Imperatives of the Immune Response

July 10, 2009

4 Min Read
Imperatives of the Immune Response


by David L. Bergsma

When developing a dietary supplement to support the immune system, it is important to have a specific idea of the expected effects. Considering the imperatives of the immune response and how to best support those imperatives can help guide product developers in making the best choices.

Imperatives are defined as obligatory acts or duties. Most activities within the human body are unconscious or involuntary, happening naturally or automatically unless there is some interference with the activity.

The immune system carries out millions of actions daily with no conscious instruction and operates with a set of three imperatives relative to foreign invaders:

1. Recognize them.

2. Respond to their presence.

3. Remember how to respond to them effectively.

Five factors have been shown to interfere with the immune systems ability to execute its duties relative to the imperativesstress, poor nutrition, toxins, infection and trauma. Interference by these factors primarily manifests as a reduction in immune system communication, which reduces the immune systems effectiveness. This reduction in communication is represented physically in the body by a reduction in the number, variability and viability of immune communication cells available to carry out the imperatives.

Most dietary supplements support what is known as innate immunity, primarily comprised of monocytes, neutrophils, granulocytes, natural killer (NK) cells and various specialized proteins. The innate immune system can recognize and respond to pathogens in a generic way; it does not confer long-lasting or protective immunity. Study data comparing the performance of one nutritional compound to another inevitably compares their effects on innate immunity. The immune support provided by these ingredients is generally the generic stimulation of cells that are already present toward a higher level of activity. Many products inaccurately describe this effect as immune modulation. An immune modulation effect implies intelligent up or down regulation, or a lack of movement, based on the circumstances present in the immune system at the time the ingredient is introduced. Stimulation is a one directional activity like caffeine in a cup of coffee. There is no specific intelligent modulation generally applicable to this activity.

The weakness of a stimulated approach to immune support rests in the realization that stimulation cannot reach immune communication cells that have been compromised or eliminated by the five factors. Clearly, there is only a limited and unpredictable benefit to stimulating immune cells already present in an individuals immune system while creating no benefit for that which does not exist or has been marginalized.

As biological resources are finite, continual stimulation of an already compromised immune system opens an individual to reduced capability or other even more serious immune disorders or health compromises caused by the exhaustion of hormones, nutrients and co-factors that would otherwise be available to the immune system. Often, as a defense, the immune system will compensate for this continual stimulation using even more resources and rendering further use of the product meaningless.

The innate immune system can reach beyond its limited generic recognition capability and activate what is known as adaptive immunity. Adaptive immunity provides the long-term ability to recognize and remember and strengthens the ability to respond beyond the capabilities of innate immunity. The adaptive immune system is dependent upon the presence of a highly variable array of immune communication cells, primarily comprised of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells and lymphocytes, which generate the immune cascade that modulates the entire immune response and results in the production of antibodies. If the array is compromised, the immune system will struggle and innovate to create optional solutions that may or may not be successful. This struggle reduces immune capability and introduces the potential for undesirable outcomes. Some autoimmune diseases, for example, are thought to be triggered in this way.

Accordingly, formulators of immune products may wish to aim beyond simple stimulation and support adaptive immunity and true immune modulation. Innate immunity, by itself, may not be sufficient to protect a host against an invading pathogen. When innate immunity fails, the invader may yet be detected and attacked by the mechanisms of adaptive immunity.

The immune communication molecules needed to support the bodys adaptive immunity cannot come from a plant or herb, mushroom, fungi, etc. These coded immune communications molecules, necessary for a variable and intelligent immune response, can only come from another mammal. Most interesting is that mammals can also simultaneously provide superior support for innate immunity. Consider the role of breast feeding to see the validity of this concept.

The first goal of a dietary supplement for long-term support of the immune response should most surely be to provide a ready source for orally absorbable and relevant immune communication molecules to help replace those that have been lost to stress, poor nutrition, toxins, infection and trauma. These highly soluble immune communication molecules exist below <100kD and are highly synergistic with other immune stimulants of herbal and mushroom origin as well as antioxidants.

The presence of sufficient immune communication molecules sets the stage for support of full and effective immune capability and a high level of utilization of other supplements and nutrients from food. Accordingly, this type of immune support should be considered the cornerstone of intelligent dietary supplementation.

David L. Bergsma is president of Health Technology Resources Inc., a Scottsdale, AZ-based company engaged in dietary supplement research and innovation.

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