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Immunity


Introduction

Immunity is the ability to defend against foreign substances. The skin is the body's largest organ and first line of defense. The immune system is composed of mucous membranes, the lymphatic system, lymph nodes (where white blood cells are concentrated), the spleen, which filters blood, tonsils, thymus, and Peyer's patch (the lymphatic system of the digestive tract). When a foreign microorganism penetrates the skin, histamine is released by damaged cells, sending a chemical signal to increase blood flow, and thus inflammation, to the affected area. In sensitive individuals, the immune system can turn itself on, recognizing non-foreign proteins as invaders. With this autoimmune response, the body often perceives regular chemicals, such as food or the body's own cells, as a reason for an immune response.

With today's high stress lifestyle, immunity is even more difficult to achieve. Have you ever noticed you get sick after significant stress? Whether it be lack of sleep, an impending deadline, family pressure, or being pulled in too many directions, stress impacts the adrenal glands and the immune system. As a result, the immune system functions at a lower level in order to continuously react to stress. Hormone secretions used to fight the inflammatory response are continuously released during the stress process. Other studies have reported that people with a more positive outlook on life suffer less often from the common cold.

Digestive tract health is crucial to maintaining immunity. The gut has a protective mucous membrane layer that becomes weakened by stress and poor diet as well as frequent antibiotic, NSAIDs, oral contraceptives usage or other foreign agents such as yeast, bacteria, and parasites. These organisms can take over the digestive tract, leading to poor digestion. As large food particles leak out of the damaged gut membrane, the immune system creates antibodies against regular food items.

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Common Symptoms

Chronic and continuing infections, colds, respiratory problems; Candida yeast overgrowth; chronic fatigue; chronic allergies.

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Common Causes

Glandular malfunction, usually because of poor diet and nutrition; staph infection; prolonged use of antibiotics and/or cortico-steroids, (long-term use of these drugs can depress the immune system to the point where even minor illness can become life-threatening.); some immunization shots; Candida Albicans yeast overgrowth; emotional stress; food and other allergies; environmental and heavy metal pollutants; radiation.

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The Lymphatic System and Immune Response

The lymphatic system includes lymphatic vessels and nodes, the thymus gland, tonsils and spleen as well as bone marrow. Lymph is a clear fluid that delivers immune cells and immune factors throughout the body. The lymph nodes provide an environment for the lymphocytes, or white blood cells, to get initial exposure to viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. The lymphatic system assists in fluid balance as well. Exercise improves circulation in the lymphatic system, removing toxins and wastes that would block immune response.

The health of your lymphatic system depends to a large extent on the health of your liver. The liver produces most of the body's lymph, and the performance of the lymph system is highly dependent on special types of macrophages in the liver that filter bacteria. This includes Candida yeasts and toxins absorbed by the intestinal tract. Lymph is also a major route for nutrients from the liver and intestines, so it is rich in fat soluble nutrients.

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Natural Treatment

A hearty immune system starts with the health of its individual organs, specifically with an efficient digestive system and adrenal glands, healthy skin and a well-functioning liver and spleen. Dietary management (online or in person) is crucial to supporting the health of the organs. Building up the protective gut layer, while also focusing on enzyme concentration, improves digestive function. Removing toxins such as chemically-laden food and food allergens improves digestive function, as well as liver health. A low stress diet devoid of processed sugars along with stress management feeds the health of the adrenal glands. Staying hydrated helps the function of the lymphatic system and the liver and helps clear out toxins and foreign agents as well as protect the skin. Regular sleep and exercise are critical in helping to resist infection. In many cases, amino acid and herbal supplementation are necessary to provide a significant boost to immunity as well.

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References

Page L. Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone Eleventh Edition. Traditional Wisdom, Inc; 2000.

Miller, GE, Cohen, S, Ritchey, AK. Chronic psychological stress and the regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines: A glucocorticoid-resistance model. Health Psychology. 2002; 21(6), 531-541.

Cohen S, Doyle W, Turner R, Alper C, Skoner. Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine. 2003; 65:652-657.

Lymphomation.org. Patients Against Lymphoma. 2009. Available at: http://www.lymphomation.org/lymphatic.htm. Accessed on October 12, 2009.

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