Did you know immune systems have a type? Once you understand this you can begin to personalise it and live ‘well’.
I recently read an article published by Jeffrey Bland PhD which shed some new and interesting light on the ultra-important part of us that is vital to our health – the immune system. Something which we have been made far more aware of during the global pandemic, its relevance to our overall well-being is something we really need to get a personal grip on and get to know our individual version.
IMMUNE SYSTEM FUNCTION
Our immune system is basically our headquarters for how our body deals with staying healthy. Any infiltration from bacteria, infection, fungi, and toxins (chemicals produced by microbes), is defended and fought off by the immune system. How effectively this happens depends on the strength of it within the individual person. The immune system is a highly active system which produces millions of new white blood cells each day. The main purpose of it is to identify what belongs to the self and what is an invader from the outside; once something is identified as ‘non-self’ its job is to defend, fight and ultimately remove said intruder.
The Cancer Research Institute describes the two parts of the system as being “two branches of the immune system, the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system provides a general defence against common pathogens (any bacteria, virus, or other disease-causing microorganism), which is why it is also known as the nonspecific immune system. The adaptive immune system targets specific threats and learns how to launch precise responses against viruses or bacteria with which the body has already come into contact. The various components of the immune system work together to provide both types of protection”.
Dr. Bland, having worked in personalised functional medicine for many years, has found through experience that people develop a very personalised immune system throughout their lives. So much so that he has managed to categorise a few different types of immune system ‘personalities’; once defined, we can point ourselves in the right direction of working towards optimum health.
“I believe that each immune system has a personality”, says Bland, “your immune system matters on a daily basis, and it’s special to you. I’ve come to think of five main personalities — let’s call them immuno-identities — to help us all get past the thinking that a generalised “boost” to a generalised immune system is good enough. Many of our immune systems are trapped inside memories of dysfunction, and we need to clear that debris to set the stage for real rejuvenation”.
From this standpoint the five immune-identities outlined by Dr. Bland include; balanced, sensitive, angry, withdrawn, and confused. Let’s take a look at what defines each and how to better serve and support your personalised system.
The main thing to remember with Bland’s theory is that your immune system is bespoke, it is designed by you and it is up to you to maintain or optimise it to ensure your own good health. You can reach an excellent level of health and keep your immune system healthy by way of eating well. A good nutritious diet that serves the gut will support your immunity. We need to get up close and personal with our own system and remember that we support it daily by what we do. To help us get to know our own system, Bland’s identities give us a good outline of certain types and how to treat them.
This is the immune system type that we should all be aiming for; one that is healthy and balanced – this entails it being sensitive and reacting effectively to invasion, but does not overreact to it.
If you recognise this as describing your system then you’re doing great. Now you just need to maintain it with a nutritious, varied, plenty of plant-based foods diet. Keep stress to a minimum, or learn well how to manage it using therapies, and make sure you get plenty of sleep. Keep up the good work!
This is the type of immune system that overreacts somewhat and cells will respond rapidly to the smallest of issues. To be able to recognise whether this is your type, question yourself as to whether you are susceptible to gastric or digestive issues, allergies, or rashes as these are all tell-tale signs of a sensitive immune system.
If this is your type then Bland recommends you focus on your microbiome, or gut health, by eating high fibre foods and probiotics. Top-up on your omega-3s and add quercetin to your diet. You can find this either in supplements, or naturally in grapes, broccoli, buckwheat, and their anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Bland also suggests that smokers and alcohol drinkers may be more susceptible to this kind of immune system.
If you have an angry immune system then you may well suffer regularly with uncomfortable joints, fatigue, or brain fog. The angry immune system is one which remains active against some internal threats at a low but consistent level for a long period of time.
If this is your type then you need to reduce the overreaction of your system. This can be achieved by diet. Incorporate more olive oil, green tea, and garlic, or any other cruciferous vegetable.
If you are extremely susceptible to viruses and bacteria then this means that your immune system is not responding effectively to such invaders entering the body. It is basically failing to do its job and can be described as a withdrawn or under-reactive immune system. This means that your body is not fighting off infection effectively and you will be the type who will catch whatever illness or bug is going around and you will most likely take longer than others to get over it.
If this is your type then you need to maintain a good sleep pattern; aim for eight hours per night. Exercise is also paramount, and needs to be done daily. Bland recommends taking extra zinc and vitamin C as well as incorporate certain types of mushroom into your diet, such as reishi.
When your immune system is failing to recognise whether it is dealing with healthy or unhealthy cells and begins to attack itself. This can manifest in many different ways but can become serious; problems with the skin, joints, brain, gut, and heart can all be symptomatic of a confused immune system.
To combat this, we need to up our vitamin D levels, the best way to do this is to get it naturally from the sun. Ten minutes sun exposure per day without protection will suffice. Otherwise there are supplements. Fish oils are also a must to combat a confused immune system. Focusing on a healthy gut or microbiome will also help to balance the immune system; avoidance of sugar and antibiotics should help, as well as topping up on probiotics.
If we get to know our own immune system well we can begin to make the right choices in order to promote our overall health. We are all different and must take the steps to listen to our own personal beat, of course we can also seek professional help if unable to work out how to manage this alone.
- Dr. Jeffrey Bland has authored five books on nutritional medicine for the healthcare profession and six books on nutrition and health for the general public including The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life. He is also the principal author of over 120 peer-reviewed research papers on nutritional biochemistry and medicine.
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