by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath

Through the years of working with clients and assisting thousands regain their health and happiness, I see one consistent core challenge for a very high percentage of chronically health challenged individuals. This is tied into the trilogy of adrenal function, immune function and inflammation.

To understand this, let’s first look at a minimal explanation of the simple function of these three systems working in harmony with each other. For this example we will say that a client has been exposed to an infectious pathogen. Once the body recognizes the invader, in this case the infectious pathogen, the immune system will create a B cell response to “red flag” the pathogen for destruction. At this point the adrenal gland function will receive a communication to assist in creating inflammation in the area of the infectious pathogen that has been “red flagged.” Due to the inflammation, the immune system components or T cells can easily travel from the blood through the inflammation to the site of the infectious pathogen to do their job, which is to destroy the pathogen. Once this destruction is complete the residue will move into the lymph for eventually release through the systems of detoxification and elimination. Once this process or healing crisis is complete, the immune system will communicate with the adrenal glands to now produce cortisone, which is the body’s natural anti-inflammatory to remove the inflammation used as a part of this healing crisis. This is actually a beautiful and harmonious healing crisis followed to perfection.

The problem is that most of our clients and patients are not living in the beauty and harmony in this healing crisis. The challenge here is that most are left in what we would refer to as a disease crisis due to one of more factors of this process that are not working properly. Here are some of the common challenges.

The most significant clog in the system here is the adrenal gland function. I “get” this first hand simply by reviewing adrenal gland function with my clients over the years. I have personally reviewed over 4,500 adrenal saliva test kits through the years and you may be shocked at how many I have seen come back healthy and balanced. Five! Not five percent, but a total of only five. In fairness though, I work with people that have health challenges but with a significant control group of over 4,500 people, we can recognize that if you have a health issue, there is only about 1/10 of one percent chance that you actually have healthy adrenal function.

While this ties into so many holistic aspect of health overall, today we’ll focus on how this effect the trilogy we are discussing. First, adrenal function will play a direct role in immune function from two different avenues. One is the adrenal glands role in the mucosal membrane, which is the interior lining of the nose, mouth, throat, esophagus, the entire gastro-intestinal tract and for women, the vagina. This mucosal membrane is truly the first layer of defense of the immune system and viewed as the Marines of the immune system. The other direct factor of the adrenal/immune connection is the fact that proper adrenal function is also directly tied into immune system regulation. With this said, it is easy to understand that if you have poor adrenal function, you will also suffer with poor immune function. But there’s more…

The adrenal glands also play a significant role in both pro and anti-inflammatory processes in your body. As discussed above, we can see that inflammation plays an important role in the healing crisis and is actually essential. When the immune system is focused on the infectious pathogen destruction, the inflammatory response is triggered by adrenal function and ultimately removed by the production of cortisone, which is produced via adrenal gland function. For so many people, they simply do not have the strength within their adrenal function to complete the anti-inflammatory response and they are left with chronic inflammation in the body.

This is where the next significant challenge comes in. Understand that when the system is working properly it looks like this.

  • Infectious pathogen introduction
  • Immune system recognition
  • Immune system communication with adrenal function to create inflammation
  • Immune systems destruction of the pathogen
  • Body’s release of the residue
  • Immune system communication with adrenal function to release cortisone for the anti-inflammatory response
  • Completion of the healing crisis

When the adrenal, immune, inflammatory trilogy is not in harmony it will typically look like this.

  • Infectious pathogen introduction
  • Immune system recognition
  • Immune system communication with adrenal function to create inflammation
  • Immune systems destruction of the pathogen
  • Body’s release of the residue
  • Immune system communication with adrenal function to release cortisone but adrenal function is too low to complete the process
  • Instead of a health acute inflammatory process, a chronic inflammatory response is now in place
  • Chronic inflammation then creates an immune response which is an overproduction of cytokines, which in turn creates a TH17 immune response, also known as an autoimmune response
  • This autoimmune response and chronic inflammatory response then worsens adrenal gland function and the whole system is lost in dysfunction

This adrenal, immune and inflammatory trilogy is running rampant in our culture and I believe this is to an epidemic proportion. Convention medicine is “missing the boat” because it does not recognize adrenal insufficiency as a real challenge and autoimmunity is treated as a disease rather than a part of the trilogy discussed today.

So what does one to do that is stuck in this trilogy from a dysfunction perspective?

First off we have to look at all the “simple,” yet essential core factors of this trilogy, because the deeper underlying factors are not the adrenals, immunity and inflammation. The core of this is within our simple fundamentals of health, which are:

  • Deep breathing and getting adequate oxygen to our cells to thrive
  • Proper hydration
  • Nutrition from three levels
    • Proper digestion
    • Food sensitivity
    • Nutritional individuality or Nutritional ID as is typically referred by Depke Wellness
  • Proper sleep habits
  • Proper movement which includes:
    • Body movement
    • Proper alignment and movement of the spine
    • Proper bowel movements
  • Exposure to the sun
  • Mental/emotional health whether this is due to current stress or anxiety or past suppressed emotional trauma

Once you have addressed your fundamentals of health, the next step is adrenal function, due to the fact that your adrenal glands are primary response to any type of mental, emotional, physical, chemical and environmental stressors in your life. This is initially addressed through the use of a comprehensive adrenal saliva kit to assess cortisol (your body’s primary stress response hormone) throughout the day, a total cortisol level, DHEA average, a ratio of both, along with recognition of other secondary hormones such as estradiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone and melatonin. This provides the information needed to assist the body in balancing adrenal function and resetting the ever important HPA axis. The HPA axis is the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis that is essential to functionally bring your body into a deeper state of relaxation after a stressful situation or time frame in your life to assist in achieving your optimal health and happiness.

Once adrenals are balanced, the next focus is on the gut/brain connection and immune support. Understand that 90% of your brain function goes directly down the Vagus nerve, through the spinal column and into the nervous system tissue in your gut, and right back up. So what’s going on in your brain is also going on in your gut and vice versa. The typical challenges on this end are due to gut pathogens, brain trauma, leaky gut, poor spinal alignment and more. As you are focused on the gut/brain connection, this is also perfect time to support the immune system with proper supplementation.

Once the gut/brain connection and immune system have received proper focus, it is now time to address inflammatory states. With this said, it is key to remove the triggers for inflammation while aggressively assisting the body in an anti-inflammatory response. Recognize that when you are stuck in chronic inflammation, there are four different feedback loops that are continually triggering further inflammation in the body as listed below.

Chronic inflammation feedback loops

Feedback loop one:

  • Increase in fat cell production
  • Insulin resistance
  • Insulin surges
  • More inflammation

Feedback loop two:

  • Tight junction breakdown
  • Leaky gut
  • Immune activation
  • More inflammation

Feedback loop three:

  • Suppression of cytochrome P450
  • Hepatic (liver) biotransformation
  • Activated liver end products
  • Add environmental triggers and…
  • More inflammation

Feedback loop four:

  • Immune cell activation
  • Cytokine release
  • Self-amplifying loop
  • More inflammation

On top of this, chronic inflammation can also lead to an immune system dysregulation which over time can lead to multiple chemical sensitivities, which I see in my clinic on a regular basis and one more area of significant challenge. This is the fact that immune dysregulation can turn off apoptosis, which is a process of cellular suicide. Simply put in the process of apoptosis, when a cell in our body becomes a “broken” cell, this cell is designed to die. If apoptosis is “turned off” by chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation, this “broken” cell becomes another cell, and another, and another; eventually leading to the development and diagnosis of cancer. I often refer to this chronic inflammatory condition and immune dysregulation as turning on the cancer switch.

So in the end you can see that the harmony of healthy adrenal gland function, immune system function and even a healthy inflammatory response is a significant key to health and happiness. Address your fundamentals of health and these three systems are often your answer to your desired health and wellness goals.