BALANCING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The immune system functions as our bodys’ natural defense against invaders. When triggered, a massive effort is launched to contain, consume and dismantle elements perceived by the immune system to be anti self. Antibodies, T and B lymphocytes and various specialized molecules respond as militant minions to tag and quickly obtain superiority over the offending particles threatening the health-identity of the self. In theory, this is how the immune system is designed to act. Poised ready in an instant to squelch all invasions to the surface and withing the interior of our bodies, be it a life form, pollen, chemical, fume or cosmic particle wave, alien to our internal nature.
Problems arise when for example, an overly zealous immune system becomes so primed on a substance to assault, that even harmless particles that look like the offender are attacked. This type of adaptation is called cross linking, and a perfect example can be illustrated when we think about wheat allergies and gluten intolerance. Perhaps you have an allergy or intolerance to wheat. But to your immune system the wheat is tagged as an offending starch over repeated exposures. Then as a starch molecule, other grains such as rice, corn, oats, begin to look very similar to wheat. Sufficient triggering of the wheat deepens the threat response and voila, now we’ve got sensitivities or allergies to other grains that were formerly absent. This then is an inappropriate immune response to a different starch form that bears a molecular resemblance to wheat.
Many dreaded immune dysfunctions are the result of overactive immune systems, usually referred to as autoimmune diseases. The immune system attacks its owner resulting in damage to otherwise healthy tissue. Whatever trigger initiates the response, the immune system produces antibodies which can then target any organ, system or body part, causing it to be painful, inflamed and swollen. Aside from the pain and discomfort, severe episodes can be life threatening; such as airways being swollen shut. Absent or inadequate immune system activity can also lead to a life of misery, whether it is mild or severe. Undeveloped or simply inactive immune systems from birth make it impossible to live in a less than sterile environment. Conversely, one might have an impaired or mildly deficient immune system which lays them waste to every cold or influenza they encounter.
The usual measures to address overactive autoimmune disorders involve corticosteroid therapy to suppress the immune system as seen with severe allergic reactions, colitis, asthma and organ transplants. Organ implants, which of course the immune system will not recognize as its’ self, is a perfect example of a healthy organ being regarded as an alien invader. Conversely deficient immune system protocol focuses on simple and obvious remedies such as chicken soup theory, caution, isolation and sterility to protect and support the under active immune system. Fortunately there are many herbs, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, glandulars, homeopathics and therapies that are instrumental in supporting and strengthening the immune system, as well as the chicken soup theory. Likewise there are categories of nutrients which are quite effective at reducing inflammation, swelling and pain, thereby countering the damage incurred by an overactive immune system. Actually certain botanicals have the ability to rebalance immune activity whether it is over or under active. They are in a class referred to as adaptogens.
A diagnosis of an immune system disorder does not have to be a devastating event. Many avenues of therapy are available to manage, contain and in some cases overcome the disorder. With effort and time even pharmaceutical dependence can be reduced or suspended.