The Inflammatory and Immune Response Systems, Part II

In Part I of this series we reviewed the inflammatory response system, and now turn to the immune system, which is dynamic and has a lot of moving parts, and because it is complex, it may be easier to grasp when its various parts are presented separately.

In Parts II and III we’re going to talk about the mechanics of our body’s defense system. Part IV will wrap up the physiology with a review of the immune system’s close relative, the lymph system.

The point of this series is to lay the groundwork for later topics as diverse as auto-immune and other disorders, nutrition, and health tips, and provide basic terminology if and when you are presented with information about common health topics such as infections and inflammation.

To begin, there are types of immunity: non-specific and specific, and there are different kinds of defensive cells: primarily white blood cells, immunoglobulins, and microphages and macrophages. Immunity is a way to protect against microbial and non-microbial invaders; while we refer frequently to living organisms, trauma from injury or as a result of disease are other primary factors that can rally the immune system into action.

 

 

Specific and Non-Specific
In a nutshell, non-specific (innate) immunity is the first line of defense against microbes and can tell the difference between “self” and not-self,” but cannot differentiate further. Specific (acquired/adaptive) defense can differentiateand respond to each foreigner uniquely.

Some of the players work in both innate and acquired immunity, some do not.

Part II: Innate Immunity: Where and How

1) THE SKIN AND MUCOUS MEMBRANES: mechanical and chemical defenses1) Anatomical: the skin and mucous membranes that line the gastrointestinal , reporductive, and respiratory tracts are the mechanical first-line-of-defense.

The tissue of the skin and mucous membranes are made up of densely packed cells and short of injury, prevent penetration of unwanted invaders.

Other mechanical barriers to microbes are tears, saliva, the hairs that line your nose, and the flow of urine.

In conjunctions with mechanical forces, chemical defenses prevent colonization of microbes by a shift in the acid-alkaline balance or through enzymatic action. For example, increased acidity in the stomach and on the skin, the presence of fatty acids in the oil glands of the skin, and the enzyme lysozyme in tears, saliva, and other body fluids.

2) ANTI-MICROBIAL SUBSTANCES: Complement, Factor P, and Interferon
Complement is a group of proteins present in blood serum. It is so named because it complements the immune system by enhancing its ability to recognize, attach and destroy invading microbes. Complement is activated in both non-specific and specific immunity.
Properdin, or Factor P, is another protein in blood serum that works with complement. Properdin triggers the inflammatory responses, enhances phagocytosis (see below), and neutralizes bacterial or viral invaders.
Interferons are proteins that communicate between cells, signaling a call-to-action and tracking locator for other immune cells to come find and fight.

3) PHAGOCYTOSIS
In a nutshell, the body produces cells that envelop and destroy foreign, invading substances, via a two-part mechanism, adherence and ingestion: the cell membrane of the phagocyte attaches to the microbe, traps it, engulfs it, and destroys it. Microphages and macrophages are the key immune cells of the phagocytic system, found all over the body, in the blood, bone marrow, tissue, lymph nodes, and organs (liver, lungs, brain, and spleen).

The Inflammatory and Immune Response Systems, Part II

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At Mountaintop Acupuncture, we have over 30 years experience. To read more, please click here.

If you have questions and concerns about acupuncture treatment, we offer a free 20-minute phone session: click here for contact information to call or e-mail us.

We’re located in the DTC, in Centennial, near Greenwood Village, Englewood, and Cherry Hills, Colorado.

Insurance is welcome and accepted.

The Inflammatory and Immune Response Systems, Part 1: Inflammation in a Nutshell

courtesy of digital thermal imaging, showing back pain originating from inflammation in the (R) kidney

Large or small, inside or outside, wherever injury occurs the body’s defenses set off a cascade of players to deal with the tissue damage (inflammation system) and keep strangers out (immune system). Whether you bump your elbow, get a splinter, or have an autoimmune disorder, the same sequence unfolds, aimed to restore order and heal you, naturally.

This series will cover the major components present where injury to tissue occurs. It’s a fascinating, complex process, with a lot of moving parts in a rapid sequence of events. We begin with a discussion of inflammation, and move on to immunity, inflammatory conditions, health tips, and related topics in future posts.

Inflammation is characterized by four cardinal signs:
Redness
Pain
Heat
Swelling

The inflammatory response serves to stop bleeding and wall off the injured area to prevent further damage to the local tissue. This unfolds as a natural process beginning with acute-phase and transitioning into chronic-phase responses.

1. Acute-phase response has active two stages, the vascular stage and the cellular stage.

a. During the vascular stage, the blood vessels first respond by constricting, then rapidly dilate (enlarge). The blood vessels that supply the area also dilate to allow fluid and plasma proteins to move out of the vessels and into the surrounding (interstitial) spaces, causing the swelling, heat, pain, and redness associated with acute-phase inflammation.

b. During the cellular phase, the capillaries become permeable for the delivery of immune factors, nutrients, and blood-clotting factors.

Chemical mediators produce the signs and symptoms of inflammation at both the vascular and cellular stages. These mediators perform an array of functions that keep the intricate process moving forward step-by-step, with the ultimate purpose of stopping the damage and returning the system to homeostasis. We will cover some of these in future posts.

2. Chronic-phase responses can become long-lasting if not treated. Some chronic-phase injuries are local (shoulder pain) and some are systemic (autoimmune disease). Foreign substances, both living (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites) and non-living (example: splinters) can also underlie chronic inflammation.

Chronic-phase responses put an additional demand on the body’s resources, hence the reason why we stress the importance of quality nutrition that supplies the raw material for all the body’s functions.

The Inflammatory and Immune Response Systems, Part 1: Inflammation in a Nutshell

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At Mountaintop Acupuncture, we have over 30 years experience. To read more, please click here.

If you have questions and concerns about acupuncture treatment, we offer a free 20-minute phone session: click here for contact information to call or e-mail us.

We’re located in the DTC, in Centennial, near Greenwood Village, Englewood, and Cherry Hills, Colorado.

Insurance is welcome and accepted.