack' the invader, it also has to ensure those in the castle are aware that the borders have been or are being breached.

Role of immune system

Communication within/between the immune system is vital

Imagine, you are busy 'holding the fort', the invaders are arriving in their thousands, you initially had enough back up, enough energy, strong enough 'wifi signal' to communicate with those further away in the castle and all others in the same team. But there are obstacles, that hinder this communication, ONE of these obstacles are TOXINS.

What are toxins?

Toxins are considered anything that is foreign to the body, yes that includes the virus that is busy crossing the moat. We have exogenous and endogenous toxins; exogenous toxins come from our outside world and endogenous toxins come from within us.

Exogenous toxins include medications, toxic metals such as aluminium, fluorine, mercury, lead, viruses, bacteria, fear, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs such as in-floor finishes, oil paints, ), phthalates (found also in kids plastic toys) etc.

Endogenous toxins include carbon-dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, hormone 'left overs', etc and these are then also detoxified by our detox system, so if you think about it, our detox system plays a vital role in immunity too.

So how can we support this incredible, fast-acting, all-embracing INNATE immune system? How can we fortify the fort, the bridge, the moat?

Supporting the Innate Immune System

Focusing on cleaning up our external environment is a great start;

– cleaning up the home (remove toxic products, those smelly products that release VOCs, such as air fresheners, the toxic candles)

– removing aluminium pots and pans, antiperspirants

– removing carpets that off-gas formaldehyde

– removing chemical fertilizers, chemical weed killers

– avoiding medications, seek other options such as nutritional medicine

– support your GUT, antacids impact the immune system by depleting the body of nutrients

– removing toxic media (nervous system which impacts the immune system)

– avoid eating meat that is from factory farms, this meat is not only obesogenic it is inflammatory.

You can read more about the fascinating way your body detoxes in this BLOG.

The food on your plate

It is interesting that most children are taken to ‘happy farms’ where animals roam free and are happy and are fed grass, outside in the sunshine. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take your children to a 'factory farm'? The meat that is obtained from animals that do not see much day light, do not feed on grass, but ends up on supermarket fridges and freezers wrapped up in plastic is not supporting our innate immunity or acquired immunity.

The produce from animals being ‘fattened’ with grains and hormones, treated with antibiotics is hindering communication between the innate and acquired immune system. It is also increasing toxic burden on the body. This makes more work for the already over worked 'immune system'. It does not provide nutrient dense food. The innate immune system consists of a plethora of cells from dendritic cells, mast cells, neutrophils, basophils, macrophages to name a few and they all require nutrients. They ALL play a vital role, they all are like a tight-knit army, that has it's role and position in the order of all things immune related.

These cells communicate using various chemicals from cytokines ('cyto' meaning cells and 'kines' meaning chemicals), prostaglandins, histamine, proteases, as well as cell to cell contact. Imagine the cells trying to send a 'whats app' message with a poor internet connection? That message maybe delayed or mis-communicated, or not received. These cells and messengers are made from nutrients, supported by nutrients and rejuvenated by nutrients. These chemicals and cells also need a smooth flowing lymphatic system, a good healthy flow of blood, a good dose of anti-oxidants to ensure the NECESSARY oxidation does not go 'out of hand', a healthy amount of inflammation, inflammation that is controlled, not just all 'guns blazing' without any respect for 'borders'.

It takes many resources, several biological systems, and much energy and oxygen for the innate immune system to ensure the 'invaders' do not 'take over' and decimate the place (body).

There is a fine balance between the immune system doing 'it's job' and ensuring it does not in the process 'damage' it's host i.e. you.

Immune System Support

Supporting and nourishing the body, supports and nourishes the immune system. Taking Vitamin C, Vitamin A, or a zinc supplement etc i.e. nutrients in isolation are not the answer in supporting your immune system, this is not what we at the New School of Nutritional Medicine teach or believe. Taking nutrients in isolation is more like hoping the internet connection will suddenly work (fingers crossed). When you eat an orange, you are taking in hundreds of nutrients not just vitamin C, you have calcium, potassium, fibre, folate, thiamine, hesperidin, lycopene, naringenin etc

Immune system support

Start with the food on your plate, get to know your local farmer, and your local food market.

Reduce the toxins in your environment and in the food you eat. Implementing these alone will nourish an support your immune system.

Use cell salts (also called tissue salts), these are like 'potentised' mineral salts. The various cell salts play a crucial role in specific stages of the immune defense response, such as ferrum phos can be seen as the 'anti-inflammatory' cell salt, kali sulph cell salts plays a key role in the 'clean up' process, all that debris that is left over from the immune 'attack' . You can learn more about these wonderful cell salts in our blogs PART 1 and PART 2 and we have a more comprehensive e-course HERE that covers each of the 12 cell salts in more detail integrating also the nutrition aspect of the minerals in these cell salts.

There are other biological systems that are involved in the immune cells being able to do their job as efficient, resilient soldiers, some of these systems include the cardiovascular system, the detox system such as the liver, the gall bladder (you can learn more about this dynamic due HERE), the digestive system. the lymphatic system. etc.

Your immune system is FOR you, not against you. It requires some nurturing, nature, sunshine and movement.

A healthy, resilient and nourished innate immune system is just the start in supporting your health and wellbeing against pathogens.

To Wholeness!

From the team at the New School Of Nutritional Medicine.

Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.

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