A properly functioning immune system protects the body against infections by bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens, and helps it heal. When our bodies detect a threat, or a stimulus that is “perceived” to be a threat, it orchestrates a delicate but highly aggressive immune inflammatory response to meet that threat.
There are two initial phases of immune responses:
- Innate/early phase — a “built-in” or “automatic” response that is prepared at all times to defend the body against infection and cell mutations, such as those seen in cancers, and
- Acquired– a more “educated” immune response that takes time to evolve in response to a specific trigger.
Inflammation is a complex event during which immune cells migrate into an area in response to various immune factors. These messages, such as cytokines, are used to to communicate and coordinate an organize attack against pathogens, or to help the healing process. After the threat has been resolved, other immune cells come in to carry away dead organisms and cells, and start the repair process.
A well-balanced immune system, a system in immune homeostasis, will mount enough of an inflammatory response to eliminate the threat, and then go on to repair damaged tissues. However, problems may arise if the immune system continues to generate an inflammatory responses after a challenge has been met —when inflammatory responses do not lower in intensity.
In such cases, the immune system is “over-responsive”; it is unbalanced, out of homeostasis. An over-active immune system leads to conditions where the body starts to destroy its own healthy tissue (e.g. diabetes, thyroid, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, etc.) or it may lead to allergies and chemical sensitivities, or poor healing.
Many people have the mistaken impression that “boosting” immune function at all times is useful. This is simplistic. People with autoimmune conditions, such as those mentioned above, are already “over responding”. The last thing they need is to further “boost” their immune response, increase their autoimmune responsiveness.
Another example of “boosting” immune response is artificially increasing the level of natural killer (NK) cells within the body. NK cells often make up part of the body’s “early response”. “Boosting” numbers of certain white cells is unnatural and may cause other difficulties due to excessive numbers of these cells.
Increased levels of NK cells, as well as autoimmunity, have been associated with women who have difficulty conceiving. Women who have experienced spontaneous abortions and miscarriages, have higher than normal levels of NK cells.
Additionally, other types of specific immune cells, for example those that play a role in protecting the body from infection, may promote miscarriage and premature births, when they are at higher than normal levels.
The lesson here is that all of our immune cells and their components have to be balanced, or in a state of homeostasis, for our body to naturally heal and protect itself.
There are a number of simple steps that one can take to return the body to homeostasis, including using recovery proteins, exercise, smarter food choices, and maintenance of healthier weights.