Shining the Light on Our Immune System – Part 3 – Chemical Attraction

Before we dive into part three, I have an important update on the movement to license medically-trained NDs in Virginia – if you’re following, it’s been a 15-year labor of love! Scroll down to the bottom for more information.

Knowledge is truly empowering. As I’ve dug deeper into the ins and outs of our adaptable and robust immune response, I’m becoming more confident in my body’s ability to defend itself. We’re in the long haul right now, and when the body is in constant fear, it works against our resilience. Today I want to highlight some of the stealth signaling molecules behind the scenes who are responsible for keeping you well.

Some are alive and  ready—part of a built in communication system. While others are created in real time when you need backup. You may be hearing about ‘cytokines’ from the ‘cytokine storm’ that happens in those who get the severest form of Covid. A cytokine storm is a rare event that happens with an uncontrolled immune response (imagine having your foot glued to the gas). It happens in people with chronic disease, who have multiple sick organs, or those who have severe inflammation. Normally, cytokines enable cells to communicate with each other over short distances. They’re very important signaling agents that get released into the space between cells. They trigger the inflammatory response and mobilize key players of immune function.

Chemokines are also always at the ready and are able to attract white blood cells to an area to fight infection.

Our innate response also induces classes of molecules on an as needed basis:
interferons are made by cells infected with viruses. These brilliant molecules then travel to other cells telling them to make antiviral proteins.

C reactive protein is made in the liver and it binds to the bacterial cell walls in a type of ‘tagging’ – known by the fancy term ‘opsonization.’ 

Macrophages (remember Pac Man?) have receptors for these very proteins, so they easily ‘see’ the bacteria, and are able to devour them. 

Lastly, let’s briefly mention the 30 proteins or so which make up the complement system – an entire complex system that involves three different pathways, enhancing (complements) the ability of both the innate response and the adaptive response – which we’ll talk about next time! This system is usually maintained in check by inhibitor proteins, it has a variety of triggers that cause its irreversible activation. The result of this activation is bacterial destruction, phagocytosis, and inflammation.

What a thorough and robust system we have!I

I wanted to end with a brief share of one of my absolute favorite immune herbs- black elderberriesBlack elderberries are a go-to for preventing viral infection for so many reasons, one in particular is its ability to support cytokine function. As we read earlier, cytokines are important signaling agents that turn on the immune response. This plant got a really bad rap earlier on in the pandemic with a misinterpretation of a 19-year old study done on elderberry using test tubes, not people. Someone started the false claim that the herb could induce a cytokine storm. Not true. Read this article which refutes the idea. Black elderberries are safe, effective, and well-tolerated, it is my go-to for the Fall transition. In fact, I make my own big batch every year. Let me know if you’re interested! 
Want to get Fall-ready?  Meet us under the tent outside for the Flow into Immune Resilience Workshop September 13th at Ease Yoga and Cafe. Enjoy gentle yoga, a lively discussion on immunity, and a deeply restorative meditation It’s almost full (there’s only space for 16 people)! Learn more, sign up, and prepare to boost your immunity. You’ll receive a bag of handmade ‘Immun-I-Tea’ for coming. 🙂