Friday, January 7, 2011

The Immune System

The blog on prevention and treatment of flu brought in requests for more information on the immune system in general. It is good for you to know a little about your immune system and methods to support it. With the current socio-political situation that has birthed our environmental sorrows we are smart to support our bodies protective systems. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking drugs are better than the food and herbs that spirit gave us to promote health. Drugs do not promote health and do not get to the root cause of the symptoms a person is experiencing. Drugs may be able to counter symptoms you are presenting with but they bring their own side effect symptoms to the picture that you then have to additionally deal with. Get to know your herbs and eat nutritious foods. This will lay the ground work to support your immune system.

For the person who asked about herbs increasing white blood cells, I would recommend you look at the following herbs: Echinacea, Ceanothus, Panax, Astragalus. There are others, but start studying these herbs. Depending on the situation will depend on which herbs are most useful.  Use the materia medica link I included below for specific details on the herbs. I would also like to point out that herbs are given to an individual to fit a specific picture that a person presents with.  They are not generally given an herb to "increase white blood cells".  

See below for some general immune system information taken from a lecture I gave quite a few years ago followed by immune system herbs and links including a pdf on Echincaea to get even more data.



SUPPORTING OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM



Components of the immune system

Immune system proper
The immune system consists of lymphatic vessels and organs (tonsils, thymus, lymph nodes, appendix, spleen), white blood cells (lymphocytes, monocytes, neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils etc.), specialized white blood cells which are in tissue rather than the lymph or blood stream (macrophages, mast cells etc.), as well as special serum factors. The immune system is most closely related to the 1st chakra energy center which grounds us to the earth and the earths etheric network. This is where we file our belief systems, and our connection with socio-politcal happenings. This area is related to our feeling of safety in the physical world. It is the area that supports us and is connected to the physical world through our legs we stand on. This area effects the legs and hips as well as the base of the spine and shares some area with the 2nd chakra on the pelvic region. This is the area where we ground ourselves and materialize our dreams into reality through nurturing them and being physically committed to them. When we feel fearful for our safety and/or feel insecure in a situation and do not feel physically protected it tends to weaken the immune system.

Other organs affecting the immune system
The immune system can be influenced by other bodily processes. Blood brings nourishment to all the cells of the body. The blood vessels also act as a channel for movement of white blood cells. The blood and lymph vessels both carry cellular waste products away. The lymph system carries metabolic cellular waste away from the tissues and also acts as a freeway for travel of white blood cells. The immune system depends on the excretory organs to clear the body of foreign invaders or waste products. The kidneys, liver, skin, lungs and intestines are all excretory organs involved in this process. The liver is an important gate keeper for foreign invaders as well as metabolizing harmful agents into useful material or into a form which can be excreted from the body. The liver metabolizes steroids, ammonia and other compounds into substances which can be excreted. The liver transfers some of these substances into the intestines via the bile. In the colon these products are transported out of the body in the feces. Other substances are made water soluble and go to the kidneys. The kidneys excrete and secrete a large proportion of soluble waste from the blood. The lung breathes out gases which have been dissolved in the blood. The skin also excretes soluble substances in the sweat.
Additionally our emotions play a large part in how our immune system works. Our emotions affect our nervous system and endocrine system which in turn effects most bodily functions. Strong emotions of a stressful nature can depress the immune systems activity. Emotions of happiness and contentment can support the immune system.

Function of immune system:
The immune system is the gate keeper between our body and the environment. It protects the body from infections, parasites, cancer and basically anything which it views as other than the body it serves. The immune system can be divided into two categories scientifically.

1. Non-specific immunity: This type of immunity reacts to broad groups of insults to the body. Barriers such as the skin, cilia in the lungs, lysozymes in the tears would all be included in this category. Non-specific immunity also involves specialized cells in the blood and other tissues which attack alien invaders in general. Usually the method of attack is phagocytosis. In phagocytosis, the cell eats the invader and dissolves the invader with enzymes which digest the foreign agent.

2. Specific or acquired immunity: This type of immunity recognizes and reacts to specific foreign agents rather than all foreign agents.  This is the part of the immune system which involves antibodies.


The immune system depends on multiple
 factors for its smooth function.

General factors which can affect immune system response are:
Age
Nutritional Status
Genetics
Medications
Environment
Radiation
Stress
Chronic wasting diseases such as cancer and TB

The  immune system needs nourishment from the food we take in. Our immune system can be affected by our emotional states and our environment. It is dependent on a healthy lifestyle for optimum functionality. Specific factors which can affect our immune system in a negative way are pesticides, herbicides, food additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, high fat, simple sugar, low nutrient, refined food diets, antibiotics and hormones in food, contaminated water, prescription drugs, recreational drugs (including coffee and chocolate), heavy metals, radiation, repetitive infections or parasites, and mental stress. These factors must be recognized and removed from a persons life.


Agents or actions which specifically increase susceptibility to fungal infections
• antibiotics (especially repeated use)
• Diabetes (increased sugar feeds fungus and inhibits phagocytosis)
• High sugar and low micronutrients diet
• Hormones such as birth control pills
• Pregnancy
• Wet and warm environments

Healthy food, a safe environment, sunshine, clean air, healthy water, exercise, prayer and a fulfilling life are necessary for optimum immune system function. Nutritional products and herbs can be used to support the normal function of the immune system.

Methods to support a healthy immune system include:
•    Avoid allergens or food sensitivities.
•    Eat a nourishing diet of whole organic or biodynamic foods with healthy oils and fats, adequate   protein, high-fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Eat plenty of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables.
•    Eliminate chemical sensitivities in your environment.
•    Nourish, tonify, and enhance organ systems that are depleted or not functioning properly.
•    Discontinue recreational drug use.
•    Decrease prescription drug use as much as possible under the guidance of your physician.
•    Get adequate exercise.
•    Rest and meditation.
•    Drink 6-8 glasses of clean water each day.
•    Drinking fresh squeezed lemon juice helps maintain the body’s internal ph.
•    Breath clean air.
•    Get sunshine.
•    Enjoy the benefits of massage and hydrotherapy.
•    Include joyful activities in your day.
Some of the more popular herbs are listed below. If you want detailed descriptions on any of these herbs you can get them at this link:http://www.herbaltransitions.com/MateriaMedica.html

Immunomodulator: Enhances the body’s natural defense system to assist in infectious conditions or other situations which tax the immune system, like invasive tumors.
Examples:
•    Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
•    Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata)
•    Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
•    Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
•    Cedar (Thuja spp.)
•    Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) -
pdf on Echinacea athttp://www.herbaltransitions.com/herbalresources.html

•    Elecampane (Inula helenium)
•    Flag (Iris versicolor)
•    Garlic - fresh (Allium sativa)
•    Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
•    Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
•    Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
•    Lomatium (Lomatium dissectum)
•    Oregon grape root (Mahonia spp.)
•    Osha (Ligusticum porteri)
•    Paracress (Spilanthes acmella)
•    Poke root (Phytolacca americana)
•    Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis)
•    Propolis
•    Red root (Ceanothus americanus)
•    Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
•    Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria )
•    Wu wei zi (Schisandra chinensis)
 
Lymphagogue: Supports the lymphatic organs or stimulates activity of the lymph system.
Examples:
•    Burdock (Arctium lappa)
•    Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
•    Cleavers (Galium aparine)
•    Flag (Iris versicolor)
•    Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
•    Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)
•    Poke root (Phytolacca decandra)
•    Queen’s root (Stillingia sylvatica)
•    Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
•    Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
 
For details on each of the above herbs, go to:  
Each herb can be looked up here under either it's common or latin name. The information is completely free.

Wild Herbs which are nutritious foods and immune-supportive: Plantain greens, Cleavers greens, Chickweed, Burdock root, Stinging nettles greens in spring (cooked only): many of these herbs can be used in stir fries, soups, or juiced. The Stinging nettles should be cooked due to the possibility of being stung otherwise. The Chickweed is great in salad. These vibrant green wild foods support our bodies via their vitamins, minerals, enzymes and ways we yet have to discover.

For a pdf on Echinacea, click here: 



 

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