Shining the Light on the Immune System: Part 5 – Meet Your Adaptive Immunity

Thank you for the positive feedback on this immunity series! I’ve gotten comments like ‘thanks so much for filling in the void of what we’re NOT hearing’ and ‘I love how you walk the line in your approach.’ As safe as natural healing approaches are, shouldn’t they be a mainstay of our health care prevention?

Hygiene and distancing are one part of the equation for our current times. Supporting immune resilience through natural methods is JUST as important. So WHY are we hearing NOTHING about this?!

Well, unfortunately, the FDA widely censors information about natural healing methods that aren’t ‘FDA approved’ in order to protect consumers from those making ‘false claims.’ As you know, the sheer cost of the FDA approval process is prohibitive. We’re living in a time when naturopathic doctors and other holistic health practitioners are under a watchful eye – it’s not uncommon for us to be asked to remove articles from our websites chock full of helpful information. In truth, we’re not making false claims. Just offering suggestions that support longer term prevention.If preventative health information was widespread or even on the news, imagine how many lives could be supported or even saved? 

If you’re interested in taking action on this, scroll to the bottom.Here’s a link to parts 1-3 of the immunity series if you missed a part or want to refresh. Here’s a webinar that the NDs of VA created at the beginning of the pandemic to support immune resilience. It’s loaded with a plethora of on point information about prevention. (Check out our licensure movement! Note: If you contribute, I’m personally giving away thank you gifts. More on that in the P.S.)

OK, so now, let’s approach the arena of our adaptive immune response. Adaptive immunity is the most specialized and complex aspect of the immune system, so we’ll take a few posts to break it down into pieces you can digest, and start with an overview. As I highlighted before, the adaptive immune response is set to come online when pathogens have crossed the barrier and then have also gone onto defy the innate defense. 
The barriers and innate responses have still done their job to slow down microbial growth while allowing time for the adaptive response to strengthen. The innate response had also been working behind the scenes the entire time, sending messages to prepare the adaptive system for the microbial invasion. 

Our lymphocytes (white blood cells) are by and large the reason why the adaptive immune response is so astonishingly specific. First, a little background – there are two types of lymphocytes: T cells and B cells, both derived from the same stem cells that give rise to red blood cells and platelets. T cells and B cells are named after the organs in which they develop -T cells develop in the thymus, while B cells develop in the bone marrow.

These types of adaptive immune cells – B and T lymphocytes have receptors on their surfaces that recognize antigens – the particles associated with microbes. The adaptive immune response to these antigens is so versatile that it can develop as many as 100 trillion different receptors to recognize and respond to every conceivable pathogen, even COVID19.

The adaptive response is as thorough as it is robust. Think of it as occurring in stages – a primary response builds a memory which leads to an effective secondary response. A primary adaptive response happens when you get exposed to a pathogen for the very first time. It is this first infection that is more severe as it takes time for the initial adaptive response to create the necessary antibodies. 

Then, when we’re re-exposed to the same pathogen, a secondary adaptive immune response gets created, which is much stronger and faster than the primary response. In fact, this response often eliminates a pathogen completely before it’s able to cause significant tissue damage, or even symptoms. When this is happening, the individual is not even aware of the infection. Just think how many times we’re successfully fighting something and don’t even know it?

It’s this very secondary response that is the basis of immunological memory, which protects us from getting diseases repeatedly from the same pathogen.

I want to close with a very important feature of our adaptive immune response that could be a course in and of itself. ‘Tolerance’ is  the ability to tell the difference between ‘self-antigens’ and foreign antigens (and of those foreign antigens, those that might be infectious vs harmless tree pollen). 

As T and B cells mature, tolerance develops – these include the mechanisms that prevent the lymphocytes from inflicting an immune response against the body. Allergies and auto-immunity result when tolerance isn’t effective. It’s also this very reason that I prefer to use the term ‘immune support’ or resilience versus immune ‘boost’ as auto-immunity and allergies result from an overpowered immune response.

As you can see, the adaptive immune system is powerful and dynamic. It operates like a finely tuned orchestra, so what we’re aiming to support is optimal function. There is a balance of factors that come into play, and I notice in my body that when I over-treat a cold/flu that I can tend to swing in the direction of allergies afterwards. I see a big trend towards ‘bio-hacking’ and loading up the body with vitamins in an attempt to stave off infection, but we need to consider the whole picture and allow our bodies to do the job they are naturally designed to. This is a more vitalistic approach, a gentler less invasive approach that honors our body’s inherent healing capacity.

In a way, it’s getting back to the basics where technology and science have driven us further away from. To tune inwards versus outwards and trust what our gut is saying – this is after all where 80% of our immune cells reside!
Support Access to Natural Health ApproachesMovement to License ND’s in Virginia

For 15-years, I’ve had the opportunity to help get naturopathic doctors licensed in Virginia. They’re currently licensed in 22 states and 3 jurisdictions in the US, with active licensure movements in several states—Pennsylvania and North Carolina are so close to victory. In Virginia, we’re making connections, growing our support base, while chipping away at an extremely old and outdated structure (the Med Society of Virginia has its hands DEEP in the regulation of EVERY health profession in the state).   It’s taken time and persistence, and I now understand the adage: ‘never give up.’ Our bill is already pre-filed for 2021, our bill sponsors are Senator Chap Petersen and Delegate Rasoul – both of whom championed us last year. We have a lot of work to do, but we feel optimistic from all the support we’ve gained.  A license will finally allow NDs in Virginia (who currently practice as health consultants) to:   touch our patients, order labs, order diagnostic imaging, legally ‘diagnose’ and ‘treat,’ and provide the codes necessary for insurance reimbursement. We’ve seen our support grow immensely in the past few years and we hope to gain your support too! (I’m personally giving gifts to those who participate.) Check out our website to sign up for action alerts and a GoFundMe campaign to stay informed and become part of the solution..

Action Alerts to Protect Access to Natural HealthThe ANH is the largest organization in the US and abroad working to protect our rights to utilize effective, safe, and low-cost healing therapies, based on high-tech testing, diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes.   Take a look,  – they are doing some serious health care reform work.