Think of your immune system as a fort. Well-built and impenetrable with an army of alert, healthy guards always on patrol, those inside are safe from harm. If there are rogue sentinels or a crumbling foundation,
invaders can get in and have a field day of destruction.
"The immune system is a highly specialized front-line defense that identifies, remembers, attacks and destroys disease-causing invaders and transformed or infected cells," write Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Patrick
Bouic, PhD in The Immune System Cure. "Essentially, the immune system is the body's means of surveillance, intended to protect it from disease by searching out and destroying any health-damaging agents."
IMMUNE SYSTEM IN BRIEF
The immune system is extremely complex; so much so that there is an entire branch of medical study -
immunology - devoted to it. Basically, the immune system consists of the thymus, lymph system (vessels and nodes), bone marrow, thyroid gland, spleen, and a host of specialized white blood cells.
"There are probably a trillion white blood cells (also called lymphocytes) circulating in the body at all
times, or about 3,000 of them in every drop of blood," writes Beth Ley, PhD in her book Immune System Control: Colostrum & Lactoferrin. "These hard-working defenders . . . have a common objective to destroy
all substances, living or inert, that are not naturally part of the human body."
The specialized white blood cells are described as follows:
T-cells: This group includes helper T-cells, killer T-cells and suppressor T-cells. These specialists kill cells that have already been invaded by foreign substances and cells that have become cancerous, Ley describes. "Killer T-cells migrate to where antigens are present, attack and destroy the antigens; helper T-cells identify enemies and rush to the spleen and lymph nodes where they stimulate the production of other cells to fight the infection; suppressor T-cells slow down or stop the activities of B-cells and other T-cells, playing a vital role in calling off an attack after an infection has been encountered," she writes.
B-cells: These seek, tag or identify and attach themselves to specific foreign invaders. B-cells are housed in the spleen and lymph nodes where they work to produce and secrete antibodies.
Macrophages: These cells act as scavengers to swallow bacteria and cellular debris. In addition, macrophages alert T-cells about the invaders so that the T-cells can initiate a response. Macrophages also are key in regulating inflammation and immune response.
Antibodies (immunoglobulins): These are proteins produced when there is an antigen present - each antibody targets a specific in vivo vandal. There are five classes of antibodies - IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD and IgE - each has its own specific purpose. "Antibodies are effective killers within the immune system," Ley writes. "Once established, they can clone themselves whenever they are needed to fight off that particular antigen or illness again."
There are numerous supplements one can take daily to support immune system function. A good multivitamin/mineral complex, however, cannot be ignored as a place to start. Add to this a solid probiotic
formula for enhancing the army of beneficial bacteria residing in the gut, and the basic immune health foundation is well constructed.
Robert Rountree, MD, author of Immunotics (with Carol Colman), recommends a variety of dietary
supplements for enhancing function.
Colostrum: This first milk substance contains powerful immune-boosting proteins. Dose: 1,440 to 4,320 mg daily.
Olive Leaf Extract: Rountree points to the "potent" antibiotic and antiviral actions of this herb. Dose: 500 to 3,000 mg daily.
Curcumin: Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions help boost the immune system. Dose: 500 to 1,500 mg daily.
Echinacea: For acute respiratory conditions (cold, flu, bronchitis). Dose: 500 to 4,000 mg daily for 14 days.
Elderberry: The herb to take when flu symptoms begin. Dose: two to four teaspoons daily.
Garlic: This culinary herb boosts natural killer cell activity. Dose 300 to 900 mg of dried garlic extract daily.
Medicinal Mushrooms (shiitake, maitake and reishi): Potent natural immune system boosters. Dose: Maitake D-Fraction (1 dropperful up to three times daily); reishi (500 mg daily), and shiitake (500 mg daily).
There are many more supplements that can help tweak one's immune system into optimal function. As with anything else, if you are suffering from an illness or have a medical condition, please discuss your supplemental choices with your health care practitioner.
This article is reprinted with permission from Vitamin Retailer magazine and is provided for educational purposes only by your local retailer. No part of this article is intended as medical advice. Always consult your health care provider for any medical problems.