The human immune system is the body’s primary defense against a wide variety of pathogens and foreign invaders that pose a threat to our bodies.
It is composed of various lymphoid organs, gut immune cells, white blood cells and their products, which circulate throughout our bloodstream on the constant lookout for foreign invaders.
The immune system responds with both non-specific and specialized attacks, using highly-focused defensive cells that can mount efficient responses to specific microbes based on previous encounters.
Functional Medicine offers a unique and valuable way to optimize immune system health and provide the best possible protection against various infections, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.
An immune reaction generates antibodies and other chemical messengers to help identify and neutralize foreign invaders.
This ‘inflammatory response’ or ‘inflammation’ is the normal way the body protects us against infections of all types.
Excessive or deficient responses however causes problems.
Some people have a weakened immune response because the immune system is overburdened, possibly from medications or environmental toxins. Others can have an overactive immune system causing allergies, asthma and eczema.
Excessive immune activity, or inflammation, over time leads to ‘chronic inflammation’, which compromises health and leads to tissue degeneration and chronic disease. However chronic inflammation is just an indicator of deeper problems that need to be addressed.
Conventional Treatment of Inflammation
Conventional treatment for inflammation includes powerful immune-suppressing medication such as corticosteroids, which come with many known side effects, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen. These medications block the enzyme (COX) that produces prostaglandins involved in inflammation, swelling and pain. However, prostaglandins are also involved in protecting the stomach and intestinal tract and affect platelets involved in clotting, so side effects of these medications include ulcers of the stomach and GI tract and risk of prolonged bleeding as well as kidney damage.
Conventional medicine focuses on inflammation as the problem to be solved.
But inflammation is just an indicator of deeper problems that need to be addressed.
Functional Medicine Management of Inflammation
In the FM model, we look for the cause of the inflammation.
Functional Medicine approaches chronic inflammation by supporting normal physiology of the organ systems which have become imbalanced leading to and contributing to the progression of this condition.
A comprehensive approach to the management of chronic inflammation explores all aspects of a patient’s health and lifestyle that are the root cause for the problem.
A Functional Medicine restoration program includes:
- Assessing for and eliminating pathogenic infection and supporting immune health
- Restoring normal gut barrier integrity, digestion and gut microbial balance
- Supporting liver detoxification processes and decreasing toxic load
- Supporting restoration of hormone levels, including adrenal hormones involved in the sleep-wake cycle
- Supporting antioxidant enzymes to combat excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) which can damage tissue land lead to inflammation
- Restoring healthy levels of nutrients in cases of nutritional deficiencies by addressing diet and supplementation
- Identifying food sensitivities and eliminating foods that can contribute to inflammation