bodyguard – Your Immune System – Fighting The Battle Within You

Cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease. These chronic illnesses will touch the lives of at least one out of every three people. Each of these diseases has been related to a problem with the immune system. In fact, nearly all disease is caused by a malfunction of the immune system.

Your immune system is an incredibly complex and remarkable bodyguard. Its job is to protect all the cells in your body from cancer, viruses, bacteria, and other intruders in your environment. Basically, it wages an ongoing war against invasion. It does this by using an army of white blood cells or leukocytes. These white blood cells originate in your bone marrow and rush to the site of any infection or damaging intruder.

There are two divisions of white blood cells – phagocytes and lymphocytes. The phagocytes are like big Pac-Man cells; they go around the body and eat up all foreign substances like bacteria and pollen. Think of them as the armored unit of your immune system.

The lymphocytes are a more specialized group that attacks specific problems. Some bacteria and all viruses can hide from the phagocytes. They take cover inside the body’s own cells, acting like enemy troops in friendly uniforms. This situation requires action by the Special Forces, the immune commandos – the lymphocytes. With names like Natural Killer cells, it’s easy to picture these troops waging a battle inside you against the foreign invaders that seek to disrupt and control your body.

The combat troops are armed with weapons called antibodies, the guided missiles of the immune system. Antibodies are targeted for each specific type of invader. The quartermaster for the immune system is the lymph system. This is the fluid that surrounds every cell in your body. The lymph system transports nutrients into the cell and moves wastes out of the cell. Unlike your circulatory system, the lymph system has no pump. It only moves through muscle movement and deep breathing. Therefore, it is extremely important to get enough exercise to help promote the flow of lymph fluid. Practicing deep breathing techniques assists the lymph flow as well as increasing the amount of oxygen in your cells. This additional oxygen provides another boost to the immune system.

In recent years, testing has shown an overall decrease in immune system function nationwide. By measuring Natural Killer cells, your body’s first line of defense, scientists have determined that our immune systems have dropped by 29% since 1981. The rate of decline was 10% between 1981 and 1991. It got worse from 1991 to 1997 when immune function decreased by 19%, almost doubling the loss in little over half the time. This deterioration of your defenses is pretty frightening stuff but it is reversible if you take the right steps.

Reducing your exposure to toxins such as herbicides, pesticides, radiation, alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical, and recreational drugs is an excellent way to start. Many of these toxins assault your body daily, placing a constant demand on your immune system. Go outside more if possible because the concentration of these poisons is 3-5 times higher in your home than it is outdoors.

Certain natural supplements have been found to be extremely helpful in boosting immune system function. A six-year study of over 450 natural products done at UC-Irvine showed the following to be beneficial to your immune system: Glyconutrients, Garlic, Aloe Vera, Echinacea, Astragalus, Siberian or Korean Ginseng, Gotu Kola, Schizandra, Licorice Root, Lapacho, Melatonin, and Phytochemicals.

These supplements come prepared in a variety of methods. Some are powders; some are capsules; some can be made into tinctures or teas. The amounts used vary according to the product and the individual. It is advisable to consult your physician and someone knowledgeable in herbs before beginning any supplement program. Remember that ‘Natural’ does not always mean ‘Safe’. Some herbal supplements have serious side effects when used improperly and some can cause reactions with your medications if not monitored.

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