Priming Our Natural First Line of Defense
Did you know that our bodies are naturally equipped with both physical and physiological defenses against infection? If you’re following the media closely during this time, you may be led to believe that a pathogen can just merely enter the body. Nothing is farther from the truth! Our skin barrier is constantly working on our behalf to prevent microbes and pathogens from entering.
Just beyond our natural barrier response, we’re also well-equipped with innate and adaptive immunity. So we have not one, but two immune systems at the ready to fight infection. We’ll talk more about this later.
Let’s get back to our physical barriers. The skin, covered with a layer of cells that is too dry for bacteria to colonize, is also shedding these cells continuously – carrying bacteria and other pathogens with them. Also, sweat and other skin secretions lower pH, contain toxic lipids, and physically wash microbes away.
We also have many other protective mechanisms that are associated with any areas where pathogens may try to enter:
~Saliva in the mouth is rich in the bacteria destroying lysozyme.
The acidic environment of the stomach is fatal to many pathogens.
~Mucus layer of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, reproductive tract, eyes, ears, and nose traps both microbes and debris, and facilitates their removal.
~IgA is a natural surface antibody present on all of these mucous membranes (also present in tears, sweat, saliva, and colostrum) it neutralizes viruses and toxins, and inhibits microbial growth.
~Cilia of the upper respiratory system moves contaminated mucus upwards to the mouth, where it is then swallowed into the digestive tract, ending up in the harsh acidic environment of the stomach.
As you can see, we have multiple barrier mechanisms that have evolved to work hand in hand to protect us from viruses. Before a microbe, virus, or other foreign invader can even gain entry, it must breach this variety of physical defenses.
Aren’t our bodies amazing? All of this protection, and we haven’t even gotten to the physiologic immune response yet! We’ll get into that in part two of the series.
Some simple ways to support our natural barriers:
~Optimal hydration to promote healthy mucous membranes – consider drinking spring water, structured water, or adding in trace minerals for absorption.
~Licorice is my favorite herb for bolstering this defense as it supports the integrity of the respiratory and GI mucous membranes
~Consider Propolis – quite fitting that the substance bees use to seal off their hives is also powerful for building the natural resistance of our barrier mechanisms. (Take caution if you’re sensitive to bees/bee products.)
~Dry skin brushing to support sloughing of dead skin cells and circulation of the lymph which is critical for optimal immune function.