What Are Immunoglobulins?
You likely have heard me say that the gut is your gateway to your health. Eighty percent of your immune system lives inside your gut. Your immune system is your body’s security that protects you from infections and disease. Your immune system does this through an army of antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins.
Think of immunoglobulins as an army of soldiers your immune system calls on when faced with an attack from a foreign invader. Five types of immunoglobulins have specific jobs, and I will tell you about the different types and their role in fighting harmful bacteria and diseases in just a minute.
When your gut is healthy, your immune system and immunoglobulins are a strong force and work efficiently. However, sometimes your immune system goes rogue because of a poor diet, gluten, or exposure to toxins, and these soldiers can’t tell the difference between healthy tissue and harmful bacteria.
I will tell you more about immunoglobulins, how you can become immunoglobulin deficient, and my secret weapon to simultaneously strengthen your gut and immune system. First, let’s review your immune system and what it does.
Your Immune System and What it Does
The immune system is a network of cells, organs, and tissues that work synergistically to fight disease, bacteria, and infections.1 When your body encounters a virus or harmful bacteria, your immune system launches antibodies to defend you against these invaders. Your immune system has two parts: the innate and the adaptive immune systems.2
Innate Immune System
As your frontline defender against germs, your innate immune system includes your skin and immune system cells and proteins. It acts as a barrier and responds the same way to all germs and foreign substances. For example, if bacteria enters a small wound on your skin, the innate immune system works quickly to attack and destroy the invaders.
It does this by triggering an immune response immediately to protect other healthy cells in your body. Unfortunately, your innate immune system cannot stop germs from spreading, and this is where your adaptive immune system comes in.
Adaptive Immune System
Your second line of defense is your adaptive immune system. When your innate immune system cannot destroy foreign invaders, the adaptive immune system takes over.
While your innate immune system is programmed when you are born, your adaptive immune system adapts to specifically target and fight each unique germ that infects your body. That’s where immunoglobulins come into play.
Your adaptive immune system “remembers” each pathogen it has encountered, so the next time you get exposed to that germ, it can respond more quickly. White blood cells carry out this process by releasing proteins called immunoglobulins into your bloodstream.
This sophisticated response is why there are some illnesses you can only get once, such as chickenpox. After the initial infection, your body produces immunoglobulins against the chickenpox virus so it can easily recognize and destroy it the next time you get exposed to that specific virus. Let’s take a closer look at immunoglobulins and their role in your immune response.
What are Immunoglobulins?
As I mentioned, immunoglobulins are your immune system’s soldiers against bacteria. You likely know them as antibodies. All antibodies are immunoglobulins, but not all immunoglobulins are antibodies. Let me explain.
Immunoglobulins are Antibodies
Immunoglobulins are glycoprotein molecules found in plasmas cells, also called white blood cells, that fight specific antigens such as bacteria and viruses.
Antibodies can occur in two physical forms: a soluble form and a membrane-bound form. The soluble form is not contained in cells yet is found in body fluids such as blood plasma and tissue fluids. On the other hand, the membrane-bound form is attached to the surface of white blood cells (called B-cells) to help them identify when antigens are present to trigger B-cell activation to fight off the invader.3 These membrane-bound antibodies do not fit the classification of immunoglobulins since they aren’t in the plasma membrane.
Types of Immunoglobulins
Your body produces five types of antibodies, each of which has unique functions to defend you against pathogenic attacks. Antigens are moleculecular structures on the surface of viruses and bacteria that trigger an immune response. Your immune system detects and identifies these antigens to determine which type of antibody is needed to fight off that particular attacker. ‘
Once deployed, the antibodies bind to the antigens to destroy and eliminate the threat. Let’s look at the five types of antibodies and their primary functions.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is the most predominant antibody in your body and in mucous membranes such as the digestive tract and respiratory system. They are also found in smaller amounts in tears, saliva, and breastmilk.
They are a part of your body’s first line of defense against allergens. When you consume a food you are allergic to, your body responds by elevating your IgA levels. IgA antibodies work by binding to and neutralizing food allergens and are the missing antibody if you have a food allergy. IgA antibody levels increase slowly after exposure to a food you are sensitive to and will remain elevated for some time afterward. This can lead to a constant, low-grade reaction or chronic inflammation.4
Immunoglobulin D (IgD) accounts for a tiny percentage of the antibodies in your plasma, primarily found on the surface of B-cells. Although they are a lesser-known antibody, IgD acts as a B-cell antigen receptor and may play a role in B-cell maturation, maintenance, activation, and silencing. Although their exact function remains unclear, it is believed that IgD antibodies may play a key role in helping B-cells identify antigens and alerting B-cells to antibody production.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is your body’s secondary or backup response and is your least prevalent antibody. If you have an allergy and come into contact with that specific allergen, your immune system responds by producing IgE antibodies. When the IgE antibodies encounter an allergen, the basophils and mast cells release histamine molecules that generate the inflammatory response we recognize as an allergic reaction.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is a backup response that your immune system uses to fight and neutralize toxins, viruses, and bacteria. IgG accounts for about 80% of all immunoglobulins in your body. While one end attaches to an antigen, the other end binds with a white phagocyte cell, a type of white blood cell, to absorb and destroy the antigen.
IgG antibodies opsonize pathogens for phagocytosis and activate the complement system, a series of inflammatory responses designed to help your body fight infections. An IgG deficiency leaves you more vulnerable to infections and may cause symptoms such as chronic ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus or respiratory infections.
Immunoglobulin M (IgM) is your body’s first responder and your first line of defense against infections. They comprise approximately 5% of your total immunoglobulin pool and are the largest of all immunoglobulins.5
In addition to being effective neutralizers, IgM antibodies also play a crucial role in your immune regulation and immunological tolerance. This means they help control your immune response against a particular antigen so it doesn’t attack its healthy cells, organs, or tissues.
These five immunoglobulins are always on alert and ready when your immune system needs them. However, if your immune system isn’t working optimally, it may not have enough immunoglobulins to fight off an invader. Let’s talk about how to test for a deficiency.
How to Test For Immunoglobulin Deficiency
An immunoglobulin deficiency could indicate an issue with your immune system and may lead to chronic infections, allergies, and autoimmunity. So, how do you know you have an immunoglobulin deficiency? A simple way to know you have a deficiency is if you have frequent infections such as a sinus infection or a digestive tract infection.
Your functional medicine doctor can order an antibody serology test to check for the level of specific antibodies in your blood. Your antibodies are in the “normal range” if they fall into the following ranges:6
IgA: 70 – 400 mg/dl,
IgG: 700 – 1600 mg/dl
IgM: 40 – 230 mg/dl
Immunoglobulin levels can vary depending on your age, sex, lifestyle habits, whether or not you’ve recently been sick, or metabolic factors such as type 2 diabetes. Your gut health also plays a factor in your immunoglobulin levels.
The Gut-Immune System Connection
As I said earlier, you can’t have a healthy immune system without a healthy gut. Your gut and immune system work in synergy to fight off foreign invaders. However, a poor diet, gluten, toxins, infections, and stress can damage your intestinal barrier, leading to leaky gut.
Think of your gut as a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to let teeny-tiny boats (micronutrients) pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. It’s how you absorb your food. Certain external factors, including food, infections, toxins, and stress, can break apart the tight junctions in your intestinal wall, leaving the drawbridge open.
Once this happens, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, much larger boats never meant to get through (toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles) escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. If your gut remains leaky, your immune system reacts by sending out wave after wave of inflammation to attack the foreign invaders.
This state of high alert causes your immune system to become overstressed and fire less accurately. This can lead to your own tissues getting caught in the crosshairs and cause a flood of symptoms. Eventually, this will develop into full-blown autoimmunity if your leaky gut is not addressed.
You must repair your leaky gut to get your immune system working optimally again. What if I told you that you could repair your gut and support your immune system simultaneously with my No. 1 maximum strength tool for leaky gut? Then I have great news for you!
Take Care of Your Gut and Immune System
our immune system is so crucial to a healthy gut barrier. Repairing your gut is the first pillar of The Myers Way® for a reason.
Leaky Gut Revive® and Leaky Gut Revive® Strawberry Lemonade have been my No. 1 weapon for repairing a leaky gut for many years. I used Leaky Gut Revive® to help thousands of patients take back their health and repair their leaky gut. However, your immune system is so essential to a healthy gut barrier.
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Leaky Gut Revive® Max is the most powerful weapon to support optimal immune system function and a healthy gut barrier. With 3,000mg of L-Glutamine and Immunolin®, you can give your gut the nutrients it needs and provide your body with reinforcements to facilitate a healthy immune system response.
- Immune System: Parts & Common Problems. Cleveland Clinic. 2020.
- The innate and adaptive immune systems. InformedHealth.org. 2020.
- B Cells and Antibodies. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al.. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th Edition. 2002.
- Food Allergies & Sensitivities: All the Science You Need to Know. Gil Blander, PhD & Catherine Ward. Inside Tracker. 2017.
- Immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, and IgM), Serum. Mayo Clinic Laboratories. 2020.
- Serum levels of immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA, IgM) in a general adult population and their relationship with alcohol consumption, smoking and common metabolic abnormalities. A Gonzalez-Quintela, et al. Clinical & Experimental Immunology. 2008.
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