What Is The Immune System & How To Strengthen It
The immune system is not a single organ or group of cells, so exactly what is the immune system, how does it work and what does it do to protect us
The immune system is not a single organ or group of cells (like with other body systems), but rather it is the sum of the body’s defense functions. A strong, healthy immune system is essential for good health; it is the only system separating us from debilitating sickness and disease.
What is the immune system, a definition
Wikipedia describes the immune system as “a complex constellation of cells, organs and tissues, arranged in an elaborate and dynamic communications network and equipped to optimize the response against invasion by pathogenic (disease causing) organisms.”
The immune system is, in its simplest form, a cascade of detection and adaptation, culminating in a system that is remarkably effective. The immune system protects the body from infection by employing three basic strategies:
- Your front line defense is the skin with its natural pesticides of sweat, saliva and tears, stomach acids to
dissolve and the mucus of nose or mouth which expel via a cough or sneeze
- When the front line is breached, your 2nd line is equipped with specialized cells that detect, and often
eliminate, the invader before it is able to reproduce and cause potentially serious injury and
- Your 3rd and final line represents an adaptive immune system memory of sorts that directs counter-measures to
the now invading organism.
From Your Immune System’s Perspective
The world is definitely a most unfriendly place. Every day, your body is under siege, repelling a continuous assault of disease-causing organisms. This is the real “invasion of the body snatchers” that when left unchecked, will rob you of your health.
These uninvited organisms are persistent and will attempt to breach your body’s outer defenses and enter the bloodstream and tissues. Once inside – they multiply quickly and given a chance, start destroying vital body cells.
When your outer defenses fail to fend off the invader, your immune system has developed a variety of
“soldiers” each with its own weapons or method of attack (2nd line) – some parts of your immune systems do not actually
engage in battle. Instead, they act like computers, storing information on the enemy and its
characteristics (3rd and final line) or serving to control other immune cells – we commonly refer to these
soldiers as Antibodies.
The individual parts of the immune system are powerful, each in its own way but no single component of the immune system is a match for the many diseases eager to harm you.
Taken as a whole, though, the immune system can be immensely powerful … when it’s in an optimum state of health.
Sworn Enemies Of The Immune System
Antigens – viruses, bacteria, cancer cells, fungi and yeast, protozoa (microscopic animals), free radicals and can be anything that challenges the immune system. In the face of all these harmful pathogens, your immune system has evolved key components that do battle in specialized and differing ways:
- Consume the antigens
- Cut a hole in the surface of the bacterium’s cell
- Poison to kill an antigen
- Cover the part of the antigen that does the damage
Some immune cells are born knowing how to locate and destroy antigens while others must wait until they receive specific instructions telling them what the antigen looks like
No News is Usually Good News
When your immune system works well, you’re barely aware of it. But, when you become sick, you’re very aware of the change and realize your systems have become worn down from neglect. In fact, what you eat and drink and how you choose to live your life are the key factors in keeping your immune system running at optimum capacity.
Dr. Joel Elkes, director of Behavioral Medicine at the University of Louisville has said, “Our mode of life itself, the way we live, is emerging as today’s principal cause of illness”.
“When your diet is deficient nutritionally, your defenses go down, permitting the proliferation of virus germs and increased risk of illness.”
You do not have to be grossly undernourished – a few minor deficiencies can break down the immune system according to Dr. Chandra, professor of pediatric research at Memorial University in Newfoundland.
“It is not that certain nutrients affect the immune system”, - Dr. Petro, of Purdue University says, “It is that every nutrient affects the immune system.”
A Silent Enemy That Tastes Great
White blood cells are on the scene first to challenge a germ or infection that enters your body by acting as your sentinel for round-the-clock vigilance. However, they do have a relatively short lifespan living from just days to weeks and are therefore constantly being produced in a healthy body.
Sugar in any form quickly suppresses the immune system from minutes to hours by paralyzing white blood cells.
If you are shopping the center isles of any modern grocery Store , you’ll find sugar in all forms including processed, refined, syrup or chemically based like those found in “sugar free” products to be pervasive and while these levels may make the highly refined products taste delicious, (they are of course designed for repeat sales), they dramatically diminish your ability to fight off disease.
If a single serving of a sugar or sweetener rich product suppresses your immune system for minutes to hours, consider what a daily diet of these products has on your ability to effectively ward off disease and illness.
Natures Intimate Complexity
Your body has very specific nutritional needs that have developed not in your lifetime, but over countless thousands of years. What this means is that in order for you to achieve a good state of health, one that produces healthy new cells, the foods you choose must deliver a broad variety of life giving nutrients.
A diet based on whole foods delivers this multitude of vitamins, minerals including Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium, trace minerals like Selenium, Chromium and many others, amino acids which are key building blocks from proteins and all the phytochemicals such as lutein, xeanthanine, several hundred flavonoids to name a few.
Technology has advanced tremendously over the past 200 hundred years and continues at breath-taking speed today yet it’s highly unlikely, at least in our lifetime, that scientists are ever going to be able to duplicate the intricate nutritional balance which nature has already provided us with – whole foods for whole people!
"Until man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge. - Thomas Edison
For precisely this reason, your food based supplements are now more essential today than ever before to building immune system potency and balance. Though you may eat a healthy diet, full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes every day, it is important to understand that you may not get all the essential nutrients.
The fact is that many foods today are grown in nutrient deficient soils that have become depleted of minerals meaning the crops frequently lack the natural nutritional power your parents - grandparents took for granted in their foods. This is where natural food based supplements will help you to achieve your nutritional requirements. Of course quality supplements are even more critical given the relentless stress and time constraints of today.
Your body may also be challenged in digesting, or breaking down the foods efficiently due to lack of enzymes, or have problems assimilating the nutrients, which can be caused by a number of conditions, such as Irritable Bowel, Leaky Gut, inadequate villi action in the small intestines. etc.
Keep It Simple To Save Time And Money
Some people get so stressed about their food selections that it actually depletes their immune system, which defeats the purpose. Why not do your best and keep it simple by selecting your groceries from around the perimeter of the Store (and avoid those highly processed foods in the center isles and the low nutrient value of the frozen and caned foods).
- If you cannot understand the words on the product labels or do not recognize the contents, simply do not buy the product.
- Focus on whole foods like fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, raw unsalted nuts and cold water fish. Whether it’s mealtime or snack time, don’t rush to make one big change, instead, choose to improve your diet incrementally, one step at a time.
- Incorporate an extra serving of veggies at dinner, add 1 serving of fruit per day; change bread, select a rice based pasta, increase your water intake, add a tsp. of chlorophyll to 2 of your 8 oz. glasses of water daily.
If you fit these simple tips into your daily routine, you’ll have a strong immune system, you experience far fewer sick days and as a bonus, you’re going to feel good and look great!
Don’t forget to add some daily exercise into your schedule, even a 30 minute walk (or 2 x 15 minutes) will be beneficial to your well-being.
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CCIr, ROHP, RNCP
As one of Canada's top Holistic Natural Health Practitioners (a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Master Herbalist & Clinically Certified Iridologist), Diane and her team of practitioners have helped thousands of people successfully address a wide range of problems naturally from her wellness centres in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada).