A healthy immune system defends you against invading pathogens and keeps you cancer-free, pain-free, free of autoimmune diseases and sheltered against chronic illness of many types. Protecting your immune system helps your immune system protect your body and provides optimal health.
Your Immune System At Work
Your immune system occupies your skin, blood, tissues and the linings of your intestinal tract, nose and mouth. Consisting of an array of specialized cells that detect unnatural molecules entering your body, it patrols your entire body. Immune cells are like scouts in an army who communicate with troops waiting behind enemy lines ready to go into action. When attacked, they call in their fighter and protector cells, which migrate to susceptible locations in the body and begin molecular warfare. This war is intended to fight the invaders and keep you disease-free.
This is effective when it comes to fighting infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi. However, over time, the scout cells grow sensitized and form an array of antibodies designed to recognize foreign and unnatural molecules. Each time they come into contact with invaders, they summon more troops. This can lead to an ongoing war that never quite ends.
The resulting prolonged sensitization can lead to autoimmune diseases — and, in turn, almost all known chronic disease. But microorganisms aren’t the villains in this war. Those pathogens are usually vanquished in just a few days. Rather, it is the unnatural toxic molecules we encounter in our environment that lead to this destructive conflict.
Most of the foreign matter that contacts your immune system enters through your mouth in your meals. Consequently, the lining of the small intestine forms an extremely important filter that screens about 98 percent of what enters the body. Just as your skin protects you from the outside world, your intestinal lining must decide what molecules to allow into the bloodstream and what molecules to turn away. Specialized microvilli in the intestinal lining filter each molecule of food before it can enter the body proper. At this level, the immune system is poised to reject harmful material that it recognizes.
These specialized cells that man your immune checkpoints can weaken as you age, worn down by various factors:
- Antibiotics, which trigger an imbalance of existing bacteria and, sometimes, an overgrowth of resistant bacteria.
- Alcohol and caffeine, which irritate and wear down the gut lining.
- Chemicals in foods, such as dyes, preservatives and flavorings.
- Lack of digestive enzymes from the mouth, stomach1 and mostly the pancreas.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Motrin® and also corticosteroids.2
- Highly refined carbohydrate foods, such as candy bars, cookies, cakes, soft drinks, white breads and white rice. Such foods lack micronutrients and fiber. However, fibrous food ferments in the digestive tract to produce the short-chain fatty acids acetate, propionate and butyrate that aid in healing the intestinal mucous membrane.
- Mold and fungal mycotoxins, which are found in some stored grains, stored fruit and refined carbohydrates.
- Lack of lactobacilli (healthy bacteria) and minerals derived from fermented foods and whole foods.
When the intestinal lining is inflamed, antibodies are produced that defend against what should be innocuous, harmless foods. This phenomenon produces leaky gut syndrome. The gut becomes increasingly permeable to large antigenic molecules (allowing them into the blood), creating a hypersensitive immune response.3 These antibodies do not cause inflammation of the gut lining itself, but they stimulate an allergic response that inflames your organs. This can lead to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, thyroiditis and other chronic, supposedly incurable conditions.
Others conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, celiac disease and even cancers are also thought to be a result of something triggering the immune response and inflammation. Similarly, skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema have been linked to this sort of inflammatory process.4
Leaky gut syndrome is one of the ways your immune system enters a state of hypersensitivity, leading to chronic illness. You can heal a leaky gut with nutrient-rich foods, enzyme supplementation and avoidance of the foods, drugs and toxins that cause it.
Sources for Story:
1 Kirsch M, Bacterial Overgrowth. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 1990. 85:231-237.
2 Jenkins, R.T., et al., Increased intestinal permeability in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a side-effect of oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy? Br J Rheumatol, 1987.26(2): p. 103-7.
4 Jackson, P.G., et al., Intestinal permeability in patients with eczema and food allergy. Lancet, 1981. 1(8233): p. 1285-6. Also: Scadding, G., et al., Intestinal permeability to 51Cr-labelled ethylenediaminetetraacetate in food-intolerant subjects. Digestion, 1989. 42(2): p.104-9. Also: Jacobson, P., R. Baker, and M. Lessof, Intestinal permeability in patients with eczema and food allergy. Lancet, 1981. i: p. 1285-1286.