HOW TO UNTANGLE THE IMMUNE SYSTEM FROM THE GUT
This is a great question and something that I was confused about for a very long time. My confusion mainly came from my all my functional medicine training.
Understanding how closely interlinked the immune system and the gut is makes certain things so much clearer than the Industrial Medicine approach. We can understand how autoimmunity & food sensitivities develop, how leaky gut can lead to arthritis, cardiovascular disease and even degenerative brain disorders.
Which is why I was scratching my head when I could help so many patients fix their guts, and they would feel somewhat better to be sure by treating chronic intestinal infections and cutting out inflammatory foods and foods they were sensitive to, but eventually we'd hit a bit of a block in progress.
I became really good at helping people get rid of intestinal parasites and h pylori. But in all the training I did and all the skills I learned, this didn't have too much of an effect on improving low white blood cell counts or helping chronic viral infections go and stay into remission.
I guess I could have done additional training on how to treat EBV and HHV-6.
But what do you do if you have chronic systemic viral infections AND dysbiosis AND intestinal parasites AND Lyme?
Because in reality a lot of these things hang out together. But functional medicine approaches seem to present a reality where you only have one thing at a time. Or they assume it doesn't matter where you start. Just focus on what you learned in the most recent seminar.
But the order does matter.
Because it only make sense to take about "the immune system" when you're focused on blood chemistry. Blood chemistry is fascinating and gives us precise and sophisticated windows into the functioning of our bodies and what might be in there.
We dip a cup into the rivers flowing through us and analyze what's inside.
But the health approaches that utilize and develop blood chemistry don't realize something kind of important: these rivers run in a 3 dimensional body, which contains an up and a down, an inside and an outside.
And there isn't "an immune" system at all. There's a multi-layered, multi-dimensional latticed network of strategies that you use to keep unwanted guests out and to expel them once they get in. And if you can't expel them, then you contain them and keep them out of circulation but also away from the things we try to use to kill them.
The bugs participate in this too. They hang out in biofilms, just waiting for you to get run down or lose focus then they come again.
Imagine keeping your home secure in a high crime area. You don't *just* have a front door that locks. You also secure the windows. Maybe you have an alarm system with CCTV and when it gets tripped a team of ex-military arrive. And you have a front gate that locks. Or barbed wire on a wall surrounding your property. Or guard dogs. If you have anything rare or super valuable, maybe you have safe. And a basement that locks. If you're playing big, maybe you have a panic room.
It doesn't make sense to talk about "the security" as if it were one thing. It's a series of strategies: deterrents, identification (don't want the alarm to go off when your kid comes home or the dogs to get released on the UPS guy) and then containment if everything else fails.
We can focus on the gut immunity. The gut is that tube that runs down the middle of us and keeps things like undigested food and gram-negative bacteria out of general blood circulation. When that shit gets through the barrier the dogs get released and start tearing up the furniture and peeing everywhere.
But, hello! You have a front gate and a front door and a bunch of windows that you've left *wide open*. Every time you clean up the dog poop and the knocked over furniture, more criminals are just pouring in off the street through the front door.
Because we don't have one immune system. And we need to secure the outer barriers first. Keep more stuff from coming in.
Of course, this isn't a strict "either this or that" approach. We function as a complex system. This is a way of organizing your self-care and what you take so that you know what to do and in which order to get well. You know what to focus on at any given time. In Stage 1, while we're securing the outer perimeter we're also beginning on the gut stuff as well, it's just less of a key focus.
What if you haven't left your front door wide open and the problem is just inside? Great, but we check that first. Otherwise we're guessing and hoping we get lucky. And meanwhile allow more unwanted guests to come in while we're busy dealing with what's already inside.
Once we remember that we are at least 4 dimensional - we exist in 3 physical dimensions with a time component in the 4th dimension, then untangling the order of operations for how to bring the body back into balance when multiple systems are breached becomes a lot clearer.