Immune System: the simple facts
Most people assume the immune system is just a single unit, but in fact it is a gamut of interrelated functions that primarily protect and repair the body. This can be as simple as protecting the body from bacteria’s and viruses to selectively monitoring the food we consume to initiating seek and destroy missions.
The simplest way that I like to explain the function of the immune system is to liken it to a seesaw. Think of your immune system with anti-bacterial and anti-viral on the left side (known as Thelper 1 cells) and anti-parasitic, anti mould, and anti-fungal on the right (known as Thelper 2 cells) and we can also include the pivot in the middle as Thelper 3 cells or modulators. I guess we also have to understand this is a very simplistic understanding, but basically the immune system is reacting and responding to various invaders and are constantly in flux and it always requires plasticity in its coordinated responses.
We also need to be able to recognise the role of the pivot (Thelper 3) in creating and maintaining the flexibility or plasticity of the immune response. The most important area of mediation through Thelper 3 regulation is the digestive system. And this is where the importance of the microbiome comes into play. Having good gut health directly affects the immune system’s capacity to self-regulate and maintain homeostasis. The environment within the digestive system and the high level of possible invaders through the gastrointestinal track means that as much as eighty percent of the immune system is focused on possible attack through the gut wall.
If the immune system is constantly responding to a bacterial or viral load than picture the left hand side of the seesaw as raised and the right side lowered. And in contrast if the immune system is challenged by parasites, moulds, or fungi then the right side of the seesaw is elevated. Conversely, if the immune system is in hyper drive looking out for viruses and bacteria it may not be able to fully supervise what the invaders on the other side are up to and vice versa. But, if we have an appropriate modulator (in which 80% of our immune system is responsive), then our capacity to maintain plasticity is more likely. Hence, why so much attention is now placed on good gut health = good immune response. Conversely, if you really want to maintain good immunity, then have your gut health optimal.
Herbs also offer the capacity to move the immune system by specifically choosing the side to influence or they are also able to assist in modulating or providing plasticity. They offer the capacity to stimulate Thelper cells on either side or to conversely down-regulate.