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The immune system

The Immune system is vital to our health. A strong Immune system protects us from infections and other illnesses.


What is the immune system?

The immune system is simply the body’s defense mechanism. It protects you from any invading organism.

This protective mechanism lies within specific cells in the body known as white blood cells or leucocytes. They circulate in the blood stream and have the ability to migrate into tissues when needed. White blood cells are also found in the lymphatic system  of the body.

Lymph nodes are part of this system and are a special form of tissue within which white blood cells congregate.

How Does it Work?

White blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. These cells may be divided into two types: granulocytes and non-granulocytes.

There are three types of granulocytes:
  • Neutrophils
  • Eosinophils
  • Basophils

Neutrophils are responsible for the removal of viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pathogens from the body using a process known as phagocytosis.
Pathogens are any disease-producing agent or microorganism.
Eosinophils and basophils are positioned on body surfaces and along blood vessels to fight infection and facilitate the immune response to an invader.

Non-granulocytes exist in two forms:
  • Lymphocytes (T cells, B cells, natural killer cells)
  • Monocytes

These cells continually patrol the body looking out for invading  pathogens and are responsible for killing them. Lymphocytes have the ability to identify pathogens as being foreign to the body. On doing so, they initiate an immune response leading ultimately to their disposal before trouble is caused. Monocytes take part in this disposal process, swallowing up bacteria and destroying them in a process known as phagocytosis. Monocytes are able to migrate out of the blood stream to perform this same task within tissues by transforming themselves into macrophages.
Cells that have the ability to ingest and destroy pathogens are known as phagocytes. Neutrophils, monocytes and macrophages are all phagocytes.

The Immune Response

The immune system has two main ways of responding to an invader.

  • Non-specific response – This is when T cells identify an invader and initiate an immune response that results in the pathogen being destroyed  “on the spot”. This is random and the T cells have to “bump” into the invader.
  • Specific response – This is when antibodies respond to the invading pathogen and is a process that involves the B cells. It is like a zooming device that will make the B cells get to the pathogen in record time.


When a pathogen enters the body, the immune system can call on B cells to produce substances that make it easier to recognize and defeat the same pathogen if it shows up again. These substances are known as antibodies and exist in the body for future use, in a similar way to the police keeping records of fingerprints to help identify criminals.

The “fingerprints” of each type of pathogen are unique and known as antigens. Antigens are also present in all cells of the body.

If we have an antibody to a pathogen in our system, we are considered to have some level of immunity to it.

Immunity exists in two forms:
  • Active immunity is gained by being previously exposed to the infective organism. An antibody is produced and then remains in the body ready to fight the same organism again.
  • Passive immunity is transferred from mother to baby in a process that involves antibodies being passed to the baby in the womb and during the first few days of breastfeeding.

What goes wrong

The immune system can be weakened by any combination of negative factors.

Existing on a bad diet, having a stressed lifestyle that causes you insufficient sleep and is not making you happy, and living in an area of high pollution such as a city, can be a perfect recipe for poor immune function.

People who work with the general public, in the health system or in schools often find that they become ill regularly until their immune system adjusts to the increased exposure to new “germs” or pathogens.

If you are falling prey to every bug that goes around, your immune system may not be detecting pathogens early enough to stop them before they cause trouble. Your T cells need to smarten up their act. If you have trouble throwing off a bug once it has hit you, your immune system may be incapable of launching an effective assault on the pathogen even after it has been detected. Your phagocytes need beefing up.

In certain circumstances, the immune system becomes confused and starts attacking the body’s own cells instead of bugs. This is known as an autoimmune condition. Here, the T cells have become incapable of detecting the difference between good and bad cells, and whilst “friendly” body cells may be attacked, “unfriendly” pathogens could escape unharmed and do further damage to the body.

When the immune system is confused and overworked, it may start reacting to things that are not a threat, over-responding to friendly antigens. This could give rise to allergies as the immune system becomes oversensitive and begins attacking randomly and “jumping at shadows”.

Histamine is often released by the immune system during allergic  reactions and is responsible for the itch and redness that is observed. In allergic conditions, the immune system needs to be stabilized and desensitized.

Remedies for the immune system

There are many herbal remedies that work on the immune system. Some are unique in that no other form of (synthetic) medication is known to work in the same way.

An example is Echinacea, a herb that balances the immune system. Echinacea is known as an immunomodulator, strengthening the immune system when it is weak and working to balance immune function.

A number of basic steps will help us improve immune system problems.

Lower Stress Levels

Stress can lead to raised levels of hormones produced by the adrenal gland. These are known to inhibit white blood cells and influence the thymus gland. The thymus is where T cells are taught to recognize good and bad cells. If this gland is not doing its job, efficient and fully functioning T cells will not be produced. Lifestyle changes will be the first and essential area to address.

Remedies that can help to reduce stress

Avenaforce (Flowering Oats), Passion flower, Valerian, Anti-Stress (St-John’s Wort) and especially Vital Energy.

Address the Digestive System

Improving digestive function can go a long way towards ensuring the proper level of nutrients needed for good immune function. Vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as iron, zinc, selenium and carotenes, are all known to influence immune function.

Avoiding sugar and alcohol will improve phagocytic activity. A good flora is your first line of defense against invading organisms.

Use Immune Balancing Herbs

A number of herbs can be used to improve the way the immune system functions.

What do you think?

Have you found what you read useful? If so, I would love if you would leave your comment below. Thanks Sonia Chartier

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