Posted by Dreamhealer in Cancer, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing, immunity, integrative cancer care, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, nutrition.
Tags: cachexia, Cancer, chemotherapy, inflammation, weight loss
Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)
Everyone has seen a cancer patient who has lost a significant amount of weight as the disease progressed. It is a scary experience to see someone that you love waste away as the cancer deprives their body of the nutrients that they so desperately need. In the chaos of going from one appointment to the next, patients often do not realize how malnourished they have become.
The significant wasting that late stage cancer patients experience is known as cachexia. To understand why this happens it is helpful to look at the molecular pathways relevant to cachexia. The exact mechanism is not well defined but inflammatory cytokines are thought to play a major role. Cancer is a condition that creates significant systemic inflammation and this dramatically increases the concentration of inflammatory cytokines through out the body. The most prominent inflammatory cytokines during cachexia are often TNF-a and IL6 5.
The good news is that there are a number of natural tools which can help to significantly reduce these inflammatory cytokines. Of course there are cases where the disease has progressed to the point where it is not possible to reverse the effects of cachexia. However, in my clinical practice I have seen many patients reverse the effects of cachexia rather quickly when the correct natural supports are used. When we take the time to look at how these natural supports work it is immediately obvious why they can be so effective.
Omega-3’s are potent natural anti-inflammatories and specifically they reduce TNF-a and IL6 levels in the body1,2,3. In order to have the desired therapeutic effect from supplementation with omega-3’s it is critical that the proper dose is used. Many supplements (especially pill forms) containing omega-3’s do not have the appropriate dose of eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA) and this will not have any impact on an extreme case such as cachexia. When the appropriate dosing is used sometimes patients can see significant improvements in cachexia from supplementing with omega-3’s 4.
Cancer loves L-glutamine and it uses it in high amounts to support its metabolic needs. Some patients upon hearing this falsely assume that removing glutamine from the diet would then starve cancer cells. This is the wrong approach to take. Cancer cells will get glutamine whether you have it in your diet or not. If it is not in your diet then the cancer cells will cause the muscles to break down so that the glutamine can be extracted from the muscles. This will rapidly worsen the cachexia. The simplistic view that if cancer uses a substance then it should be avoided is not always correct in these complex clinical cases. When patients are supported with adequate amounts of glutamine this can help to slow down muscle breakdown and give healthy cells the glutamine that they also need to function6. The glutamine is also necessary for your immune system to function properly and this need far outweighs any concerns of “feeding” cancer cells glutamine in cases of cachexia.
In my experience the combination of L-glutamine and omega-3’s can help to heal the gut and this allows cancer patients to absorb nutrients more effectively from their food. A major challenge for advanced cancer patients is that even if they eat enough food, they struggle to adequately absorb nutrients from their food. By supporting gut health with adequate amounts of these simple remedies, this can help to enhance the absorption of nutrients at a time when patients are extremely malnourished.
There are many other natural therapies which can also be applied in cachexia to help improve the patients quality of life. For example, cannabinoids can be used to help stimulate appetite while reducing the sensation of nausea that many of these patients have. In other cases, the use of a Myers IV is indicated to bypass any concerns with absorption and get nutrients directly into the blood. Patients generally feel better when the inflammation is reduced following the application of these various naturopathic supports. It is critical that patients have professional guidance from a qualified naturopathic physician when utilizing these supports. Cachexia is a unique metabolic circumstance that requires the appropriate doses if you expect to see any benefit.
Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com
1) Kang, Jing X., and Karsten H. Weylandt. “Modulation of inflammatory cytokines by omega-3 fatty acids.” Lipids in Health and Disease. Springer Netherlands, 2008. 133-143.
2) De Caterina, Raffaele, et al. “The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoate reduces cytokine-induced expression of proatherogenic and proinflammatory proteins in human endothelial cells.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 14.11 (1994): 1829-1836.
3) Nelson, Tracy L., and Matthew S. Hickey. “Acute changes in dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake lowers soluble interleukin-6 receptor in healthy adult normal weight and overweight males.” Cytokine 26.5 (2004): 195-201.
4) Radbruch, L., F. Elsner, and P. Trottenberg. “Clinical practice guidelines on cancer cachexia in advanced cancer patients. European Palliative Care Research Collaborative.” (2011).
5) Yeh, Shing-Shing, Kimathi Blackwood, and Michael W. Schuster. “The cytokine basis of cachexia and its treatment: are they ready for prime time?.”Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 9.4 (2008): 219-236.
6) May, Patricia Eubanks, et al. “Reversal of cancer-related wasting using oral supplementation with a combination of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate, arginine, and glutamine.” The American journal of surgery 183.4 (2002): 471-479.
Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing, Health, immunity, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine, nutrition.
Tags: bacteria, gut flora, gutbrain, probiotics
Written by: Dr. Natalie Rahr, BSc, ND
Reprinted by permission from the Gastrointestinal Society. Originally published in the Inside Tract® newsletter, Issue 193, 2015. ©Gastrointestinal Society
“All disease begins in the gut”
Hippocrates made this statement more than 2,000 years ago. Since then, much has changed in medicine. However, this theory remains of great interest in the medical community, especially when considering the terrain of the individual, how robust their immune system may or may not be, and determining ways to treat our modern day chronic illnesses.
We live in an age when having a diagnosis of some kind is almost as common as having a job. We hear the terms IBS, IBD, autoimmune disease, hormone imbalance, arthritis, allergies, migraines, MS, asthma, neurodegenerative disease, eczema, depression, obesity, and so on.
Having a definitive diagnosis can certainly be beneficial for us to have an understanding of what is going on in the body and how it might be causing symptoms, but none of these diagnoses actually tell us why.
What if understanding the gut is the key to understanding why disease occurs? What if Hippocrates was right? This would mean that for almost all diseases and diagnoses out there, the root cause is in the gut, that what is going on in the gut has ripple effects in the body and that the gut is always a factor in determining disease or health, either partially or completely.
In my practice as a naturopathic doctor, I see a wide variety of health conditions, and more often than not, when we treat the gut, along with making sure all other ‘pillars of health’ are in place, such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress management, etc., the symptoms of disease diminish and often go away altogether.
How can that be? What does your gut have to do with your headache or your skin rash or your joint pain?
The Importance of Having Guts: A Genetic Potluck
Not only is the gut our second brain (and some would argue it to be our first), due to the multitude of neurons in the enteric nervous system and the amount of neurotransmitter production that takes place in the gut, it contains the majority of the microbial DNA that dictates our complex functioning as humans. That delicate balance of the good and bad bacteria in the gut, also known as the microbiome, plays a large role in the health of the whole person. We are even more aware of this since scientists mapped out the human genome early this century. Researchers were amazed at the unexpectedly small size of the human genome, which is roughly equivalent to that of a dragonfly. As it turns out, later research has shown that only 1 in 10 cells in the body are human. The other 9 (or 90%) are microbial. This 90% contains the DNA from the microbes that live in and on the body and provides essential functions for the human as a whole.
The Good, the Bad, and the Commensal
When talking about the balance of good (beneficial) and bad (pathogenic) bacteria in the gut flora, there is one more category of microbe to be aware of when thinking about the gut’s influence on the rest of the body and, prior to that, the influence of the environment on the gut. Commensal bacteria are those bacteria that can go either way; they are neither fully beneficial nor are they pathogenic, they act neutrally. This is where much of our own lifestyle influences come into play in the development of health or disease. If we eat a clean and healthy diet, manage stress well, get lots of sleep, fresh air and activity, these commensal bacteria are inclined to go over to the good side. If the opposite is true, then they can turn bad. The stronger one side is over the other, the more influence it has over these commensal microbes, just like a game of red-rover, the side with the strongest hold grows and wins.
To add complexity, we require all these types of microbes in the right amounts to benefit the body. The beneficial bacteria provide the body with nutrients and help remove waste. The pathogenic bacteria, in a balanced amount, train the immune system. When the pathogenic bacteria overtake and overwhelm the beneficial bacteria things can go awry in the body. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the microbiome, has effects on the gut such as increasing permeability and integrity of the gut lining, leaving the body more susceptible to autoimmunity and inflammatory disorders.
In short, our microbiome influences our health, and we influence the health of our microbiome.1
From the Gut to Disease
So if something is going wrong or is out of balance in the gastrointestinal tract, how does this translate to symptoms in areas of the body that, seemingly, have nothing to do with the gut?
The common analogy I use to illustrate for patients how some health care professionals believe gut health affects health of the entire body is that of a clogged kitchen sink. Imagine the things that end up in your kitchen sink every day, and imagine it all building up. That drain eventually clogs.
In the body, the main drain is analogous to the gut and your liver, your main detox pathways and means for waste elimination. Should their function become impaired to some degree due to being overwhelmed with the quantity or quality of what it is trying to eliminate, the rate at which your body (the sink) can eliminate potentially toxic by-products of metabolism slows.
Now imagine this continues for years. The level in that clogged kitchen sink begins to rise, eventually reaching the point of spilling over. Each individual exhibits unique symptoms when this spillover occurs. Early research suggests that these symptoms of spillover can be anywhere from fatigue, mood disorders, developmental disorders, skin rashes, allergies, asthma, to serious complications such asmultiple sclerosis (MS) or other severe immune dysregulation or autoimmunity.
This seems to depend on the degree of impairment in function of the drain, the quality of what is accumulating in the kitchen sink (what we put in and what we are exposed to, whether it be the food we eat, the medications we take, the environmental toxins we take in, or other factors), and what tools we use to assist the drain with the elimination of waste and toxicity.
Essentially, the integrity of the gut is analogous to the integrity of a drain, responsible for allowing everything to flow through the body with ease.
The Gut, the Brain, and the Gut-Brain Axis
Do you ever get a gut feeling: something you know in your gut even before your brain can explain it? What about butterflies in your stomach when you’re anticipating something? Perhaps when you experience stress you feel it in your gut without necessarily thinking about it.
Research continues to show us the strong links between the brain and the gut. For example, some small studies show that a leaky gut could imply a leaky brain. ‘Leakiness’, or hyperpermeability, in the gut, in part due to an imbalance in the flora, creates a playground for inflammation that cascades systemically throughout the body. Inflammation occurring in the gut might lead to inflammatory processes in the brain. By the same token, what is occurring in the brain could affect the gut via the vagus nerve, altering motility, function, and secretions.
In neurodegenerative diseases such as MS, one study identified hyperpermeability in the blood-brain barrier (BBB), as well as in the tight junctions of the intestinal wall.3 Another study linked this similar leakiness to the autoimmune response in the myelin sheath, or protective fatty layer wrapped around the nerves, causing a breakdown in function.
The gut can also exhibit localized symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation among others, which can be transient and benign, or involve disease processes that penetrate deeper into the gut wall. “The clearest correlation between dysbiosis and disease has been found with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)…”,7 including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, in which strictures and obstructions are among some of the serious complications.
Effects on the gut-brain axis can cause changes to gut flora in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Recent research also links depression and anxiety to an inflammatory reaction in the gut.8,
Individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS), and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) have all shown alterations in gut flora.1,
Understanding the gut’s influence on the brain as well as the brain’s influence on the gut is a fascinating step toward treating the person as a whole, and not exclusively by symptoms.
The Gut, Allergies, and Atopic Disease
While an obvious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis clearly allows you to identify its cause, the increasingly more common delayed food sensitivities can cause an array of symptoms anywhere from local abdominal pain and bloating to migraines, body pain, skin issues like rashes or acne, and so on. These symptoms may not show up for hours or even days, making it tricky to figure out what is causing the reaction.
In practice it is quite common to have patients test positive for a few-to-many food allergens, when testing for serum immunoglobulins, only to have them eliminate those foods and find that 3 to 6 months later, they now test sensitive to foods they did not initially test sensitive to. This leads some practitioners to suspect that intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut) is a factor and may play a role in developing food sensitivities.
Dysbiosis might also be a contributing factor. In infants, the development of food allergies and sensitivities could be related to an overabundance of certain types of pathogenic bacteria, such asClostridiae along with fewer good bacteria.
One study found that in atopic disease such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), the skin microbiome, which the balance of the gut microbiome indirectly alters, is very different from that of healthy skin. The study found the same to be true for psoriasis.
Other symptoms of atopic disease, such as asthma, also relate to gut health. Functional and structural abnormalities, specifically in asthma, relate to persisting inflammation in the lungs and link to altered gut flora. This predisposes an immune response to occur when allergens are present, causing sensitization to these allergens and subsequent symptoms of asthma.
The Gut and Joint Pain
Dysbiosis and intestinal hyperpermeability might play a role in joint inflammation. When an antigen, such as an offending food or toxin enters the blood stream from the gut, the immune system kicks in. An antibody, plus its target antigen, bind together to form a ‘complex’. This complex circulates, causing other cascades of inflammation as it goes, finally depositing in places like the joints. The joints are particularly susceptible because there is low blood circulation to flush the inflammatory complexes out.
A toxemic theory, proposed at the turn of the 20th century, alluded to a build-up of this toxicity in the body from infectious agents ultimately promoting joint inflammation. In a recent study, researchers have correlated an overgrowth ofPrevotella copri to an increased susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis.
The Gut and Obesity
Alterations in the gut flora may play a part in the development of obesity. (See the Inside Tract® issue 192.) Reduced bacterial diversity is common in obese individuals, which researchers believe may be interfering with metabolic pathways, since the gut harbours many microbes responsible for regulating metabolism and extracting energy from otherwise indigestible elements of the diet. One study reviewing the microbiome diversity of obese and lean mice suggests that microbes play a role in the efficiency of calorie use and calorie storage in the body.
The Gut and the Immune System
Have you ever been the only person in your household who doesn’t get sick, or are you the first to get sick?
The gut is our main route of contact with the external world; 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. This is mediated through the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which is responsible for orienting immune response to contents in the gut and for the production of 80% or our main first immune response, that of Immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the mucous layer.
In a study on the effect of the gut microbiome on the flu virus infection, the immune modulating effects stretch far beyond the gut to the respiratory mucosa, acting protectively.
Increasingly, some health care professionals recognize that disruptions in the commensal microflora may lead to immune dysfunction and autoimmunity.
So Is Your Gut Friend or Foe?
It’s your friend!
If the gut is the root of all disease, as Hippocrates suggested, then, it could also be the root of all wellness.
In other words, if it is true that disease does begin, or has something to do with some amount of disruption, in the gut environment, then this could mean that the root of all health also lies in the gut and in healing the diversity of this environment.
What to Do?
Thus begins your journey of healing the gut.
First, when looking to protect and nourish a healthy gut, think basics: think slow food, single ingredient, whole food, colourful food, and think fresh, unprocessed, and seasonal food, live and fermented foods, and nutrient-dense foods.
As for what to minimize or avoid as much as you can, think medications such as antibiotics, oral birth control, NSAIDs, caffeine, alcohol, processed and genetically modified foods, processed sugar, foods you are sensitive or allergic to, food dyes, packaged, and pasteurized foods.
There is also much talk around seeding the microbiome of a baby’s gut before, during, and after birth. This promotes the development of a healthy immune system, through prenatal health care and preparation of the mother and father, natural vaginal birth, and breastfeeding, along with ongoing exposures to the environment through childhood to train the immune system and increase the diversity of the child’s microbiome.
These basic things are a great start to help the gut move to a state of greater health, and therefore help the whole person establish or maintain health.
Keep in mind that once a disease state is already in process, testing and stronger treatments are required. These might include high dose nutrient supplementation, medications, or natural methods of assisting the body with eliminating accumulated toxins. Naturopathic doctors and functional medicine doctors are the experts in holistic care to help get you on track, deal with the root cause of illness, and address your individual needs. We work closely with your conventional medicine team to ensure a smooth, effective treatment plan.
Dr. Natalie Rahr practices at the Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. To book an appointment please contact Yaletown Naturopathic clinic at 604-235-8068 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Hadhazy, A. Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being. The emerging and surprising view of how the enteric nervous system in our bellies goes far beyond just processing the food we eat. Scientific American. February 12, 2010.
 Cho I et al. The human microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. Nature Reviews Genetics. 2012;13:260-70.
 Deretzi G et al. Gastrointestinal immune system and brain dialogue implicated in neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases. Current Molecular Medicine. 2011;11(8):696-707.
 Fasano A. Leaky Gut and Autoimmune diseases. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol. 2012; 42:71-8.
 Nouri M et al. Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction Develops at the Onset of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis, and Can Be Induced by Adoptive Transfer of Auto-Reactive T Cells. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(9):e106335.
 Gumaste V et al. Benign and malignant colorectal strictures in ulcerative colitis. Gut. 1992;33(7):938-41.
 Martin R et al. Role of commensal and probiotic bacteria in human health: a focus on inflammatory bowel disease.Microbial Cell Factories. 2013;12:71.
 O’Mahonya S et al. Early Life Stress Alters Behavior, Immunity, and Microbiota in Rats: Implications for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Psychiatric Illnesses. Biological Psychiatry. 2009;65(3):263-7.
 Dinan T et al. Melancholic microbes: a link between gut microbiota and depression? Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2013; 25(9):713-9.
 Rees JC. Obsessive–compulsive disorder and gut microbiota dysregulation. Medical Hypotheses. 2014;82(2):163-166.
 Gilbert JA et al. Toward Effective Probiotics for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Cell. 2013;155(7):1446-8.
 Gaby AR. The role of hidden food allergy/intolerance in chronic disease. Alternative Medicine Review. 1998;3(2):90-100.
 Liu Z et al. Tight junctions, leaky intestines, and pediatric diseases. Acta Paediatrica. 2005;94:386–93.
 Ling Z et al. Altered Fecal Microbiota Composition Associated with Food Allergy in Infants. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2014; 80(8):2546-54.
 Zeeuwen P et al. Microbiome and skin diseases. Current Opinion in Allergy & Clinical Immunology. 2013;13(5):514-520.
 Huang YJ et al. The microbiome and asthma. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014;11(1):48-51.
 Brusca S et al. Microbiome and mucosal inflammation as extra-articular triggers for rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmunity. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2014;26(1):101-7.
 Scher J et al. Expansion of intestinal Prevotella copri correlates with enhanced susceptibility to arthritis. eLife Sciences, November 5, 2013.
 Tsai F et al. The microbiome and obesity: Is obesity linked to our gut flora? Current Gastroenterology Reports. 2009;11(4):307-13.
 Turnbaugh P et al. A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. Nature. 2009;457:480-4.
 Ichinohea T et al. Microbiota regulates immune defense against respiratory tract influenza A virus infection. PNAS. 2011;108(13):5354-9.
 Fung I et al. Do Bugs Control Our Fate? The Influence of the Microbiome on Autoimmunity. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. 2012;12(6):511-9.
 Torrazza R et al. The developing intestinal microbiome and its relationship to health and disease in the neonate.Journal of Perinatology. 2011;31:S29-S34.
Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing, immunity, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine.
Tags: immune system
Days are getting shorter and we have all noticed the drop in temperature even on sunny days. Fall is here! Thanksgiving, pumpkins and beautiful foliage are all part and parcel of the coming season. Autumn is historically a time for harvest, taking stock and preparing for the coming hardships of winter. This principal can also be applied to your health. Now is an ideal time to take stock of your body and help set yourself up to fight off that winter virus or even avoid it completely. In order for you to help maintain and improve your body’s defence system it may be helpful for you to have a better understanding of how it works.
Your body is constantly bombarded by bacteria, fungi and viruses, amongst other things. They are in your home, on your skin and even in the air you breathe. While quite a number of these are harmless, many of them are potentially dangerous to us. The name given to these infectious agents (including bacteria, virus, prion, fungus, or parasites) is pathogen. If you think about it, the human body is a perfect home for these pathogens. A warm moist environment such as that found in the human respiratory tract is exactly what they need to grow and multiply . Luckily for us, the human body has evolved a number of ways to protect us from an invasion. As with all parts of the human body and its inner workings, the immune system is incredibly complex. For the purposes of this article we will try to keep things as simple as possible.
The immune system is not a combination of organs such as the digestive system or the nervous system. Rather is it functional system that involves a number of organs, molecules and immune cells. Many of the organs involved in the immune system have other functions too. The immune cells (of which there are trillions) live in the lymphatic system and the blood and other body fluid.
Skin and Mucosa – Innate Physical Defence
The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It provides a physical barrier between the outside world and your body. The epidermis or outermost layer of the skin is made up of highly keratinized cells. This layer is resistant to most bacteria enzymes and toxins. Mucous membranes line all body cavities that open to the exterior. Examples of these are the digestive system and the respiratory system, reproductive tracts and urinary tracts. The lining inside your mouth is an example of a mucous membrane. Apart from physical barriers these organs also produce secretions such as sebum on skin, hydrochloric acid in the stomach, saliva in the mouth and tears in the eyes, which contain enzymes and chemicals to inhibit or destroy bacteria. The skin and vaginal mucosa maintain their PH at a level that also makes it difficult for pathogens to survive. Sticky mucous at the body’s orifices traps pathogens and prevents them from entering the body. Along the upper respiratory tract you will find tiny hair like structures known as cilla which sweep dust and mucus towards the mouth thus preventing it from traveling further into the body.
These are a type of white blood cell that essentially guard and patrol every border of the body. If the skin and mucosa are breached these cells are usually the first to come upon the pathogen. They work by engulfing the pathogen and secreting enzymes, free radicals and even hydrogen peroxide (bleach) in some cases. Sometimes the chemicals secreted depend on the type of pathogen. If the pathogen is too big for the macrophage to engulf it will secrete it’s chemicals into the area surrounding the pathogen in order to kill it. Often macrophages can handle the pathogen on their own as they are capable of engulfing up to 100 pathogens each. Macrophages will also communicate to other immune cells to bring them to the area. They can also cause the cells of the surrounding blood vessels to flood the area with fluid making it easier for the immune cells to work in the area. This is part of what causes swelling and inflammation in an area where the immune system is at work.
Neutrophils are another type of white blood cell very similar to macrophages, these cells are found in the blood. Once alerted to the presence of an intruder (usually by a macrophage) neutrophils will travel to the area. They are very aggressive and will often kill healthy cells and themselves while in the process of removing a pathogen. They engulf and kill in a similar way to macrophages and they also create barriers around pathogens to prevent it spreading. They will also trigger the next line of defence. Neutrophils will commit suicide after 5 days to prevent them becoming too prolific and causing damage within the body.
Natural Killer Cells
Once the pathogen has managed to infect a healthy cell, the healthy cells send out a stress signal. The natural killer cells, found in the blood and lymph, recognize that this cell is infected and kill it. Unlike the previous cells they do not engulf the cell but attach to it to induce apoptosis (cell suicide). The infected cell dies and takes the pathogen along with it. Natural killer cells also act to enhance the inflammatory response first triggered by the macrophage.
This response is activated when any trauma occurs to the body e.g. a blow, a burn, a cut or an infection. The signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. This is a normal part of the healing process and not always indicative of an infection. Heat and redness are caused by increase blood flow to the area which brings more immune cells to fight any potential infection. There is also an increase in fluid surrounding the cells in this area, leading to swelling. This fluid contains chemicals to promote inflammation and draw more immune cells to the area. It also contains interferon and complement which kill virus infected cells, and helps the healthy cells resist infection and intensifies the body’s response. The build up of fluid causes swelling which presses on nerve endings in the area and can cause pain. Pain may also be caused by the pathogen itself releasing toxins. The increase in fluid in the area helps to dilute any harmful chemicals a potential pathogen may produce and the fluid also contains important chemicals such as clotting factors which help to form a protective barrier and contain the area. The pain and swelling also restrict movement in the area forcing us to rest it and allow for healing to occur.
All these factors can occur before the body has even worked out what it is defending itself against. These responses happen regardless of the pathogen and are known as the nonspecific immune response.
B-Cells, T- Cells and Dendritic Cells- Adaptive immunity
Antibodies found on B-cells (another white blood cell) activate the complement that in turn interferes with the pathogens ability to function. The antibodies are made by the B-cell from pieces of the pathogen. The dendritic cell, sometimes known as the brain of the immune system, eats part of the pathogen and decides what kind of cells are needed to fight the infection. It then calls on the appropriate cells to the area.
Helper T cells release chemicals which aid antibodies and call more macrophages and neutrophils to the scene.
Cytotoxic T cells also receive the signal and secrete chemicals to get the infected cell to die and take the pathogen with it.
Regulatory T Cells are the cells which slow the immune response by releasing chemicals. These are the cells responsible for calming down the immune response once a threat has been overcome. These cells also play an important role in preventing autoimmune reactions.
Memory Cells (which can be made from B-cells or T-cells) are produced by the body during the course of an attack on the immune system.
They can remain in the body for years after the infection and enable our bodies to mount an even faster response in the event of another attack by the same pathogen. Often they will enable the body to react so quickly that you will never even know your body is under attack.
Other areas of the body involved in our immunity include the bone marrow where blood cells including those discussed are made, the thymus gland which produces hormones involved in the immune response, and the lymphatic system which is closely related to the circulatory systems and drains into it. Many white blood cells are found in the lymphatic system and during an immune response they travel from here to the site of infection. This is why during an infection you may notice swelling in the areas where lymph nodes are present such as neck and underarms.
Part of the body’s immune response may include a fever. It was previously thought that a rise in temperature simply aided the body to defend itself by making it difficult for bacteria to replicate and grow. However, new research is now showing that an increase in body temperature may actually help the cytotoxic T-cells (which kill infected and cancerous cells) to carry out their work more effectively. Some experts now believe that allowing the body to go through a mild fever may actually enhance the immune systems response and we should reevaluate how we treat mild fevers in the future. It is important to note that while a mild fever may be helpful, a very high body temperature can be dangerous. The normal range for your body temperature should be between 97.8 and 99.0F (36.5-37.2 C).
Your immune system can be a good indictor of your overall health. Contrary to popular belief, getting cold when wet will not make you more likely to catch a cold or flu this winter. However, things like stress, lack of sleep, poor diet and generally being run down could contribute to a less effective immune system. As such, maintaining a healthy happy lifestyle can help you to avoid becoming unwell this winter. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic for advice on optimizing and boosting your health and immunity.
Human anatomy and physiology 7th ed. 2007. E. N. Marieb and K. Hoehn.
Fever Plays Vital Role in Immune Response. Infection Control Today. Nov 2nd 2011. Accessed on September 7th 2015.http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2011/11/fever-plays-vital-role-in-immune-response.aspx