Sunday, March 4, 2012

Inflammation and Immunity...Good or Bad?

by Glen Depke

Overall most of my clients will come in thinking that inflammation is bad and immune function is good. Based on what mainstream information tells us, this makes sense right?

Maybe, maybe not.

If you have inflammation, most have been taught to take an anti-inflammatory and/or use ice to reduce this. Even though this is the norm, get this...inflammation is a necessary component of a healing crisis and it is definitely a positive response. I would also add that inflammation is a sign that the immune system is doing its job.

As mentioned above, most will look at an immune system response as a very positive response, but that is not always the case. Understand that the immune system response as tied into inflammation occurs when the cells of the immune system are activated in response to antigens released during either acute of chronic inflammation. This is beneficial when antigens are neutralized but this can be severely detrimental if the underlying cause of the inflammation is not resolved.

So you can see that  an immune response is typically positive for you, but it can actually lead to further damage and inflammation. Often I see this poor response lead to autoimmune reactions and eventually full blown autoimmune disease. Understanding that autoimmune disease basically means tissue destruction.

When discussing the biochemistry of inflammation and immunity, these areas are at the top of my list.

During inflammation, these particular events are very common:
  • IgG enters the tissues and stimulates phagocytes to destroy detrimental bacteria
  • Eosinophils act to control allergies
  • Neutrophils release lysozyme to destroy detrimental bacteria
  • Mast cells "burst" and release histamine and serotonin as a defense mechanism against antigens bound to IgE that are attracted to mast cells
  • The end product of the inflammation process is often pus, which is comprised of dead tissue
I would also like to add that an excessive production of particular immune system chemicals can cause inflammation. These are:
  • Interleukin 1
  • Interleukin 6
  • Tumor necrosis factor-alpha
Let's take some time to address specific questions that I have received by followers of Depke Wellness in regard to immune function and inflammation.

Do anti-inflammatory drugs suppress immune function?

I would not say that this is a direct suppression but the immune function does suffer when taking anti-inflammatory drugs. This mechanism is tied into anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) inhibit an enzyme which is involved in the production of other chemicals in your body. These chemicals allow the blood vessels around an infection to have an ease of permeability for the movement of immune system components such as white blood cells. This allows the ease of immune function to the active site of the infection. With this understanding, the inflammatory response is significantly reduced this suppressing the immune response at this infection location.

Is the immune system like a battery or an engine?

Great question. I always say the immune response is a mechanism but to be honest with you, it is also the battery and the engine. The immune system is such a complex system that involves an immense quantity of components. Here are some of the most significant components of the immune system.
  • Thymus
  • Spleen
  • Lymph system
  • Bone marrow
  • White blood cells
  • Antibodies
  • Complement systems
  • Hormones
Collectively this shows the synergy of the mechanism, battery and engine, per your question. 

Do you store up immunity or use it as needed?

The answer here is both. Even if we just looked the the different types of white blood cells, you would recognize the some may last only a few hours, some a few days or some months or even years. Thankfully the immune system is in a constant state of regeneration but I will expand on this deeper with the question below.

Is immune function always available in varying amounts based on your overall health?

Your question here actually answers this perfectly. As long as you are alive immune function is available, but this is going to vary based on each persons focus on health and wellness as well as genetic capabilities. Recognize that two people can be exposed to the same pathogen, in the same amounts, yet respond so differently. The healthier individual will likely have a very strong immune response, move through the challenge rather quickly and likely eliminate the pathogen with ease. The less healthy individual may take a considerably longer duration of time to overcome or if their vitality is too low, they may not even have a strong enough immune response to overcome the pathogen. This would stall the healing crisis and lead to a chronic disorder.

If you have any questions or comments to this article, feel free to leave these below for me to answer personally.


  1. Is immunity always appropriate?

  2. While it is always appropriate, it is not always in your best interest. If you body drops into and autoimmune reaction or a full blown autoimmune disease, this is not a preferred immune response that will actually lead to further chronic challenges.