About Your Immune System
Your body is constantly at battle. Thousands of bacteria, viruses and toxins are inhaled and eaten every day, others invade us through cuts and scratches. You don’t notice this battle but your immune system is constantly fighting, unnoticed and often unappreciated.
Your immune system is the mechanism which keeps you alive. Many scientists agree that cancer is the result of a poor immune system unable to identify and destroy cancer cells.
+ Western Medical View
The immune system can be thought of as an army with a complex network of biological structures and processes to defend against disease
and attack pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses) and tumour cells. Basically, your immune system is made up of the following elements:
1. Surface Barriers
The first defense against pathogens is to stop them from getting into your body. Your skin is impenetrable and secretes substances from
hair follicles to kill bacteria and fungi (that’s why skin rarely gets moldy except where there is no hair like the feet). Your nasal cavities and
lungs are covered in small hairs and mucus to grab any pathogens and neutralise them. Your mouth has antibacterial saliva and your
stomach is acidic enough to kill germs before they can be absorbed.
2. White Blood Cells & Antibodies
White blood cells are constantly patrolling your body by travelling in your blood and lymph (more on the lymph system below). There are
many different types of white blood cells, all working together to combat any pathogens that have managed to get past the surface barriers.
3. Lymph System
Lymph fluid is essentially blood plasma, a nearly colourless liquid which bathes all of your cells. As blood arrives at capillaries it passes
through the thin walls as lymph fluid which then feeds the cells. The lymph fluid also collects the cell waste as well as any stray pathogens
and is absorbed by the lymph vessels.
The lymph vessels slowly move the lymph fluid back up the body to rejoin the blood near the heart. Along the way, it filters the fluid through
lymph nodes. These nodes trap any pathogens and destroys them with white blood cells. This is why you may feel for swollen lymph nodes
(like tonsils) as a sign of an infection.
4. Complement System
A group of small proteins, made in the liver that circulate throughout your body. If a complement protein encounters a pathogen it triggers a release of chemicals that try to kill the pathogen and alert the body of an infection.
Hormones can be used to regulate the sensitivity and strength of your immune system. Some hormones increase the production of white
blood cells whereas others (primarily the stress hormones) suppress your immune system. The hormones released by certain white blood
cells will trigger a fever to try to kill the bacteria by heat and also fatigue to make sure that you rest.
These small proteins are a way for neighbouring cells to communicate with each other, essentially they pass on the message that there is
an infection so that close by cells try to interfere with the replication of viruses.
Tumour Necrosis Factor is a substance produced by white blood cells to kill tumour cells.
+ Chinese Medical View
Chinese Medicine practitioners have been dealing with immune system disorders for thousands of years.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have great success at helping immunity by regulating energetic imbalances in your body and stimulating body-signalling chemical such as hormones and neurotransmitters to bring your body back into good health.
If your defences are too weak, then Chinese medicine can strengthen them, if your immune system is overreactive (in the case of allergies and psoriasis etc.), then Chinese medicine is able to regulate your body’s reactions to a normal level.
Weak Immune System
In Chinese Medicine we see a weakened immune system as being a result of QI DEFICIENCY in the Lungs and the Spleen. This is caused by an inadequate diet, hectic lifestyle, and genetic predisposition. Treatment is focussed primarily on tonifying these organ functions.
Overactive Immune System
Over-reactive immune systems are caused by a QI IMBALANCE usually starting in the Kidneys. Chinese Medicine treatment normalises this imbalance so that your body recognises what is harmless whilst still attacking pathogens.
The key here is that Chinese medicine does not treat the symptoms like a cold or an allergy but instead brings your immune system back onto an even keel. Once this has been achieved you will notice long term improvement in other complaints that you may have thought to be unrelated to your immunes system such as bad skin, impatience and fatigue.
You are unique, and so is your immune system. A properly trained Chinese medical doctor will tailor treatment specifically for you to get your immune system on track.
+ Lifestyle Advice
Take some herbs!
Chinese herbs have strong immunity-enhancing effects. You want to be looking out for adaptogenic herbs. These are plants that react to your body – if your immune system is too weak, the herb will strengthen it but if your immune system is over-reacting, it will calm things down.
Some very powerful immune adaptogens include Amachazuru (Jiao Gu Lan), Ginseng and Astragalus. Research at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston showed that Astragalus extracts were able to completely restore the function of immune cells in cancer patients.
Stress hormones suppress the immune system. Finding ways to reduce stress such as acupuncture, exercise, massage or meditation will improve your immune system.
Get regular sleep
Lack of good quality sleep disturbs regulation of key chemicals produced by the immune system to fight infection. In fact, sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours a night) has been shown to triple your chances of getting ill. This is why when you have an infection your body forces you to feel tired so that you can help fight the pathogens through sleep.
Grab your free guide
For more detailed tips please download the free PDF guide SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation with an AcuMedic doctor.
Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.