"When it comes to health, when the body feels safe and is at ease, the nervous system is able to quiet and be more normal. Then the immune system
is able to function better. When the body is safe and feels safe, all of its other functions can help combat disease." - Patricia Megregian
Our immune system is the first line of defense against infection and disease. Immune complexes scavenge free radicals, eliminate pathogens to protect our vital organs, systems and cells from invasion and damage. Unfortunately, the things we do each day have direct impact on the strength and vitality of our immune system. Poor diet, stress, lack of exercise among other habits can leave our immune systems bogged down and less capable to respond to invaders. When our defenses are down, free radicals can flourish.
Free Radicals & Oxidative Stress
Researchers theorize that cells age and lose function due to the accumulation of free radical damage over time. This damage produces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage cell membranes, impair cell signaling, and create low-level inflammation. Inflammation induced by stress to the body can become chronic and is now believed by some researchers to be the underlying cause of most if not all chronic disease
; therefore, bolstering the bodies ability to combat free radicals and oxidative stress via antioxidants is a strategy to prevent disease and decline. Sources of antioxidants can be derived from food and/or supplement, but either way, healthy lifestyle habits that reduce exposure to oxidative stress are vital in optimizing immune function and overall health. Poor lifestyle habits can lead to a compromised immune system, or, often worse, an immune system so hypersensitive that it actually turns on us and begins to attack our own bodies.
Autoimmunity: The Disease of the 21st Century
Autoimmune disease as a category affects 50 million Americans. It is one of the top ten causes of death in women under the age of 65
, is the second highest cause of chronic illness, and is the top cause of morbidity in women in the United States. Additionally, autoimmune diseases have been reported to be on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, making this poorly understood category of disease a public health crisis at levels comparable to heart disease and cancer.
There are 100+ known autoimmune diseases, all caused by the common thread that is autoimmunity. The process of autoimmunity is initiated when one’s immune system becomes overactive and, rather than destroy invader cells, such as infections and viruses, targets one’s own healthy cells and tissues causing various autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases can affect any system in the body. Symptoms vary widely among the diseases, making the diseases difficult to diagnosis. Exactly what triggers an autoimmune response is unknown; however, researchers do know that autoimmune diseases occur where there are a genetic predisposition in the family towards autoimmunity and the presence of an environmental trigger, such as, viruses, bacteria, medications, pollutants, hormones, or stress.
Many forward thinking practitioners, researchers and experts are deeming autoimmune disease as the "disease of the 21st century." Rates of autoimmune disorders have in the past 2 decades with the following being some of the most commonly diagnosed disorders
containing an autoimmune component:
- Addison's disease
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Crohn's disease
- Grave's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
Lipid peroxidation and elevated urinary bile acid sulfates found through functional lab testing point to oxidative stress. Other elements of gut health (where over 70% our immune system is located) can also provide clues to immune function or autoimmune disorders. Leaky gut/intestinal permeability, gut dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad bacteria) and other conditions in the gut dramatically influence immune response with many experts now linking the integrity of the gut to autoimmune conditions.
To uncover potential gut dysfunction or oxidative stress, register for one of our Functional Diagnostic Programming options. Also be sure to check out the articles below for information on reducing the impact of free radicals while enhancing your immune system.