Many of us tend to think of ourselves as small and insignificant in the current global landscape, however some people prefer to imagine they are the center of the universe. To many microbes, we are just that. Microbes (or microorganisms) are trillions of tiny things in the air we breathe, the soil we grow our food in, and our water. We have been hearing about viruses a lot these days, but they are also fungus (yeast and mold), bacteria, algae and other archaic things.
Some of them do us harm, others we need to stay healthy, but all of them need us alive so that we can continue to function as their host. Let’s be clear that it is not the pathogenic microbe that is deadly, it is how the immune system reacts to that pathogen which can be lethal. Your body is at any given moment performing an intricate dance with trillions of these organisms using your immune system, which has a multi-tiered system of support and protection.
Imagine that there is a bad guy named Virion who is an unbelievable egomaniac, and his entire goal in life is to make hundreds of billions of copies of himself. The problem is, he doesn’t have any materials with which to create his masterpieces, and no resources to build them. He is a guy of simple means, only some DNA or RNA, surrounded by only a protein shell and lipid layer. So, Virion dedicates his time waiting quietly in a dormant state until he can sneak into a large, unknowing organism like you. A person who has an abundance of beautiful cells that he might be able to hijack for their metabolic machinery to bring his replication project to life. Once these copies are produced, his replicates can burst out of the infected cells then go on to do the same in new cells.
The problem for Virion is that these organisms are on to him, as they have dealt with many of his kind in the past, and are equipped with barriers, blockades, traps and military forces at the ready. All are constantly working to stop him and his competitors from entry, collectively they are known as: The Immune System.
If Virion wants to get in, he’s got to be the best of the best. Flying through the air so as not to be eaten by the hungry mobs of bacteria on the impermeable skin and intestinal walls, avoiding the flow of tears at eye point entry, trying not to get caught in urine or secretion flow at lower entry points, attempting to not be captured in the tall, sticky cilia forest at nasal entry point and dragged down to the depths of the acidic pit called stomach by sticky mucus. All the while he must stay hidden from the Stormtrooper neutrophils trying to engulf and eliminate his kind entirely.
If Virion does by chance make it past the first line of defense, there is a second, Homeland Security, awaiting him. If the Stormtroopers are failing in their mission, they send out a chemical call for backup, otherwise known as the Big Eaters (macrophages) who thunder in to engulf the infected cells, free floating viruses, and the mess of dead Troopers. These Big Eaters also call for further backup, while trying to eliminate Virion.
Meanwhile there is a system of spy cells (dendrites) working in the background whose job it is to notice if there is an invader, grab some of their identification proteins (antigens) and then present this evidence of the invader to Officers (T helper cells) at a military base camp (lymph nodes) via the lymph fluid superhighway. Unfortunately while this is happening, Virion has already commenced his evil plan to quietly take over your cells for cloning to create his own army.
Each Officer will only recognize only one pathogen, so they need to network with other officers who have studied foreign invaders in the past and check the military database to assess the collected sample. If the Officer recognizes the invader, it will immediately activate and divide into clones to increase numbers. The Officer then activates the appropriate military forces (cytokine proteins) that send immune cells in for the attack.
As Virion is a virus, the Officers will signal an army of cytotoxic natural killer T cells to come to the rescue. This army will attempt to punch holes in the walls of it’s own body’s virus-infected cells with interferon-gamma, thus killing the cells and destroying Virion and his replicates. If the antigen sample at base camp was successfully analyzed, Special agents (B cells) can also be activated to produce and shoot out antibodies that will stick to Viron’s replicates, immobilizing them until the Big Eaters can come to eliminate them.
The Special Agents who are able to decode Virion’s replicating system and understand the enemy are rewarded with long life and special status, then put out of service as a memory of this particular war. If an Officer has dealt with one of Virion’s clones or a similar enemy, or if the infected cells are able to use their own interferon defenses to stop the replication process, the war is usually over before Viron’s replicates have even matured. However sometimes this is not the case.
If enough of Viron’s replicates have matured, you can feel a war waging inside of you. The symptoms you often experience with a large infiltration (infection) are your body trying to burn it out (fever), push it out (mucous, coughing and sneezing), use histamines to create more pathways for army to reach the war zone (inflammation leading to rash and headache) and sacrifice it’s infected cells (general malaise and fatigue) to eliminate the threat.
This of course is a simple overview of the war dynamics. Many more complex and creative processes are being carried out behind the scenes, depending on what is happening on the ground to enable proper tactic execution. The flexibility and creativity of the system as a whole is part of what makes it so difficult to study and analyze. However the General is constantly having to stay dynamic, as it’s enemies are continuously transforming and evolving.
Sometimes the war is won and we recover, sometimes we don’t. The outcome largely depends on the strength, efficiency, and ability of the army, and that is determined by the resource capacity of the body. Sometimes a body has already been compromised by a civil war or other long waged wars that have become a chronic illness or disease. Other times a body does not have the building blocks to manufacture a healthy army or weaponry. In a case of either or both, the body will have more difficulty defeating Virion’s army.
A civil war is created when the natural killer cells do not respond to the command of the Officers (suppressor T cells) to stand down once the threat has been neutralized. In this case, the rogue army continues to battle with healthy cells, compromising the whole system and causing a breakdown.
In a body that has been to war too many times, against medications, allergens, bacteria, fungus and other viruses, the General either becomes paranoid or exhausted and can no longer accurately determine or fight off threats. In the first case, he directs the officers to kill anything that crosses their path including his own servicemen and the land they are defending, effectively creating a person with an autoimmune disorder. In the second case, he becomes lazy, sloppy, or simply less effective. All of these situations are categorized as inappropriate immune responses.
If a body has been well fed with nutrient rich food and sunlight, is well hydrated, well rested, and low in stress created inflammation, it will usually produce an effective and competent army, and therefore appropriate responses to foreign invaders. Stress, junk food, lack of rest, and a poisonous environment that negatively affects air, water and food quality all lead to a compromised system likely to produce inappropriate immune responses. The good news is, a body does not only have one shot at creating a strong and competent immune system, this opportunity is continual, as long as they are alive and their cells are dividing.
What are the keys to a strong, defensive military force? Good Nutrition, more rest, less stress, caring community.
This may not surprise you, but one of the keys to vibrant health and a strong immune system is eating well. Enjoy this list for our tips on maintaining good nutrition.
- Eat lots of orange, yellow and red fruits and vegetables, which have loads of nutrients like vitamin C, and carotenoids and other antioxidants that support your organs, tissues and cells in healing and recovery after inflammatory responses.
- Get enough iodine from sea vegetables, fish and shellfish, and eggs, which support your thyroid gland and helps convert carotenoids into vitamin A.
- Get enough vitamin D from sunshine, mushrooms and deep water fish. This vitamin is important for bone homeostasis (most immune cells originate in bone marrow), as well as modulation of the innate and adaptive immune responses.
- High quality shellfish, meat, nuts, seeds and eggs to get loads of zinc, which is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating nonspecific immunity such as neutrophils and natural killer cells as well as many other functions in the cells.
- Leafy green vegetables, and most others too, are high in magnesium, which is crucial for mopping up excess histamine and other forms of inflammation in the body.
- These same foods contain proteins, which are necessary for the production of enzymes and immune cells, tissues, and organs. Without a healthy digestive system, the body cannot properly digest and assimilate enough proteins for proper immune function.
- Spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic as well as many specific herbs that contain natural antiviral effects.
Rest & Reduce stress:
Creating vibrant health is not only a nutritional battle. Chaos in the outside world, can easily manifest as chaos on the inside. Reduce stress by getting out in nature, getting enough sleep, breathing deeply and avoiding fear mongering media outlets; while finding ways to take positive action and to be grateful.
We only have one Mother Earth, so let’s treat her right so that she can treat us well. We can already see her tremendous healing capacity after a year’s time of us slowing down all our busy-ness. We can also see without a shadow of doubt that it is our activities that are poisoning and disrupting everything. We are each able to stand up and say that we will no longer tolerate poor air quality, polluted water or toxic pesticide and herbicide ridden foods that are compromising our immune capacity. We can panic as a victim, or find a way to be a hero.
It is only those of us who are privileged that can choose to get enough rest, eat nutrient rich food, stay hydrated and reduce stress. Most humans on earth right now do not have these same privileges. So, no matter the level of discomfort you are currently experiencing, please remember those who do not have enough to eat or drink to stay healthy, do not have a home to take shelter in, do not have the opportunity to socially distance themselves because they live in cramped and unhygienic circumstances. Imagine being in their shoes and the stress that they are experiencing. Take a few deep breaths, and consider everything you have to be grateful for.
Always remember, in the pursuit of vibrant health, you have a community of like-minded individuals to lean on and learn from. Join the WILDFIT Community to connect and learn more health tips to create your best life.