A Broad View of The Immune System
Sometimes whenever we examine something closely for an extended period, we begin to lose perspective of the broader picture. Thus, humanity has developed an idiomatic expression – “can’t see the forest for the trees” – to explain this phenomenon. This complication is very existent in the field of science since scientists strive to break information down into smaller and smaller pieces to examine it, which is why there are scientists who specialize in one specific aspect, such as why a particular part of human DNA replicates a certain way.
The same paradox can arise in natural medicine, as people have asked, “What do I need to do to be healthy?” as if there is a single detail that can answer that question. Although humanity and science may continue to progress with the new information learned with this tight focus, which often applies to health science, we often fail to see the whole picture about how to live healthfully.
In the body, there are a seemingly countless amount of biological processes, such as the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, integumentary, muscular, nervous, renal, and immune systems. All of these systems interlock with one another, and natural doctors are beginning to understand this, whereas conventional doctors can get caught up in the smallness of the intricacies that they can sometimes lose view of the bigger picture.
Withal, in this article, we will investigate one of the significant, systems as mentioned above – the immune system – and how it interlocks and coordinates with the various parts of the body to guard against infections and promote better health.
Immune System’s Relation to Memory Loss
Second only to the nervous system, the immune system can debatably be the second most complex biological system in the body. Many of its processes have been discovered recently, only within the last few decades.
Our bodies are consistently targeted and attacked by organisms, including infections, viruses, and fungi; yet, we rarely get sick, usually when the immune system fails. Further, it is a less-than-well understood fact that there is a deep relationship between the brain and the immune system , meaning they consistently communicate and interact with each other.
For example, if there is excessive stimulation of the immune system, possibly through repeated vaccinations or recurrent infections, the brain’s functions can alter, which can lead to a wide array of problems, including depression, learning and memory issues, mental fatigue, confusion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorders  .
Moreover, as we age, the body’s immune system begins to break down, especially if one has poor nutrition and excess abdominal fat, which secretes a specific protein called cytokines.
Consequentially, cytokines trigger inflammation in the brain, which will initiate immunoexcitotoxicity, a chronically destructive process that can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and age-related memory loss.
These cytokines can also cause more acute, less severe symptoms, such as brain fog, confusion, and poor attention, as noted in people with food and seasonal allergy intolerances who experience these symptoms as short-term conditions. This is also why people experience these problems during an infection, dubbed sickness behavior by a 2009 study . This interaction between the brain and the immune system is intensively studied [5-7].
Excess Hormones Can Cause Cancer, Depression, Alzheimer’s
However, the reverse is also true: the brain has a profound influence on immune system function.
For example, being under a high amount of continuous, unrelieved stress can cause the brain to secrete high levels of a hormone-releasing factor called adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), which causes the adrenal gland to release high levels of the hormone cortisol [8-11]. Prolonged, excess levels of these hormones suppress immunity and can increase one’s risk of developing a chronic, uncontrollable infection, or even cancer [12-13].
Cortisol mainly damages the part of the brain the handles learning and memory, as scientists have seen this in people suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) .
The brain can also stimulate another set of immune-related compounds called catecholamines, with the two main types being epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones, as well, have a dampening effect on the immune system [15-17].
Studies have shown that cortisol and catecholamines play a crucial role in protecting the brain and body from excessive immune responses. For example, we have also seen low catecholamine levels in people with Alzheimer’s disease, which is an inflammatory brain disorder.
There is also evidence that by stimulating specific regions of the brain, scientists can also stimulate certain parts of the immune system, which may lead to potential therapeutic implications of neural-immune control, as noted by a 2015 study .
Environmental Toxins Can Impair the Body’s Natural Defenses
Every day, the body is exposed to a wide array of environmental toxins that can lead to disorders, such as immune deficiency, a condition that is linked to autoimmunity, which is a condition that causes the body to attack its own cells.
For example, two of these environmental toxins include mercury and aluminum, and these toxic compounds have been shown to play a role in the development of various disorders, including macrophagic myofasciitis (a painful muscle and brain disorder that involves white blood cells), thyroiditis, lupus, optic neuritis, and encephalitis .
Therefore, newer attention is being brought upon these two compounds, aluminum and mercury, because they are used in vaccines. These two toxic compounds have been linked with a series of devastating disorders called the autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants, or ASIA syndrome.
These two compounds are used adjuvants in vaccines to stimulate an immune response and make vaccines more effective. However, they can also cause a prolonged immune reaction, often leading to autoimmune disease [20-23].
Another common source of chronic immune stimulation is nicotine. Immune cells contain nicotine receptors, and the persistent, long-term stimulation of these cells can heavily suppress cellular immunity . Some researchers are convinced that this mechanism is how smoking can cause cancer, through chronically suppressing cellular immunity, which is the essential part of the immune system for fighting cancer. This function also explains why people who smoke are at a predisposition to get more infections, such as colds, sinusitis, bladder infections, and flu, and have much more difficulty overcoming these infections as well.
Most Immunity Comes from the Gut
Researchers at John Hopkins investigated where in the body the immune system is and stated, “A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract” , and a 2008 study estimated that about 70-80% of the body’s immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract . This makes sense because the gut is the main entry point for invading organisms and toxins that come from the foods people eat. Another good portion of the immune system are the parts of the body that are lined with mucosal cells, such as the nose, mouth, trachea, and lungs, which are also common sites of invasion.
The cell lining in these areas secret the antibody IgA, which binds to potential invaders and prevents them from entering the body. People with very efficient IgA secretion are people who never seem to catch a cold. Contrary, people who have reduced IgA secretion will catch nearly any sickness that comes their way.
However, being able to excrete IgA efficiently is only a good thing to a certain extent. Because these people never get sick, their immune system never gets the chance to strengthen itself, and as a result, the individual is at a higher risk of developing cancer later on in their life. To correct this issue, people can take a cellular immune stimulant, such as beta-1,3 glucan, once a week.
Beneficial Bacteria are Vital
A healthy colon houses a wide variety of bacteria, such as the Lactobacillus strains sporogenes, salvitaris, and acidophilus, and various Bifidobacterium and Candida species. Probiotics have been shown to play a positive role in immune system function in a variety of studies [27-29] and play supporting roles in nutrient absorption, hormone metabolism, and protecting the colon from an overgrowth of unhealthy, disease-causing bacteria. These organisms also help to keep the immune system active and prevent immune overactivity.
One of the more critical, live compounds in the gut is the Candida species of fungi. These species contain within their cell walls a chemical called beta-glucan, which is a powerful stimulate for cellular immunity. However, the level of beta-glucan in the immune system has to be carefully controlled because too high of levels can cause the immune system to be overwhelmed, and instead of being stimulated, the immune system will be suppressed.
The use of broad-spectrum antibiotics or chemotherapy can also fuel the growth of Candida species in the colon – hence why the immune system functions poorly; there is so much beta-glucan that the immune system is overwhelmed. Also, similar to food allergies, excess Candida can cause inflammation in the nervous system, which can cause headaches, confusion, attention deficit problems, and learning and memory difficulties .
In 2001, researchers discovered that several antibiotic medications could suppress immunity, which is especially true for the tetracycline group of antibiotics, such as doxycycline . Ironically, immunity was suppressed too well that these antibiotics are used to treat conditions where there is excessive cellular immune activity, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Immune Function Declines with Age
It is a given truth that as we age, the efficacy of the immune system begins to decline, which is the most considerable impairment to cellular immunity. This might help explain the rising incidence of cancer in older adults.
Because the immune system becomes to incorrectly out of balance, the brain and body become more inflamed, which can lead to an array of problems, including achy joints, acceleration of atherosclerosis, increased risk of heart failure, failing kidneys, difficulty fighting off infections, shortness of breath, and loss of vision . Although these symptoms are associated with old age, they are genuinely associated with a poorly balanced immune system. Further, an aging immune system will have inflated levels of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines.
Additionally, within the brain, there is a particular immune system called the microglial system, which operated very similarly to the cellular immune system of the body. However, the microglial system can excrete a group of toxic chemicals called excitotoxins, which primarily consist of glutamate and quinolinic acid.
When the body’s immune system is stuck in a chronic, inflammatory state, the immune system will send signals to the brain to activate the release of microglia, and if this repeatedly occurs, like in recurrent infections, food allergies, and repeated vaccinations, the microglia immune cells shift into high-gear and release extreme levels of excitotoxins.
Because of these inflammatory compounds in the brain, the brain begins to inflame, and a whole sort of problems can arise, such as memory loss, poor attention, disorientation, and confusion. This age-related memory loss is also associated with early signs of dementia development. However, in the early stages, things are still reversible. Though, sadly, those who experience these inflammatory processes at a higher rate are at a more significant proportion of developing dementia.
Inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease
In a study published in 2000, researchers even found that in the early developmental stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain activates microglia. Thus, researchers characterized the activation of brain microglia as one of the first actions in the development of the disease, and the activation worsens as the disease progresses .
These studies have also shown that chronic immunoexcitotoxicity can produce all of the pathological findings commonly seen in Alzheimer’s, such as dying neurons in selected areas of the brain, amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and brain atrophy (shrinkage).
Many factors can attribute to these phenomena, such as exposure to mercury, aluminum, lead, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, repeated brain trauma, and repeated inflammation or vaccinations, and this is the primary reason why so many factors are associated with Alzheimer’s disease; all trigger or worsen brain inflammation and excitotoxicity through activation of microglia. It is essential we continue to educate people about these causes because even large amounts of today’s mainstream doctors seem to be unaware.
For example, studies have shown that gut inflammation, as seen in ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and allergies to gliadin/gluten, rapidly stimulate microglial activation in the brain, which results in brain inflammation [34-35]. A 2008 study even showed that a minor surgery, such as having a mole removed, will increase microglial action in the brain .
Contrary, proper nutrition can help to reduce gut inflammation and therefore reduce the risk of microglial activation and the associated illnesses.
This also helps to explain the link between repeated infections, vaccinations, and depression in elderly adults ; the gut plays its role because in many elderly people protective bacteria and bacteria are in an imbalance and no longer provide the necessary immune protection, since when proper probiotic organisms are supplied to the colon, they can help prevent excessive brain inflammation. Rarely, doctors understand and note this relationship.
This can also help to explain why one’s risk of Alzheimer’s increased from 5% at age 70 to 80% after the age of 80. This increase helps to show the brain’s vulnerability to excitotoxicity rising with age.
The Danger of an Unhealthy Diet
We have examined some of the effects of an unhealthy diet high in processed foods, such as increased rates of diseases, having a deteriorated microbiome, having a child who is at a higher chance of preferring processed foods, and having an overall less healthy life . Specific compounds though, such as omega-6 fatty acids and fluoride, are of particular concern.
The Western diet is one of the unhealthiest diets in the world, and researchers are beginning to research and understand the consequences of a diet high in specific foods . For example, the Western diet traditionally contains enormous levels of omega-6 fats, and studies have demonstrated that consumption of these fats in excess dramatically increases someone’s risk of neurodegenerative disorders because of the amount of inflammation they cause . In turn, this can help explain the frightening number of neurological diseases and occurrences in the United States, when compared to previous generations.
Saturated fats are not nearly as harmful as omega-6 fats, which continue to be promoted as healthy by the health authorities; however, excess saturated fats can also cause inflammation because they can contain a large number of industrial chemicals and environmental pollutants, since most saturated fats are animal sources and these compounds are stored in animal fat because they are fat-soluble.
Further, American drinking water has been long-polluted with toxic compounds, including industrial pollutants, fluoride, chlorine, and aluminum [41-42]. There is evidence that suggests some of these elements can combine into the highly toxic compounds called fluoroaluminum, which can cause damage to brain microvessels, trigger chronic brain inflammation, and cause immunoexcititixicity, even in concentrations at or below those being added to drinking water . Numerous studies have shown that fluoride is linked to cancer, bone fractures, lowered IQ, childhood development issues, reproductive problems, and chronic brain degeneration [41, 44-46].
These compounds, including fluoride, can be removed from drinking water through distillation or reverse osmosis systems.
The Immune System’s Relationship with the Heart
The cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels, is also connected to the immune system, in addition to the nervous system. There is an increasing amount of research that there is a secure connection between the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems since studies have shown that inflammation plays a predominant role in cardiovascular diseases, especially in atherosclerosis [arterial plaquing] and heart failure [congestive heart failure] .
Also, research has shown that the progression and prognosis in heart failure patients can be indicated and tracked by specific inflammatory markers, such as hsCRP, TNH-alpha, and IL-6, and there is substantial research to suggest that high blood pressure is related to inflammation, as noted in a 2006 study [48-49]. Elevated hsCRP, which is a highly sensitive measurement of inflammation, can help to predict who will have high blood pressure. This can also help illuminate who blood pressure is typically lowered in patients who take antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, including the flavonoids quercetin and curcumin.
However, this raises the question: is inflammation causing heart disease or a response to heart disease?
Studies have shown that drugs that block TNH-alpha seemed to help lower heart disease risks initially but then made things worse; therefore, it TNH-alpha is a significant factor in heart disease risk, why did lowering its level not work to reduce the risk of the condition? Research has shown that when TNH-alpha levels are elevated, glutathione [which is a significant antioxidant] levels in the heart begin to decrease. Therefore, it was concluded that lowering TNH-alpha levels in cardiovascular muscle cells leave the cells vulnerable to oxidative damage.
In a 2005 study, researchers investigated the protective effects of N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) and found when the NAC was added to people’s diets, their glutathione deficiency was amended, which significantly improved the patients’ heart disease . The researchers also noted that NAC prevented pathological damage to the cardiovascular muscle and lowered TNF-alpha levels to normal, which makes NAC a promising alternative to conventional treatment.
In this article, we reviewed the broad view of the immune system and how it interlocks with the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Much of the immune system is housed in the gastrointestinal tract, and when the gut becomes damaged through environmental toxins and processed foods, information can occur and decrease cellular immunity. This inflammation has been linked to a wide array of ailments, including memory loss-related diseases.
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