repair your immune system, the natural way
Dr Jess says: Worldwide, three in five of us will die of chronic diseases related to inflammation. Despite people having heard of inflammation, most don’t really understand what it means.
Inflammation is a normal response to protect our body from potential toxins and biohazards, by producing a low level of inflammatory chemicals, cell responses and antibodies. But if we develop too much inflammation, healthy tissue can become damaged. Over an extended period of time, we can develop autoimmune diseases like hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis or psoriasis. Or we can develop chronic inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes or even cancer. Our immune system is at the root of most diseases. Harnessing its power to heal instead of harm can help us to feel great!
Our immune system is a group of cells, organs and tissues that work together to defend the body against infection, repair damage and maintain our overall health. Without our immune system, we would die; killed by an infection, like the common cold or the ‘flu.
Our immune system helps us deal with injuries, repairs damage to our cells, prevents cancer and lives in an amazing synergy with the trillions of bacteria and other organisms which live on and in us (mainly in our gut).
When our immune system goes wrong it can be catastrophic, resulting in fatal infections, aggressive cancer or autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or ulcerative colitis.
Most of us have experienced a problem with our immune system at some point in our lives. These problems can present as allergies (the immune system reacting to the wrong thing), hay fever, skin problems like eczema or psoriasis (our immune system attacking our skin), joint pain (inflammation) or frequent infections (colds, coughs, urinary or skin infections). When our immune system is overworked, it can lead to chronic inflammation.
what is inflammation?
When our body is injured by trauma, invading viruses or bacteria, our inbuilt immune defence system kicks in. This might occur if you injure your knee, have a sore throat or develop a skin rash.
The immune system activates itself to send chemicals, cells and a system-wide response in an attempt to defend the body and repair the damage. This is a healthy response that keeps us alive, but sometimes, it can go wrong. Chronic (long term) inflammation is at the root of many diseases: autoimmune diseases, heart disease, eczema, diabetes, cancer, dementia, autism, obesity, premature ageing, asthma and arthritis.
how does chronic (long term) inflammation develop?
The immune defence system can fail to switch off, or get inappropriately triggered, creating ongoing inflammation. This immune response can create many symptoms and long term (chronic) illnesses.
This low-level inflammation can be happening inside us for many years, damaging our cells and organs and leading to the conditions above, despite us feeling well and healthy.
One of the most important causes of chronic inflammation in the body and the development of autoimmune diseases is intestinal permeability. When the walls of the gut are damaged, they become leaky. This allows much bigger than usual particles to move through the gut wall (usually it is like a fine mesh sieve, only allowing small particles through).
One of the most dangerous particles that can move through the gut wall is lipopolysaccharide (LPS); a toxin that is produced when good bacteria or our immune system kills infectious or bad bacteria. In healthy people whose guts are not leaky, LPS is safely excreted in their stool. In those with leaky guts, when large amounts of LPS move through the gut wall, it can trigger widespread inflammation and tissue damage over time in a condition called endotoxemia. Raised LPS levels have also been found in patients with anxiety and depression.1
how could chronic inflammation affect me?
When we are suffering from chronic low-level inflammation (a broken immune system), symptoms can include:
- Feeling very tired (fatigue)
- Stiffness and aching
- Joint pain
- Brain fog, or poor memory
- Weight gain
- Depression and anxiety
- Hormonal problems
- Digestive symptoms
- Sinus problems
- Skin rashes
- Headaches and migraines
- High blood pressure
- Poor circulation
- Premature ageing
can I test for inflammation?
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- Stevens BR, Goel R, Seungbum K, et al.Increased human intestinal barrier permeability plasma biomarkers zonulin and FABP2 correlated with plasma LPS and altered gut microbiome in anxiety or depression Gut. 2018;67(8):1555-1557. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314759
- Eriksson C, Kokkonen H, Johansson M, Hallmans G, Wadell G, Rantapää-Dahlqvist S. Autoantibodies predate the onset of systemic lupus erythematosus in northern Sweden. Arthritis Res Ther. 2011 Feb 22;13(1):R30. doi: 10.1186/ar3258. PMID: 21342502; PMCID: PMC3241374.
- Hutfless S, Matos P, Talor MV, Caturegli P, Rose NR. Significance of prediagnostic thyroid antibodies in women with autoimmune thyroid disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Sep;96(9):E1466-71. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-0228. Epub 2011 Jun 29. PMID: 21715532; PMCID: PMC3167665.
- Dimitrov S, Hulteng E, Hong S. Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β2-adrenergic activation. Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Mar;61:60-68. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.12.017. Epub 2016 Dec 21. PMID: 28011264; PMCID: PMC6555138.