How the Immune System Works
- First line of defense: The skin - an excellent barrier between the outside world and our internal organs. It even produces certain chemicals that will kill pathogens as they come in contact with your skin. Note: antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer will destroy these protections. You can find soap and sanitizer without the antibacterial components, I make my own hand sanitizer with essential oils and use a castile based soap. I'll be sharing these recipes in a future post.
- Next line of defense: Eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.
- Eyes produce tears which flush out and can even kill certain pathogens.
- The nose contains hair that captures dust and germs and then produces mucous which breaks down and then removes the pathogens.
- Saliva in the mouth will break down and kill pathogens which is then carried into the stomach where even more acid mixes with the pathogen, killing what may have been left.
- Mucous is also produced in the mouth, throat, lungs and digestive tract to serve the purpose of capturing, breaking down, destroying where possible and then carrying away pathogens from the body. For this purpose, never use cough or mucous suppressant drugs. You want your body to eliminate mucous and this happens through coughing and blowing your nose.
- Some pathogens make it past the first two lines of defense. For those that do there are internal organs and friendly flora living in your gut (mainly the large intestine) which will work to eliminate those left. The following organs either produce or store white blood cells, which are the “soldiers” of the body that prepare to fight off and kill the invaders. There are five different types of white blood cells that have different jobs:
- Identify the pathogen (for attack or memory for future attack)
- Communicate with other cells
- Organize and coordinate immune response to destroy or suppress the pathogen
- Tonsils & Adenoids - trap pathogens and make antibodies which bind to toxins, disables them and aids in removal. When tonsils become sore or swollen it is your immune system working to remove a problem in your body. This is an important part of your immune system and there are ways of working with the body to clear the tonsils so a pathogen doesn't get further into the body.
Immune System Responses
- Excess mucous in sinus and lungs which would trigger coughing and sneezing
- Stuffed or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Swollen tonsils and lymph glands
- Aching bones and muscles
- Nausea and vomiting
All these symptoms are actually the body working to kill off a virus or bacteria and bring about balance. It is the immune system in our body that heals – everything else we do with food, herbs and other remedies are an aid to the body healing itself. Note: Taking pharmaceuticals that will suppress these symptoms will put a halt to the immune system function.
- Poor nutrition
- Inadequate sleep
- Unhealthy habits such as using tobacco, vaping, drugs, alcohol and other addictive substances
- Stress and anxiety
- Negative thoughts and emotions, including fear and anger
- Meditation and prayer
- Positive thinking, gratitude and love
- Exercise – reduces stress and strengthens the body
- Diet full of whole foods, lots of fruits, veggies and herbs
- Healthy micro biome
“Our thoughts influence our character, shape our attitudes, determine our behaviors, affect our spirituality, and even influence the immune system.” A Better Way to Think by Norman Wright
Immune System Strengthening Herbs and Food
- Follow the factors just mentioned for strengthened immunity
- Incorporate cultured foods and/or probiotics into the diet to (Traditional Cooking School is a great resource for learning how to make your own cultured foods)
- Avoid refined sugar (it works against and depresses the immune system)
- Avoid refined and processed foods and fast food (100 Days of Real Food is a good place to start for help)
- Foods: arugula, asparagus, kiwi, mangoes
- Carotene foods (dark greens, yellow and orange) – protect and strengthen the thymus and enhance white blood cell function. Carrots, yams, orange squash, red peppers, dark green leafy vegetables.
- Make sure the digestive system is functioning correctly. Average bowel movement at least once a day, coming out easily. If you are not experiencing this work on incorporating more bitter herbs and dietary fiber. First take a look at your diet.
Adaptogen herbs – improve immune response, enhances the body's ability to adapt to stress, increase immune function, brings balance to the body. These can be taken as a tonic every day.
- Medicinal mushrooms: shitake, reishi, turkey tail, cordyceps, etc.
- Tulsi or Holy Basil
Immune Strength and Support – take as daily tonics to prevent illness
- Blue fruits such as blueberry, huckleberry and blackberries
- Red raspberry leaf
- Red clover
- Immune System Blend
- Elderberry Syrup
- Plague Remedy (I just use this as a "vinaigrette" salad dressing)
Immune Stimulants – at the very onset of any illness the following herbs will stimulate the immune system and increase its function.