The most important function of the immune system is its defensive role in the human body. The immune system has an inherent ability to detect and challenge foreign substances and organisms within the body, acting as the crucial first line of defense. The immune systems plays a role in eliminating harmful organisms and substances by recognizing, destroying and finally removing various types of foreign particles and malignant growths like cancers wherever it detects them in the human system. It is therefore a totally independent and invisible shield, working unnoticed in our bodies and bringing attention to itself only when we get sick; we are otherwise unaware of its existence. But it must be mentioned here that the onset of an illness is by itself, not an indication of immune system impairment or weakness, it can also be due to the effects of recurring and lasting infections in the body. A permanent and constant fatigue in the body, the presence of swelling in the glands, the occurrence of colds and sore throats in a person are the more specific signs of a weakened immune system. A full and professional diagnosis of the condition must be taken in consultation with a medical practitioner, when and if such symptoms become aggravated and if they come accompanied by weakness or weight loss in the individual.
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While the organization and function of the immune system is well defined and complex, its impairment can often be brought about quite easily and quickly by a variety of simple factors and circumstances in the body. These factors can very easily weaken it and expose the individual to a plethora of debilitating conditions. Some of the very usual and easily identifiable underlying causes are the presence of excessive physical and or emotional stress in the person; this also includes depression, chronic or otherwise. Recovery from illness if furthered hampered by the presence in the body of a chronic or lingering illness, especially due to severe conditions, and physical trauma from surgery, all these factors can leave the resources of the immune system depleted and it may find it difficult to cope. This necessarily is not conducive to a healthy and quick convalescence. The normal functioning and operation of the immune system can also be severely hampered by the regular intake of a diet deficient in nutrients and inadequate in important compounds. The greatest long term harm is often dealt to the body by the regular intake of empty calories, this low caloric compounds are abundant in many processed foods and sweets; such a diet needless to say is poor in nutritional value. The other important contributing factors are conditions such as obesity in people, a generally poor physical condition or fitness level and prolonged periods of inactivity or sedentary habits. If used over a lengthy period of time, certain compounds found in drugs and common medications, especially cortisone and the antibiotics, have a very negative effect on immune system performance and viability. Toxic compounds such as heavy metals and other harmful substances such as alcohol, also tend to affect the immune system in a negative way. Genetic and individual traits seem to play a role in the health of a person's immune system, commonly those with a weak constitution seem to need to take greater care to maintain a healthy and viable immune system.
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The risks of infections and allergies occurring in a person is increased when there is an excess of sugars in the diet, this substance also hampers the immune system function. This can be seen in cases where there is an excessive consumption of sugar, the physical manifestation being an impairment in the shape, the activity and the number of white blood cells-which are the workhorses of the immune system. It can be said that, as a singular factor or substance that has a very negative impact on immune system functioning, sugar has not been given the attention it deserves. It has been shown in a scientific study that the mere consumption of 3.5 oz. of the simple carbohydrate that constitutes the majority of simple sugars like sucrose found in common sugar, glucose and the fruit sugar fructose has a deleterious impact on WBC (white blood corpuscles). This simple carbohydrate which is also abundant in foodstuffs like honey and orange juice, had a major and negative impact on the white blood cells, impairing their ability to engulf and eliminate bacteria in the body. Complex and starchy carbohydrate had no such effect in the same doses. This study is further verified by another one in which it was found that the consumption of 75 grams of glucose depressed the white blood cells. These unfortunately happened to be the ones that manufacture antibodies and fight infection.
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In addition to a healthy diet, a variety of vital nutrients are necessary for the optimal maintenance and function of the immune system. The necessity of vitamin C for the treatment of colds is common knowledge. The body's resistance to diseases is enhanced by the utilization of this vitamin. Another important action it has is the retardation of the multiplication viruses and bacteria in the body. Certain substances enhance the absorption of vitamin C. These are plant-based substances called bioflavonoids; these substances also greatly improve its effectiveness. To enhance the body's ability to resist infection, it is important to consume a combination of the vitamin C and bioflavonoids on a daily basis. The amounts of the vitamin ingested can be increased, during acute infections, as it is likely that the need for vitamin C goes up at such times in the human body.
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In the production of antibodies and in the manufacture of WBC's, the body utilizes many of the B vitamins, especially pyridoxine or B6 and pantothenic acid. Therefore the B vitamins have a very important role in the immune system function within the body. A healthy intestinal flora is vital for the body, and this can be achieved by using supplements having friendly bacteria such as acidophilus and other beneficial bacteria, to replenish the internal flora. In the cases of invasions from parasitic pathogens and fungi, the immune system is aided in its efforts, by these bacteria. Because the utilization of a variety of antibiotics can eliminate this friendly flora, supplementation with Lactobacillus acidophilus becomes necessary for people with a poorly functioning immune system, especially after a course of antibiotics has been administered.
The essential mineral zinc plays a very important role in the maintenance of a healthy and robust immune system, aside from its other functions in the human body. Even in situations where there is no deficiency, immune system function is still effectively improved and aided by the vitamin A. A suppressed immune function and impaired defenses can also be aided and acted upon by the vitamin. In addition to vitamin A, another important compound called beta-carotene can be used as a supplement, both these substances have anticancer properties, they also effectively stimulate the immune system and are useful as antioxidants. Because both these substances have a beneficial affect on the mucus membranes, respiratory problems and disorders are also alleviated through their use as supplements. Because of its effectiveness as an antioxidant, the vitamin E is very useful for the immune system, being particularly beneficial and necessary in the aged and the elderly as a vitamin supplement.
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Citrus seed extract and garlic, are two other good supplements as far as bolstering and improving immune system function is concerned. The common garlic has many useful properties, it is antibacterial, it also has antiviral properties and lastly it is effective against fungal infections. To ward off colds and infections, the anti pathogenic and microbial fighting abilities of citrus seed extract can be utilized to the maximum.
Many green food supplements are rich in a substance called chlorophyll, these include wheatgrass or barley grass, algae like spirulina and chlorella, chlorophyll plays a role in the build up of blood and in the formation of tissues in the body. These green food supplements in addition contain a plethora of nutrients essential to the body. Their other properties are anti inflammatory actions and the detoxification of the body. Prolonged and regular dosages over a period of months give the best and most effective results. A healthy immune system also needs optimal quantities of the essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are abundant in many cold-pressed oils, for example evening primrose oil and black seed oil, these oils can be taken for the immune system as well as for general health and nutrition.
The body's ability to resist infection and disease are also hindered by other indirect causes such as a long-term deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals. Poor immune response can also be due to an impaired thyroid function; a deficiency in iodine can greatly affect the immune system indirectly, because low levels of iodine lead to problems with the thyroid gland, a condition often manifested in an impaired immune system.
Many herbs and herb based supplements can boost the body's ability to fend off diseases; through their property of aiding and bolstering the organs in the body that deal with detoxification and the removal of waste, the so called organs of elimination. Herbs can aid the intestines, which mostly eliminates solid waste, they also help the kidneys deal with liquid waste, they also improve integumentary actions by strengthening the skin, and they help the lungs, and the liver in detoxification.
The detoxification processes of the organs of elimination can be stimulated using several plants and plant based substances. The herbs that can help in the detoxification process include the stinging nettle, flowery herbs like the dandelion, the watercress, the substances found in the flowers of the Echinacea family, some exotic herbs like the Korean white ginseng, the shoots of conifers like the fir and the pine, and common herbs like thyme and juniper. Great benefit can be from these herbs as they can increase the purification of the blood and the functioning of the immune system especially if taken in the form of fresh juices. The juices can be prepared fresh and can be used regularly in amounts of about 1-2 tbsp. thrice a day, for a period of four weeks. Immune system function is greatly enhanced using Echinacea, which stimulates the white blood cells. The break down and elimination of toxic substances in the body is achieved through the agency of these cells, they are also active in the destruction of bacterial and viral infections within the body. The herb can be taken in capsule form, a single capsule thrice a day, alternately, about 15-30 drops of Echinacea extract mixed in liquid can also be used, once every three hours for a total period of about two to five days depending on symptoms. If the necessity is felt, the same dosage can be repeated after two weeks has passed since the last dose. To build up immunity and to eliminate toxins that have accumulated in the body, a concoction can be prepared using 2 tbsp. each of the root of dandelion, the root of the licorice herb, the roots of the couch grass and lovage herbs. A cup of water to a tbsp. of this mixture can be used as a supplement. Dosage and timings should be a cup in the morning and a cup in the evening for a total of three weeks.
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The greatest benefits can be attained when using supplements that in some way will aid in all the processes of the body involved in detoxification and elimination of toxic and other substances. The aim is to develop resistance to diseases and to offset premature aging. The integument or skin forms the biggest single detoxifying organ in the human system; therefore the integumentary system must be actively aided in its processes of detoxification. There are other external factors that can aid the skin accumulate very specific antibacterial substances by stimulating it, these are physical factors such as light, and water and circulating air. Circulation in the skin and its ability to regulate temperature can be improved through physical treatments such as water therapy. Physical treatment options in this regard include cold-water stepping, dew walking and dry brushing, the draining of lymph fluid can also be used as a treatment, and all of these options stimulate the skin and actively promote its functioning. The body's ability to resist viral and bacterial infections can also be enhanced through activities such as swimming regularly in cold water. Exercising outdoors is a must if you can spare the time; physical recreational activities must take place in the open air. A good night's rest, and adequate time for relaxation is vital to boost the immune system, sleep should last for at least eight hours every day at a stretch.
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