Healthy immune system function
The human immune system is an incredibly complex network of specialised cells. It has many moving parts that must all communicate and cooperate in order to do its main job -- protect us from invading pathogens. The threat of infection by invading pathogens is a daily occurrence, however, continual surveillance by our immune system ensures that majority of these threats never prevail.
Pathogens that make it past our frontline immune defences and cause infection trigger a cascade of events including the inflammatory response. Immune cells are recruited to contain and engulf the pathogen and resolve infection. Our immune system also cleverly creates specialised memory cells, so that the next time that specific pathogen is detected, the immune system can mount a quicker response.
The immune system also has a self-regulating mechanism that minimises damage to our cells during an acute response. Specialised cells, called regulatory T-cells, suppress the immune response once the invading pathogen has been eradicated and threat has passed. When this regulatory process is working efficiently, the immune system is kept in check.
What can go wrong with the immune system?
The production and activity of our immune cells is highly dependant on the availability of specific nutrients. Thus, nutrient deficiencies can significantly deplete our immune defences and leave us more vulnerable to infections.
In some individuals, there is dysfunction in the self-regulatory behaviour and activity of the regulatory T-cells, which can result in the development of allergies or autoimmune disease.
Exactly why this dysfunction occurs is not entirely clear. Genetics have been found to play a role, but not all individuals that have a genetic predisposition go on to develop disease. Researchers have found that dysbiosis (microbial imbalances) in the microbiome are associated with the development of both allergies and autoimmune diseases. Environmental factors and our modern lifestyle substantially impact immune function and regulation.
Nourishing the immune system
The correction of nutrition deficiencies and nourishing the microbiome can do wonders for immune function and resilience. By providing our bodies with the right building blocks (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and tools (nutrient co-factors), our immune system is able to keep up with supply and demand, and maintain our immunological defences.
In the case of allergic or autoimmune disease, once condition develops in an individual, it is unlikely to ever completely resolve. However, it is possible to achieve remission. An individualised approach, that incorporates a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes, pharmaceutical medications (in some cases), herbal medicine and nutritional supplementation, can greatly reduce severity of symptoms and pave the path to remission.