Your Immune System

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Modern conventional medicine battles disease by means of drugs, surgery, radiation and other therapies, but true health can be obtained only by maintaining a healthy, properly functioning immune system.  It is the immune system that fights off disease-causing micro organisms and engineers the healing process.

Robert A. Anderson M.D. Former clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington. School of Medicine had this to say about disease. "Louis Pasteur promoted the concept of micro organisms, viruses and bacteria as the cause of disease.

At the same time an archrival, Claude Bernard, argued that more importantly, a susceptible constitution was the essence of disease. To rephrase that argument: a weakening of the immune system makes human beings more susceptible to the ravages of invaders, micro-organisms, toxins and allergenic substances."

The immune system is the key to fighting every kind of insult to the body, from the little shaving nick to the myriad of viruses that seem to be around these days.

Weakening of the immune system results in increased susceptibility to virtually every type of illness. Some common signs of an impaired immune function include fatigue, listlessness, repeated infections, inflammation, and allergic reactions, slow wound healing and chronic diarrhea. By understanding some of the basic elements of the immune system and how they work, plus the overall role the immune system plays in your health, you can take responsibility for your own health

In its simplest terms, the task of the immune system is to identify those things that are "self" (that naturally belong in the body) and those that are "nonself" (foreign or otherwise harmful material), and then to neutralize or destroy that which is nonself. The immune system is unlike other bodily systems in that it is not a group of physical structures but a system of complex interactions involving many different organs, structures, and substances, among them white blood cells, bone marrow, the lymphatic vessels and organs, specialized cells found in various body tissues, and specialized substances, called serum factors, that are present in the blood. Ideally, all of these components work together to protect the body against infection and disease.

The human immune system is functional at birth, but it does not yet function well. In large part this is because immunity is something that develops as the system matures and the body learns to defend itself against different foreign invaders, called antigens. The immune system has the ability to learn to identify, and then remember, specific antigens that have been encountered. It does this through two basic means, known as cell-mediated immunity and humoral immunity.

In cell-mediated immunity, white blood cells called T lymphocytes identify and then destroy cancerous cells, viruses, and micro organisms like bacteria and fungi.

Humoral immunity involves the production of antibodies. These are not cells, but special proteins whose chemical structures are formed to match the surfaces of specific antigens. When they encounter their specific antigens, antibodies either damage the invasive cells or alert the white blood cells to attack.

Because of their crucial role in all aspects of immunity, both cell-mediated and humoral, white blood cells are considered the body's first line of defence. White blood cells are larger than red blood cells. In addition, they can  move independently in the blood stream and are able to pass through the cell walls. This enables them to travel quickly to the site of an injury or infection.

Marvellous as it is, the immune system can work as it should only if it is cared for properly. This means getting all the right nutrients and providing the right environment, plus avoiding those things that tend to depress immunity. Many elements of the environment we live in today compromise our immune systems' defence abilities. The chemicals in the household cleaners we use; the overuse of antibiotics and other drugs; the antibiotics, pesticides, and myriad additives present in the foods we eat; and exposure to environmental pollution all place a strain on the immune system. Another factor that adversely affects the immune system is stress. Stress results in a sequence of biochemical events that ultimately suppress the normal activity of the white blood cells and places undue demands on the endocrine system, as well as depleting the body of important nutrients. The result is impaired healing ability and lowered defence against infection.

Proper immune function is an intricate balancing act. While inadequate immunity predisposes one to infectious illnesses of every type, it is also possible to become ill as a result of an immune response that is too strong or directed at an inappropriate target. Many different disorders, including lupus, pernicious anaemia, rheumatic heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly diabetes, have been linked to inappropriate immune system activity. Consequently, they are known as autoimmune, or "self-attacking-self," disorders.       

Author - Stuart Wilson

Published - 0000-00-00