The human immune system works like a superbrain, identifies, records, and remembers all foreign substances and incoming menaces.
Normally our body has all the essentials for body maintenance and repair. One trillion cells (1% of body cells) control every inch of circulatory system. There are 40 different immune agents; including white blood cells (Phagocytes) lymphocytes in the liver, antibodies, monocytes, stem cells in bone marrow, neutrophils and lymph cells which pick up salts, minerals, and proteins from blood in cells and carry toxic proteins and waste to the blood for elimination. White blood cells protect the body against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. There are 3 types:
- Neutrophils. They phagocytize, that is, eat viruses, bacteria and old and dead cells. They have wide-ranging effectiveness.
- Monocytes collect cellular trash after infections and can trigger immune response. Examples include eosinophils and basophils.
- Lymphocytes include a variety of T-cells, which work with other white blood cells to attack and destroy foreign tissue, cancer cells, and virus-infected cells; B-cells that produce antibodies that bind to bacteria; and Natural Killer Cells that destroy cancerous or virally-infected cells.
The thymus is the most influential, critical gland, acting as the director of the immune strategy. The thymus is located just below the thyroid gland and above the heart and produces T-lymphocytes (white blood cells–WBCs–responsible for the cell-medicated immunity not controlled by antibodies).
The spleen is a large mass (about 7 ounces) of lymphatic tissue in the body, located above the upper left abdomen behind the lower ribs. It produces WBCs that destroy bacteria and cellular debris, recycles material from worn out red blood cells and platelets, and producing immune system-enhancing compounds.
What Can Go Wrong?
Any part of the immune system can break down or be overwhelmed by fungus, bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens in any number of ways. Some microorganisms are so virulent they simply overwhelm a person’s immune system. If the person’s immune system is not working at optimum levels, due to a previous disease, stress, poor nutrition, aging, or fatigue, many things can go wrong.
Free Radicals are short-lived, unstable electrons in the environment that cause oxidation (aging, stress, and tearing-down) of our immune system. Certain disease states, environmental hazards, chemicals, pesticides, drugs, cigarette smoke, cleaners, and radiation are examples of free radicals. An imbalance of oxidative versus anti-oxidant processes can cause cellular damage, resulting in chronic disease.
Autoimmune disorders. These occur when the immune system sees itself as a foreign invader and attacks it. There are over eighty types of autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, psoriasis, thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, and ulcerative colitis.
Infectious diseases. When a microorganism invades the body with such force that the immune system gets totally overwhelmed, the body cannot fight off the infection despite its best defenses. The common cold and the flu are mild examples of infectious disease; however, more deadly infections include viral pneumonia, bronchitis, infectious mono and the Corona virus.
Cancer. Keeping the immune system in optimal working order is key to avoiding cancer. The healthier the immune system is the more likely it can spot and destroy mutated cancer cells before they develop into cancerous growths. Antioxidants are widely used to decrease cancer exposure and help battle active cancer in the body.
Allergies. The many types of allergies are by far the most common problem with a compromised immune system. Allergies are actually caused by the body’s adverse reaction to a substance that does not normally harm most people. Examples of common allergens include pollen, dust, animal dander, mold, insect stings, smoke, synthetic chemicals, and foods such as wheat, dairy and eggs. Allergic reactions can take severe forms, including eczema, allergic rhinitis, sneezing, headaches, hives, asthma, and anaphylactic shock. Symptoms can be anywhere from mild to life threatening. The classic allergic response is marked by an increase in IgE antibodies, causing an inflammatory immune response.
HIV infection. Generally accepted as the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), HIV attacks the body’s helper T-cells, stopping these cells from activating other components of the immune system. The virus can thrive in the body until it is too late, the infection can be permanent, and the immune system dangerously impaired.
Diet: Balanced Nutrition
The ancient yogis said that proper diet provides fuel for the body. They promoted a diet consisting of pure, simple, natural foods that are easily digested and assimilated to promote good health. The yoga attitude toward diet is “Eat to live, not live to eat.” A whole foods diet, rich in whole grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables are essential in maintaining a resilient immune system, which can respond efficiently to offenders. A high-fat, high sugar diet puts undue stress on the body and has been associated with a higher risk of illness and shortened life span. The best approach to diet is one of balance. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats should be balanced to an individual’s needs.
Proteins are the building blocks of life and they are an essential part of a healthy diet. However, an excessive amount of protein, especially from animal sources, can be detrimental to your health. Excess protein will contribute to calcium and magnesium loss over the years. Protein deficiency, on the other hand, decreases cellular response in the immune system, making the body more susceptible to invaders. Quality protein sources are cold-water fish, fowl, beans, grains, soy, eggs, and a small amount of vegetables.
Carbohydrates are sugars that help to fuel the body and give us energy, but there are many differences between consuming refined and complex carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates (table sugar, pastries, bagels, cookies, candy and soda pop) have been shown to suppress the immune system and contribute to excessive yeast growth. Try eliminating processed white sugar, processed grains, junk food, and most snack foods from the diet. A good substitution for white sugar is honey, stevia, or fruit sweeteners. Better choices with discretion can enhance your level of health.
Fiber is another essential ingredient in a health-promoting dietary program. Inadequate amounts of fiber can lead to constipation and dysbiosis. There are reports that inadequate amounts of fiber contribute to colon cancer, diverticulitis, and various diseases of the colon. Low fiber diets may cause decreased transit time through the bowel, and may greatly increase exposure time to toxic substances. High fiber diets may decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, aid in weight loss, relieve constipation and irritable bowel disease, and may improve sugar regulation in diabetics.
Omega 3,6 fats are linked to lower incidence of heart disease and decreased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Cultures relying more on cold water fish as a staple have been shown to have lower heart disease and more disease resistance. Flaxseed oil is another excellent source of omega-3. Other essential fats are borage, primrose, black current, walnut, and olive oils. Highly saturated fats, like palm oil, coconut oil, and margarine, are highly processed and will contribute to a hardening of the arteries. Eliminate the unhealthy hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats in processed and packaged foods.
Attempting to eat a more paleo-based diet, that is gluten-free, with lower amounts of refined sugar, dairy and red meat intake is a good model in filling the requirements of a diet-enhanced immune system. Complex carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and a moderate amount of high protein food such as legumes, nuts and seeds, compromise a diet that will maintain and promote good health.
There are a number of goals that may be pursued to “boost” the immune system and decrease the risk of immune-deficient diseases, conditions, and auto-immunity. Infections that negatively affect the immune system may be bacterial, viral, or fungal in nature. The herbal and natural treatment will differ in each case. Specific treatment aims need to be assessed for each individual patient.
- To reduce immune dysfunction.
- To reduce inflammation and the production of auto-antibodies.
- To support specific organs affected by immune-deficient conditions.
- To eliminate micro-organisms infestations.
- To treat gut dysbiosis and repair leaky gut wall if necessary.
- To reduce the effects of environmental xenobiotics, xenoestrogens, and other toxins.
Antioxidant supplements are a collection of the most potent free radical scavengers that one can take to boost the immune system. Free radical damage has been implicated in many chronic diseases. Antioxidants protect the body from aging effects. Antioxidants are a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and plant-based botanicals. Some examples are: VITAMIN A for improved Thymus function; VITAMIN E used to rid free radicals and enhances influence on both antibody and cell-medicated immunity; VITAMIN C increases activity of white blood cells and along with BIOFLAVONOIDS (Quercetin, Rutin, Lycopene) are widely recognized as the best immune accelerator and decreases cell damage from free radicals. SELENIUM protects the body from cancer. Other antioxidants include: curcumin; alpha-lipoic acid; green tea; melatonin; grape seed extract; and melatonin. Dosage: See health professional for appropriate doses of each.
B vitamins rejuvenate immune cells in the body. They are best taken together in higher doses with a multi-vitamin/mineral formula to boost immune. Dosage: 50-200 mg daily.
- BLUE GREEN ALGAE, SPIRULINA, and CHLORELLA
“Super green” foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. Increases natural killer cells and antibody production. They are good sources of dietary fiber, zinc and iodine. They are reported to increase interferon levels, thus stimulating T-cells and macrophages. Heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium bind to chlorella’s cell wall and are excreted from the body. They also reduce IgE allergens in the body. Dosage: As directed on package.
Zinc has a salutary effect on the immune system’s T-cells, blood stream patrollers that sound the alarm when they encounter intruders. Zinc increases natural killer cell activity. Zinc supplements have been found to strengthen the immune system, especially with older folks. Dosage: 35-60 mg daily.
- ECHINACEA and GOLDENSEAL
Echinacea is considered to be a major immune modulating herb. T is also useful for the treatment of acute bacterial and viral infections that may occur in people with auto-immune diseases. Echinacea also works as an anti-inflammatory. Dosage: 1-2 doses 3-4 times a day, as directed. May be used in combination with GOLDENSEAL. Golden Seal is used to heal and strengthen the mucous membranes of the gut and would be useful in dysbiosis. Dosage: As directed on package.
The Chinese adaptogen herb enhances the antibody response and increases T-cell helper activity. Astragalus is well known to increase the body’s supply of white blood cells and decrease the toxic effects from chemotherapy. Dosage: as directed on package.
- MEDICAL MUSHROOMS
Long used by Traditional Chinese Medicine as a powerful immune enhancer; mushrooms are now being studied in the U.S. for their effectiveness against cancer and AIDS. The mushrooms used most often for immune-enhancement are shiitake, maitake, reishi, and cordyceps. The chemical component of these mushrooms helps the body produce interferon and may slow tumor growth. Dosage: as directed.
- PINE BARK EXTRACT (PYCNOGENOL) and GRAPE SEED EXTRACT
Two powerful immune-boosting substance found in nature. These proanthcyanodins contain flavonoids which have powerful antioxidant properties and strong free-radical scavenging activity. Dosage: see package.
- ADDITIONAL TRACE MINERALS
Although only in trace amounts, these minerals can have a profound affect on balancing the immune system. These trace minerals include CHROMIUM, MANGANESE, COPPER, IRON, and MAGNESIUM. Dosage: As directed.
- AMINO ACIDS
Amino acids are the “building blocks of life,” and supplementation can have a profound affect on the immune system. Examples include CARNITINE, LYSINE, GLUTAMINE, N-ACETYL CYSTEINE, and GLUTATHIONE.
- CO-ENZYME Q-10
This powerful antioxidant is described as a metabolic enzyme. CoQ-10 takes part in starting numerous body processes that provide energy for the immune system. Dosage: 60-200 mg daily.
- BOSWELLIA and TUMERIC
Two Indian herbs that have anti-inflammatory activity. They are also used as anti-oxidants and enhance liver detoxification pathways, particularly beneficial activity in autoimmune diseases. Dosage: See package instructions.
- IMMUNE–ENHANCING HERBS
Some common and uncommon herbs that help to boost the immune system include: MILK THISTLE, KELP, GARLIC, CAYENNE, CELERY SEED, PAU D’ ARCO, ANDROGRAPHIS, GUGGUL, LEMON BALM, ST JOHN’S WORT, LAVENDER, and BURDOCK. Dosage: As directed on package.
The pre-milk liquid produced by mammals during the first 24-48 hours after birth may help prevent and reduce infections in immune deficiency folks, especially with AIDS. Dosage: As directed on package.
A naturally occurring polysaccharide and a complex carbohydrate, beta-glucan is found in oats, baker’s yeast, barley, mushrooms, and algae. It protects the body from infection by strengthening the immune system by activating the macrophages, B-cells, and T-cells, and possesses antioxidant qualities. Beta glucan also fights antibiotic-resistant bacteria, helps treat cancerous tumors, and lowers cholesterol levels.
- OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS (FISH and FLAX SEED OIL)
In addition to having excellent anti-inflammatory activity, Omega-3 fatty acids block the synthesis of prostaglandins, natural compounds in the body that promote tumor growth. Dosage: 1-4 grams daily.
- CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID (CLA)
An Omega-6 essential fatty acid, CLA has been studied for anti-cancer benefits. Often used to reduce body fat, CLA is found mostly in beef, eggs, poultry and corn oil. Dosage: 500-1,500 mg daily.
- PLANT STEROLS (MODUCARE)
Plant sterols are not vitamins nor antioxidants but are plant fats. Plant sterols are able to produce small amounts of good cholesterol as well as phytosterols that are essential nutrients for healthy cells and powerful immune enhancers. Dosage: See package.
As with other cell types, the proliferation, growth, and differentiation of immune cells is dependent on glutathione. Both the T-cells and the B lymphocytes require adequate levels of glutathione. Dosage: As directed.
Long recognized in traditional botanical medicine as an ally in preventing and treating infectious diseases, especially the common cold (Influenza A) and respiratory infections. Oregano oil has also proven effective in inhibiting and eradicating a number of human viruses. Dosage: As directed.
- ELDERBERRY (SAMBUCUS NIGRA)
Elderberry extracts have immune-modulating activity in healthy individuals as well as those with virus infections and other diseases characterized by immune suppression. They contain significant antioxidant properties and are of use in treating common influenza. Dosage: As directed on package.
Supplemental larch comes from the inner bark of the western larch tree that contains arabinogalactans (which are dense sugars) and soluble fiber. It stimulates your immune system by activating monocytes, a group of white blood cells. Protects organs against cancer, and has a prebiotic effect. Dosage: As directed.
- IP-6 (INOSITOL HEXANIACIN)
IP-6 is a naturally occurring component of plant fiber that may contain antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Dosage: As directed.
- MANGOSTEEN FRUIT
Studies done in Japan showed that the xanthones isolated from mangosteen bark have antiviral and antibacterial activity. Dosage: As directed.
- SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE (SOD)
SOD is a vital endogenous antioxidant enzyme known to assist with immune function. Its chief function is to disarm superoxide anion radicals, which tax the immune system by causing cellular damage that leads to the progression of diseases. Dosage: As directed.
A green tea amino acid that enhances immune function, protects brain cells, and may promote relaxation. Theanine is found in tea leaves and can boost the capacity of the body’s gamma-delta T cells to produce interferon-gamma. Dosage: As directed.
Genistein, the active ingredient in soy, seems to make cancer cells vulnerable to the immune response. Dosage: As directed.
- DHEA (MULTI-HORMONE)
DHEA may boost the immune system by the activation of enzymes associated with metabolism. Has been found to prevent the suppression of immune competence caused by viral infections, increase natural killer cell activity, but may cause a decline in T-helper cells. Dosage: 5-50mg a day, but any over 25mg a day should be monitored by a qualified practitioner.
- BLACK CURRENT SEED OIL or SOYBEAN OIL
These are healthy omega-6 fatty acids that have a positive affect on the immune system. Dosage: 4.5gm a day (especially in elderly).
A commonly used herb in Ayurvedic medicine that provides a variety of therapeutic effects with little or no toxicity. It is a tonic that can increase energy, improve overall health and longevity, and prevent disease in young and old.
- Detoxification and Cleansing. Chelating agents combine with heavy metals in body resulting in a complex that is more readily eliminated. Detoxifying the body’s liver, bowel, lymphatic and kidney with a periodic “cleanse” is prudent. A short-term colon cleanse product would include laxative-like herbals such as cascara sagrada, senna, and flaxseed. A typical detoxification program lasts about 14-30 days. Eliminate food allergens (citrus, coffee, cola, dairy, eggs, sugar, gluten-rich foods, and red meat) from the diet. Add grains such as wheat, oats, barley and rye, along with organic vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Supplements to take during a detoxification program include glutathione, vitamins C, E, zinc, selenium, and milk thistle. An Ion-Cleanse machine also will detoxify the body by a means of magnetic pull.
- The Yeast Connection. Candida albicans is a microbe that is part fungal, part yeast. Probiotic support with added acidophilus and bifudis will help to establish friendly yeast and colon balance.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Closely associated with Candida and sometimes called the ‘yuppie flu’, fatigue and fibromyalgia can be associated with the Epstein-Barr Syndrome. Symptoms can include a recurrent, persistent sore throat, low-grade fever and achiness.
- Dysfunctional Immunity. This can manifest as a deficiency, which leads to an infectious disease or as a reactive state, associated with various types of allergies. With auto-immune diseases, the immune system is so hyper-vigilant that it recognizes part of our own body as foreign.
- Mother Nature’s Relationship to Immunity. The immune system can be compromised by a myriad of environmental illnesses that include multiple chemical sensitivities (there are over 10,000 known chemicals that may get in our body). There is the danger of new diseases (“hot zone” diseases like Dengue fever, SARs, ebola, malaria, and West Nile virus). Other subtle forms of immune-compromising problems include chlorine in our water supply, electromagnetic waves, and pollution.
- Building T-cell Function. PGE-2, a prostaglandin that interferes with T-cell function can effectively be combated by supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), which shows significant immune enhancement in the elderly and people with AIDS. Vitamin E increases CD57 natural killer cells and T-cells. Other nutrients that may aid in T-cell function includes garlic, black current oil and gamma linolenic acids.
- Build White Blood Cells (WBCs). In bone marrow, the thymus hormones direct the creation of 5000-8000 per cu/mm of white blood cells that act as “cell eaters,” attacking invading pathogens. WBCs can number up to 50,000-60,000 per cu/mm if an infection is present. WBCs release a protein called pyrogen whenever viruses or bacteria invade the body, instructing the brain to raise the body’s temperature from 98.6 to 102, thereby killing off much of the virus.
- Build Platelet Counts. Shark Liver Oil Extract prevents the reduction of both white blood cells and platelets. Berberine has demonstrated immunostimulation via increased blood flow to the spleen, macrophage activation, and elevation of platelet counts in cases of primary and secondary thrombocytopenia, and elevation of conjugated bilirubin.
- Build Red Blood Cell Counts. Red Clover helps to build red blood cell levels.
Natural Supplements That May Increase White Blood Cell Count
In doses of 200 mcg/day, this antioxidant mineral helps with development of WBCs and increases the ability of lymphocytes to kill tumor cells. Selenium increases the body’s natural killer cells and may increase the activity of white blood cells by 82%. Especially effective in men with prostate cancer.
- ECHINACEA PURPUREA
Reports show that supplementation with echinacea may increase the mitigation of white blood cells by 30-40%.
Astragalus increases production of white blood cells, particularly macrophages and T-cells. This Chinese herb can also increase the production of red blood cells, interferon, and immunoglobulins. The Chinese herb GINSENG also is known to increase T-cell production.
- THYMUS EXTRACT
Without thymus hormones T-cells cannot be activated. Without active T-cells our bodies cannot fight cancer and infectious disease. The thymus gland is adversely affected by stress and by severe or prolonged illness.
- CAT’S CLAW
This Amazonian herb has natural properties that can improve white blood cell counts and boost the immune system. It is taken by HIV patients to boost their immune system.
- POLYSACCHARIDES from MEDICAL MUSHROOMS
Common Chinese mushroom such as Reishi, Shiitake and Maitake raise T-cell counts and have anti-tumor activity.
- VITAMIN A and VITAMIN C
Vitamin A reduces the resistance to infection by lowering neutrophil phagocytosis in doses up to 50,000 IU daily. Vitamin C increases natural killer cell at doses of up to two grams a day.
- LARCH BARK
Larch bark extract is known to activate monocytes, which is a group of white blood cells.
- ASHWAGANDHA EXTRACT
This Chinese adaptogen has been found to significantly reduce leukopenia in patients taking the chemo-drug called cyclophosphamide. Total white blood cell count increased after only eleven days of supplementation.
- SHARK OIL EXTRACT
This oil from the shark liver has been reported to prevent the reduction in numbers of both white blood cells and platelets according to Canadian research.
IgA in saliva, tears, sinuses, and the vagina.
IgD on B-cells with IgM.
IgE that lock onto white blood cell basophyte receptors, finds an invading antigen/allergen, then the basophils release histamine for allergic reactions of swelling, rash, itching, shortness of breath.
IgG needed for sugar-coated pneumonia, streptococcus, hemophilic and other low-protein diseases (check low blood albumin.)
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