In biology immunity is the “ability of an organism to resist disease, either through the activities of specialized blood cells or antibodies produced by them in response to natural exposure or inoculation (active immunity) or by the injection of an antiserum or the transfer of antibodies from a mother to her baby via the placenta or breast milk (passive immunity)”. A healthy and intact immune response requires coordination between skin, mucosal barriers (such as the nose, mouth, and lining of the gut), and both the arms of the immune system known as the innate and adaptive immune responses. With the immune systems, overarching mandate of “protection”, the blueprints of our individual immune surveillance systems are inherited through our genes and fashioned through interactions with the environment, including lifestyle choices and chemical exposures. The function of the immune system is to create a barrier between our bodies and our environment. The body needs to eliminate environmental debris that is collected over time. It needs to differentiate the flora that is working synergistically with our bodies from that which is pathologic.
We are discovering more, every day about our immune system and things that can trigger autoimmune disease, meaning that our own immune system is now recognizing something as a foreign entity when it is, in reality, part of ourselves. At one point your body made an antibody (a cell that is part of the immune system which recognizes things that are not of self) to an outside antigen (foreign material present in the body that should not be there). This could include viruses, bacteria, tree or grass pollens, and even foods that passed through a breakdown in our barrier defense. These antibodies worked or continue to work against this foreign material present, but also recognize something that is part of you, causing inflammation. One of the best-known examples of this comes from the condition Rheumatoid Arthritis. Rheumatoid Factor (RF) is an antibody identified that is made that works against the synovium - the lining of the joints. The antibody also works against an invasive species of bacteria in the mouth, P. gingivalis.
Our goal for our patients is to remove triggers that are leading to dysregulated immune responses. For some patients, this may require testing of the stool to identify pathologic bacteria that need to be removed, or an elimination diet to identify food triggers within the diet. We then focus on restoring normal barriers between ourselves and our environment in the gut and mucosal membranes. This includes replacing commensal bacteria in the gut, restoring any imbalances in nutrients and micronutrients that the body needs for optimal function. We then focus on rebalancing your lifestyle to help you maintain these changes long-term for lifelong health.