digestive system model

Your immune system's got guts - literally!

Your Immune System. Most of the body's immune cells are located in the gut mucosa. Here's a fantastic animation produced by Arkitek Studios and Nature Immunology that shows mucosal immunology in a beautiful and captivating snippet, and how it affects health and disease.

The Immune System

(from Wikipedia)
The immune system is a system of many biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. To function properly, an immune system must detect a wide variety of agents, known as pathogens, from viruses to parasitic worms, and distinguish them from the organism's own healthy tissue. In many species, the system can be classified into subsystems, such as the innate immune system versus the adaptive immune system, or humoral immunity versus cell-mediated immunity. In humans, the blood–brain barrier, blood–cerebrospinal fluid barrier, and similar fluid–brain barriers separate the peripheral immune system from the neuroimmune system which protects the brain.

Pathogens can rapidly evolve and adapt, and thereby avoid detection and neutralization by the system; however, multiple defense mechanisms have also evolved to recognize and neutralize pathogens. Even simple unicellular organisms such as bacteria possess a rudimentary immune system, in the form of enzymes that protect against bacteriophage infections. Other basic immune mechanisms evolved in ancient eukaryotes and remain in their modern descendants, such as plants and insects. These mechanisms include phagocytosis, antimicrobial peptides called defensins, and the complement system. Jawed vertebrates, including humans, have even more sophisticated defense mechanisms, including the ability to adapt over time to recognize specific pathogens more efficiently. Adaptive (or acquired) immunity creates immunological memory after an initial response to a specific pathogen, leading to an enhanced response to subsequent encounters with that same pathogen. This process of acquired immunity is the basis of vaccination.

Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer. Immunodeficiency occurs when the system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections. In humans, immunodeficiency can either be the result of a genetic disease such as severe combined immunodeficiency, acquired conditions such as HIV/AIDS, or the use of immunosuppressive medication. In contrast, autoimmunity results from a hyperactive system attacking normal tissues as if they were foreign organisms. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto's thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus type 1, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Immunology covers the study of all aspects of the system.

woman taking her pulse

Sensitivity Test Yourself (definitely cheaper, possibly better...)

Coca Pulse Testing. Back to basics... When I was in naturopathic med school, I learned about a very simple method to discern how the body feels about certain foods. It's called Coca Pulse Testing, and I consider it a golden nugget gleaned from one of my naturopathic elders.

The premise of Coca Pulse Testing is simple: if the body is ok with the food, the radial pulse (your pulse at the wrist) stays more or less the same after ingesting the food. If it balks at the food, your pulse will change.

Up for trying out the Coca Pulse Testing?

Here's what you do:

  1. Sit down in a comfortable chair, by the table on which are placed the food items that you would like to test. They have to be single foods, such as a slice of cheese, a sip of milk, a piece of fruit, a single cooked/uncooked veggie bite, a piece of unseasoned prepared meat).
  2. Once you have been sitting for two minutes, take your pulse x 60 seconds and record the number of beats in that minute. This is your "resting pulse rate."
  3. Put a single piece of food in your mouth. Hold it there x 60 seconds. Do not swallow it.
  4. Retake your pulse x 60 secs with the food still in your mouth, and record the number of beats.
  5. A change of 4 or more beats (greater or less than your resting pulse rate) is considered a sensitive reaction. Typically, the greater the change in pulse, the higher the sensitivity reaction.
  6. Spit out the tested food, and rinse out your mouth.
  7. When your pulse returns to its resting pulse rate, you can proceed to the next food, repeating steps 1-6 again.

Note: Coca Pulse Testing results may not be valid if you are taking a medication that controls heart rate, such as a beta blocker or a calcium channel blocker. Also, this testing procedures cannot be applied to foods that would normally induce a change in pulse rate, such as sugar and caffeine-containing foods.

Let me know how it goes, or if you have questions...

Rain in the city

7 Ways to Boost Your Mood During Gray Days

Boost your Mood. The gray days are looming, but they don’t have to make us feel gloomy! Here are 7 tricks you can use this fall and winter to keep your sunny disposition, even when you can’t see or feel the sun. So let's Boost your Mood

1. Boost your Mood with Supplement Vitamin D

It is well known that sunlight stimulates the production of Vitamin D in the body, and when the sunlight goes away it becomes even more important to make sure you are getting enough. In addition to keeping your bones and teeth strong, Vitamin D can affect many other bodily systems, including mood. Studies have shown that depressed people tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, and this holds true for seasonal depression as well. Even if you are not clinically depressed, chances are you can benefit from a daily dose of 2,000 IUs of Vitamin D3. As an added bonus, Vitamin D powers up the immune system to help protect you against infections.

2. Boost your Mood by Eating the Right Foods

The brain needs the right nutrients to stay happy. A diet rich in vegetables, leafy greens, and healthy protein and fat will provide both the body and mind with the necessary components for physical and mental functioning. Omega-3 oils are the building blocks of a healthy brain and nervous system and can be found in fish (particularly salmon, anchovies, and sardines), as well as vegetarian sources including flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. A dedicated Omega-3 supplement in addition to dietary sources is an even better way to go, especially for vegans and vegetarians. It is important to avoid sugar, preservatives, pesticides, and artificial sweeteners. These things alter your brain’s chemistry and cause erratic signaling between neurons – not a recipe for a good mood! Refined grains such as white flour and unhealthy fats such as vegetable oil and margarine can have surprisingly ill effects on the mind as well. Such detrimental dietary constituents can increase inflammation both in the body and the brain, so keep your diet clean!

3. Boost your Mood with Wonder Herbs

Herbs can be taken as tinctures, capsules, tea, or even just eaten.

  • St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is like sunlight in a plant. It has been shown to boost mood and even treat clinical depression. It can interfere with other medications, however, so see your doctor before you begin taking it.
  • Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) is an all-around herb for the mind. It can help with stress, sharpen the memory and intellect, and more.
  • Ginkgo biloba is another great herb for boosting mood and mental power. It increases blood flow to the brain and thus can help provide the brain with beneficial nutrients and compounds as well as remove waste products and toxins.
  • Rhodiola rosea has been used traditionally in Siberia and Scandinavia. It helps the body and mind when under stress, boosts vitality, and is so good at balancing the mood that it has been shown to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.
  • Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) restores balance, increases sense of well-being, promotes physical recovery, and even boosts the immune system.

Essential oils are gaining in popularity, and can provide noticeable benefits to many areas of health, including helping with mood. There are many ways to use them. They can be rubbed on (possibly in a carrier oil such as coconut), diffused in a room, added to personal products, and more. They are extremely potent, so a drop or two is all that is needed. In addition to smelling so nice, some essential oils that can improve our mood include lavender, ylang-ylang, frankincense, rose, bergamot, and citruses.

4.  Boost your Mood with Exercise

Exercise is one of the most potent brain and mood boosters known to modern science. It is extremely beneficial for our mental and emotional state in addition to being so good for the body. When it gets cold and wet, it can be a deterrent to get out and exercise. Of course, the gym is still a good option, but even if you don’t have a gym membership, you can crank out a surprisingly effective workout at home. All you need is a few square feet of space, and there is an abundance of calisthenics, yoga, and other home workout routines that can be done with or without weights. An internet or Youtube search for “home workouts” will yield a plethora routines varying from 5 minutes on up. Try a number of different workouts and find what works for you! If you have an injury or specific limitation, it is best to see your doctor before beginning any workout program.

5. Boost your Mood by Meditating

A regular meditation practice is incredibly helpful for keeping an even mind and providing mental perspective. Taking time to sit quietly and center your consciousness can bring untold benefits to your mental wellbeing. Here again, a Youtube or internet search for “guided meditations” or “meditation techniques” will provide ample resources to help you get a meditation practice going. Experiment with some different techniques at first, but unlike your exercise workouts where it is good to switch things around and challenge the body in new ways, you want to find a specific meditation technique that you like and stick with it. The merits of meditation are usually immediately obvious to those who try it, and they also increase over time.

6. Keep it Positive

It’s no secret that what we expose ourselves to can affect our thoughts. If we want to be in a positive mindset, it is important to feed our minds with positive content. The news is notorious for bringing us down, but the bright side is that the internet makes it possible for us to stay informed without being poisoned. Find some good sources of information to keep current, and avoid the sensationalist fear-mongers. Of course there is a wide variety of media we may ingest for pleasure and entertainment, so be selective and choose that which uplifts you.

7. Connect in Real Life

Friendships and close relationships nourish the soul. Laughter and fun benefit the mind and body alike. Online connections are great, but they lack the true rewards of actually being with others. Make time to physically get together with those you care about (and when you do, put your phones away!) in order to be rejuvenated and enriched by true connections.

*BONUS: Two other supplements to consider for mental health and good mood include B Vitamins and probiotics. The nervous system loves B Vitamins (and so does the immune system!) to keep balanced and provide energy during the day and help you sleep well at night. Probiotics provide a myriad of benefits that researchers are just tapping into, but there is already clear evidence that having the right organisms in the GI tract can aid mental wellbeing. And wouldn’t you know, probiotics also provide protection from infection.