Have you ever wondered what your pet’s immune system ( or yours as well) does all day? You guess it must work hard but does it get tired or worn out like other parts of the body? Does it require medical care like a heart or a liver? If it breaks down, how can it be fixed? Why does one dog (or human) become ill and another doesn’t? Three healthy people can breathe the same germs at the same moment and one may develop pneumonia, another a cold, and the third nothing. This suggests that susceptibility is individual. Evidence suggests that germs don’t jump into us and cause disease. A germ does indeed challenge the body but the end result is entirely dependent on the body’s ability to resist through its defense system.
In many ways, the immune system is the most magnificent system in the body and it rivals the brain in terms of complexity, subtlety, and self awareness. Yet it can be the most ignored system in day to day living. Indeed it works so well we and the people we depend on for medical care tend to forget about it. We even seem to do everything in our power to destroy it. For example, just one can of soda will depress the immune system by 50% for six hours. We and our pets can’t be in good health nor can we eliminate a disease until our immune systems are working at optimum efficiency. Without an immune system we and our pets would quickly fall prey to almost every bacteria, virus, and parasite in our world. Our self could not protect itself from non-self. And the body would age at an alarming speed.
The prime role of an immune system is protection. It does its job by being a complex organ- ization, delegating responsibility to its many parts. It rivals the great mega-complex companies and international giants. It functions by two separate but inter-connected branches: humoral immunity and cell-mediated, or cellular immunity. The humoral part relies greatly on blood borne factors: the types of blood cells and their sub groups, and the antibodies the blood cells produce. Cellular immunity does not depend on antibody response. It recognizes intruders directly. Both types provide constant surveillance. It can quickly respond to foreign organisms and mount a campaign using its specialized cells to destroy them or it can neutralizes their disease effect by eliminating their toxins.
The system stands guard over the cells in the body ensuring that they do not become abnormal. Every immune system has the capacity not only to identify every single cell in the body but recognizing it as “friendly” or “foreign”, belonging or not belonging. If it identifies a foreign invader it quickly develops a customized defense weapon to target specifically the weak spots of the intruder. Next, it rapidly reproduces the weapons it needs in massive quantities to crush the intruder. Once the threat is eliminated the system has the awareness to shut itself off.
As wonderful as this level of protection is, there is yet another amazing aspect of the immune system: its intelligence. Once it has defeated an invader, the immune system remembers that invader and the defenses it used to defeat it. If it should meet the invader again, even years later, it will mount a defense instantly. Furthermore, it is so sophisticated that it can identify a cell as “going over to the enemy” as it were. Out of all the trillions of cells in a body, the\ immune system can tell which one single cell has mutated and become abnormal, even cancerous. It is able in most cases to destroy it before it can do harm. And it does this thousands of times a day! And this remarkable system has the ability to communicate with each and every part of itself.
Obviously, the system has to have the parts, and in good working order, to function at all these levels. The parts all begin in blood cells, both red and white which begin their lives as stem cells in the bone marrow. At some point, these undifferentiated stem cells begin to develop into red or oxygen bearing cells or white cells of the immune system with their individual characteristics. Those that are white become leukocytes which will further differentiate into four main types: the lymphocytes, phagocytes, granulocytes and dendritic cells.
Lymphocytes are the key operatives of the entire system numbering about 1 trillion in a healthy body. They also divide into three main classes: the B- cells, T-cells, and NK ( natural killer cells). Each B-cell is programmed to make one specific antibody to defend itself against one specific invader. For example, one B-cell produces an antibody to defend the body against only one particular strain of flu, while another B-cell produces the antibody for a different strain of flu.
The T-cells are smarter. Not only do they know the difference between cells of the body and invading cells, they are also able to distinguish between normal healthy cells and mutated rogue cells. T-cells carry markers on their surface. They all have a T-3 marker identification; but some carry a T-4 marker which makes them “helper” cells. They help activate many of the different sub types of cells of the system. Then some carry a T-8 marker making them capable of identifying rogue mutated cells and cells invaded by a virus. This sub group is also known as Cytotoxic T-cells or “suppressor cells” and have a big killer instinct. They attack and disintegrate cells that have been infected or are malignant.
The NK cells will attack a whole range of microbes; they are non-discriminating. In addition they particularly like to go after tumor cells. They kill on contact through lethal blasts of potent chemicals that can burn holes in target cells causing them to leak, burst open, and die.
The next general group are the phagocytes, large white cells that eat and digest pathogens. The group consists of monocytes, neutrophils, and macrophages. Monocytes migrate to the site of an invasion when needed and once stimulated become macrophages. The macrophages are thought to play a primary role in anticancer immunity. Stimulation of macrophage activity has been associated with decreased tumor growth as well as decreased tumor incidence. Their key role is as scavengers eating up worn out cells and other wastes of the body. Of interest to researchers is the fact that macrophages play a key role in fasting. When you put a pet on a fast, he is not creating new waste in the body; one of the benefits of a fast is giving the macro- phages a chance to get ahead of the game in terms of cleaning out the long-standing debris.
Dendritic cells with long threadlike tentacles wrap up used, impotent lymphocytes and carry them off for removal.
Granulocytes are the last group and include eaosiniphils, basophils, neutrophils, and mast cells. Eosiniphils like to eat parasites; neutrophils enjoy bacteria and dead matter; and basophils go to work in allergic responses.
Organs play key roles in immune response; therefore removal of an organ such as the spleen may have serious compromises of the immune system. The major players - bone marrow which produces the cells of the system, the thymus which trains the T-cells, the lymph nodes whose role it is to transport the cells throughout the body, the spleen that serves as a staging area and a blood filtration plant, the tonsils, adenoids and the appendix -every one is important and irreplaceable.
There is also a complementary immune system, a secondary system which kicks in when the immune system is totally overwhelmed. It is made of 25 (approx.) protein/enzymes that activate in a cascading sequence and end with what’s called the “membrane attack complex”. The name describes the action: the complex attacks the cell walls -the membranes- of the invaders. This system can also help rid “circulating immune complexes” which are proteins not digested in the intestines that leak out into the bloodstream looking for all intents and purposes as “foreigners”. The complexes provoke attack and in large numbers will initiate an “allergic” reaction. They will accumulate in the body’s soft tissues causing inflammation and become insti- gators of an auto immune problem.
We see how the immune system works, how it identifies invaders and mounts a response, but how does it communicate with itself? The answer is through powerful messengers secreted by the cells called cytokines. You probably have heard of Interferon, but there is also Tumor Necrosis Factor, and Interleukins, billions of tiny messengers carrying on intelligent checks and balances throughout the immune system - guiding, regulating, marshaling it, and resting it.
Whenever T- or B-cells become activated some will end up as memory cells. They encode a “memory” of the specific antigen associated with the invader; if there is a next time, the system will respond without delay.
With all these resources, you would think the system to be invulnerable. Not true . There are problems that can and do occur. The immune system can be overwhelmed by too many invaders. This is very common in natural disasters such as rescuers saw in left-behind Katrina dogs and the search and rescue dogs of 9/11. Or the immune system becomes weakened and vulnerable as a result. A dog with a recurrent or chronic infection will live in a cycle of repeated infection, damage, and subsequently less resistance. The system can become mis-programmed and loses its ability to identify invaders or mutated cells. And the system becomes mis-programmed in another way and mistakenly identifies healthy cells as the enemy and begins to destroy itself. And of course there are the dogs (and humans) who are born missing some key component. The first four cases can in the most part be corrected. Even when the body is lacking key components and options are limited, it is not necessarily hopeless.
Since the purpose of the body’s immune system is to defend against attack and initiate repair, the better it does it, the healthier the body. To help this process, we need to address the key area we’ve identified. We have to improve overall immune function- optimize it. And we need to give the system help in its targeting of all pathogens. We can do this. It is within our means to improve the functioning of the immune system and we don’t need to use expensive measures. We can adopt an approach of utilizing natural agents which are far safer than the drug approach, having far fewer side-effects, and which provide far more powerful effects then their pharmaceutical counterparts.
The body produces lactoferrin a cytokine found in the most vulnerable to attack parts of the body such as in the gut, urinary tract, etc. Lactoferrin inhibits virus replication including Herpes viruses. It inhibits tumor growth and metastasis; it is directly toxic to both bacteria and yeast and helps prevent overgrowth in the gut. It activates neutrophil cells (the killers and cleaners of the system). Stimulating lactoferrin production in the body and maintaining healthy levels of this protection comes from intestinal flora or probiotics.
Introducing antioxidants into your dog’s life supports the active functioning of the immune system. One of the most powerful antioxidants is glutathione. It is basically an amino acid and is a key component of all lymphocytes. All lymphocytes require sufficient levels of intracellular glutathione to work properly. A good full spectrum of antioxidants boosts the immune system in multiple ways. Nutrients from organically grown fruit and vegetables such as cruciferous family, citrus fruit, soy, legumes, bright colored food (carrots, squash, berries, etc.) deep colored foods (kale, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, etc.) do block carcinogen activity, increase carcinogen detoxification, block the action of tumor promoters, scavenge free radicals that cause fast aging, force rogue cells to commit suicide, cut off blood circulation to tumor cells, and keep inflammation minimized.
Introducing essential fatty acids into a plan help to keep the immune system properly programmed so it doesn’t attack itself.
Cleaning out the liver with an effective flush- and- rebuild program improves the liver’s ability to produce immune factors. Cleaning out the blood with herbal cleansers and balancing the pH of the blood is another key factor in improving immune function. And regular exercise is a definite optimizer. Above all we must bolster immune surveillance by means of the best food possible. The message is simple; the message is life-saving. Solutions are definitely within your grasp.
For supplies and further information consult Marie Cargill.