The one-liner take home:
You are evolutionarily robust, your immunological capacity and adaptability are innate, and evolution has primed you for this.
Within your physical being, you have evolved over millions of years to optimize survival, and so, you are evolutionarily adapted in relation to the circumstances of life that are intertwined with what was already innately primed into your biology.
Your immunological ancestors are roughly as old as life itself. 700 million years ago, the innate system was primed through antimicrobial peptides, phagocytes, toll-like receptors, and complement systems. These layers are embedded into early lymphocytes and their cascade somewhere around 450 million years, of which the adaptations in fish-like ancestors occurred at the level of DNA to ‘adapt’ to viral invaders. Darwin was on to something when he theorized natural selection favored the gene pools that were the most adaptable in general over time.
Every environment, every pathogen, trained the immune system of that living being and favorably, the encoding for the capacity of that immune response and threat detection was passed on. Efficiency is prioritized in the name of survival. In order to survive, innate systems and the adaptive immune system had to sustain life by evading or eradicating any foreign invader, including possible pathogens. The immune system would develop increasingly more robust as it was activated, with progressively better detection, isolation, attack, destruction, and clearance of the invader, while keeping a memory of detection should the invader ever return, provided of course, we survived it.
The lineage that we as humans get the downstream of is the following:
Protostomes before 550 million years. Deuterostomes from 550–50 million years. Lemurs and lorises from 50–35 million years. Monkeys from 35 to 25 million years. Gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees until 7 million years ago.
Every exposure that they had invaders stressed, trained, and mobilized their immunity to adapt in conjunction with their innate. Your immune system today is largely due to your prior experiences.
It is reassuring here to know our immune system is tried and true, robust, diverse, brilliantly intelligent. Within you, with me, within us all. Yes, sometimes it has inefficiencies or it falls short of fully protecting us and we do get sick, but you getting sick does not mean your immune system is weak or ‘sucks’. It’s completely normal to feel sick when you are meeting the invader since the symptoms you have are not always solely due to the invader, most often it's the immune response to the invader that causes our discomforts. An invader would just run through us and colonize if it didn’t!
Natural Immune Responses
There are many natural immune responses to protect us. Your skin is an innate defense mechanism that is so effective at keeping invaders out and the system well encapsulated. Our internal environment owes a lot to it, and we see many infections happen when breaks in skin happen. Another natural immune response that I explain to almost everyone in the ER is a fever. This beautiful natural response is a good thing! Viruses, bacteria, protozoa, parasites, fungi, and arthropods have adapted over time, too, to optimize their chances for survival when entering a host (in this case, us). They optimally replicate at our temperature of 34–37C. When we get a fever, our body increases its temperature in an attempt to isolate the invader. And what do we do when we take Advil and Tylenol? We take our temperature right back into the window they love!
Just as a natural infection creates a memory to catch a future invasion sooner, our body’s immune system benefits from sometimes being exposed to parts of an invader, or synthetic mimics of an invader through a vaccine or booster. The early exposure to parts of an invader or a weakened version of it makes our immune system ideally more robust and prepared should the real thing attempt to invade.
Stress and the Immune System
Stress is very real for its implications on our immune system. When our immune system is overexerted, especially for long periods, it becomes less effective. It can even start attacking itself. This is often what an autoimmune disease is. Cancers can arise here, heart attacks, strokes, clots, and many other health implications. We can support much of our already incredibly strong immune system through optimization of healthy eating, minimizing excess sugar, drugs, or alcohol, optimizing rest and sleep, physical activity, supplements, proper hydration, sunlight, hygiene, natural exposures, and stress management. Science is emerging more and more every day on how to accelerate this.
700 million years in the making! Trust this system, support it, and thrive in life knowing that as vulnerable as a system could be without it, you are evolutionarily robust, your immunological capacity and adaptability are innate and and evolution has primed you for this. Support it. Learn about it.
Today, if you could do one thing to support your immune system, what would it be?
My Western Medicine Prescription
As an extra, people often say that doctors don’t prescribe natural treatments. Well, those days are over.
Embrace and support your own biology for the medicine that it is.
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1. Gratitude practices qDay x Life
2. Mobility activities 30 min/day 3–5x a week x Life
3. Physical + mental adaptations + full-body cardiovascular exercises or experiences x Life
4. Sunlight 15–30 minutes qDay minimum x Life
5. Sleep 7.5 hours per night minimum x Life (95% of pop.)
6. Minimal screen time 1 hour before sleep qHS (before sleep) x Life
7. Water 2.5L/day (unless fluid-retentive conditions)
8. Understanding Self & The World Deeper x Life
9. Journal 10–20 minutes BID x Life
10. Quality Human Connections qWeekly min x Life
11. Massage Vs Physiotherapy Vs Chiropractic Vs Acupuncture Vs Chinese Medicine Vs Naturopath Visit qMonth x Life
12. Balanced Guilt-Free Shame-Free Intentional Meals qDay x Life
13. Psychotherapy +/- Support with Coach qMonth Min x Life
14. Asking for Support or Help As Needed x Life
15. Play qDay minimum x Life
16. Presence, Awareness & Intentionality x Life
17. Purposefulness Awareness x Life
18. Quality alone time qDay x Life