The Immune System
- Without Nutrition, you're fighting with no weapons
- Without Immunity, you're fighting with no army
- Without a healthy Microbiome, you've got no immunity
"Our immune cells receive all kinds of messaging from life's experiences, and they remember it, good and bad. What's most exciting about the science I've seen emerge over this past decade is the concept of rejuvenating immune function - rebooting the system to receive new, healthy influences. "
Jeffrey Bland, PhD, Big Bold Health
Ever had your car go wrong? Imagine taking it to your local garage, and you tell the mechanic that it doesn't sound right. The mechanic turns to you and says, ”Turn the radio up. Can you still hear it?”
I think we'd all agree that we'd try a different garage, but when it comes to health, turning the radio up to ignore the symptoms will only make that inner-engine get worse.
... yet 50-odd years ago, science didn't know much about immunity, because there wasn't the technology to measure or identify it. However, today there are more and more studies talking about breakthroughs in immunotherapy, and how the immune system is now being tapped into in a very specific manner, instead of a global symptom-masking monopoly practice.
It's also now known that the lungs, intestines, skin, and other vital organs have their own unique immune cells. These special cells can live their entire lives in one organ, and dedicate 100% of their time to defending it. There's also a universe of highly specialised immune cells coursing through the bloodstream every second of every day, and the brain even has its own separate immune system too.
These days there's also a growing body of research examining the relationship between the gut microbiome and cells in the intestinal mucosal immune system, shedding light on optimising immune function and resilience.
This is a big deal when it comes to optimising health and enhancing longevity. These communities of immune cells affect how well a body ages, how it feels, and how it responds to life’s challenges both daily and in the future.
The immune system is where the most basic changes in health and function are coordinated, especially as a body ages. Immune cells are genetically programmed by past ancestral experiences, yet interacting with daily environment and lifestyle choices, they use the intelligence they’ve gathered to bring the body's genetic operating systems up to date. We get this wrong at our peril - life's stressors, a sedentary lifestyle and an inappropriate pro-inflammatory diet leading to gut dysbiosis, all impact immune response and are the most common ways of sending a stop-signal to rejuvenation because they create inflammation. And once we've got inflammation, we're on a slippery downwards slope.
Anyone who's had a sore throat, rash, hives, or a sprained ankle knows about inflammation. Inflammation is a normal appropriate response of our defence system to infection or trauma - we need inflammation to survive.
The trouble occurs when that defence system runs out of control, like a rebel army bent on destroying its own country. Whether in us or our horses, most of us are familiar with overactive immune responses and too much inflammation in common conditions like allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disease or asthma/pollen reactions. But hidden, deep-rooted inflammation is now known to be at the root of all chronic human illnesses - heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, cancer, even autism. We may feel healthy, but if this inflammation is raging inside of us, then we have a problem. And what causes the problem? Simple. Too many inflammatory foods and not enough anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammation is a biochemical cascade that runs upstream from the cells, through the tissue, organs and systems. This can take around 48hrs from the initial trigger, leading to a swelling in the soft tissue - this is the pain stage. Same as for us if we’re travelling on a plane and our feet swell - it hurts like heck because the swelling can’t go anywhere, and worse, we know if we take the shoe off we’ll never get it back on again. Hence why a horse in the throes of acute laminitis experiences agonising pain, because the inflammatory pressure is completely trapped inside that solid hoof capsule and can't go anywhere.
So what's the best way to control inflammation? First, identify the triggers and causes of the inflammation, then help the body’s natural immunity reset by providing the right conditions for it to thrive.
The good news is that the default state of the body is one of continual cellular regeneration. Without this process, the body simply would not exist. However, when the body is sick, this re-generative process is overcome by a de-generative one. This is where nutrition comes in - species-appropriate food is medicine, able to fuel the body back into healthy balance by supporting the immune system to full strength again.
However - and here's the 'but' - conventional medicine treats the downstream effects of inflammation, from the top down, instead of addressing the cause from the deep cellular inflammatory site upwards. Today's drug-based monopoly medicine invariably uses chemicals that have not one iota of regenerative potential, and almost always interfere with the body's own self-renewal system, because all they're doing is suppressing the symptoms - blocking the symptoms - which only drives the problem deeper.
The long and short is that no matter how much we put a sticky plaster over the problem, or turn up that radio, and other than the misfortune of injury, functioning health revolves around the immune system firing on all cylinders, which relies entirely on 3 factors:
So how do we do it? Plant Power! Phytonutrients - those natural chemicals and compounds produced by plants - keep plants healthy, protecting them from invaders such as moulds, toxins and insects. Phytonutrients help plants thrive and survive, especially under difficult environmental and climatic conditions, and when we - human or horse - consume these plant nutrients, we gain their benefits.
While there are many ways food can trigger inflammation, food is also the most powerful source of anti-inflammatory compounds. Literally thousands of phytochemicals are powerful anti-inflammatories, with the polyphenols in plant foods are among nature's best inflammation-fighting compounds.
Spices are anti-inflammatory powerhouses - turmeric and ginger, and the 'oily herbs', full of polyphenols - rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme (aka our BiomeTonic blend), as well as Omega 3 EFAs fats found in micronised linseed. Mushrooms such as Reishi contain powerful immune regulating and anti-cancer compounds called polysaccharides, and foods rich in natural vitamins and minerals boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Vitamin D alone regulates hundreds of genes that affect inflammation and immunity, so keep rugs off so your horse's skin can absorb the sun.
Food is medicine. Nutrients are information. Immune cells are a communication network. Immuno-rejuvenation is the future.
Jeffrey Bland, PhD, Big Bold Health
So, first up, let's look at the importance of the immune system, and how Without an Immune System, you're fighting with No Army, because when the immune system's sick, the body's sick.