A major concern is that immune suppression or weakness can predispose us to infections as well as cancer; these diseases may generally deplete our energy level and vitality. Overwork, multiple stresses, and lack of rest, exercise, and sleep tend to deplete our energies, our strength, and our ability to defend ourselves. This leaves us more vulnerable to outside influences. I believe that these imbalances of lifestyle, along with emotional and other psychological factors, are the basis of immune weakness.
Besides immune compromise, problems of hyperimmunity seem also to be more common nowadays. Allergies are the main example of immune overactivity; however, the autoimmune diseases appear more prevalent as well. In these diseases, such as thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus erythematosus, our immune system aberrantly makes antibodies to our own body tissues, which then leads to inflammation, pain, or malfunction of those organs or tissues, as the case may be. We have a great deal more to learn about these autoimmune diseases (and allergies for that matter) in the coming years.
Immune System Supporters
|interpersonal love||selenium||low-fat, low-sugar diet
|positive attitudes||iron*||wholesome foods|
|affirmations||vitamin C||chemical-free diet|
|breathing||bioflavonoids||chemical-free home and work|
|relaxing||vitamin A||filtered, purified water|
|exercise, yoga||vitamin E||essential fatty acids|
|herbs:||pyridoxine||adequate digestive function|
|pantothenic acid||digestive enzymes, such as|
|amino acids:||thymus glandular**|
|allergies, infections, and|
possibly lysine and taurine
*Excess iron can increase oxidation and weaken immunity.
**Possibly also spleen, thyroid, and adrenal glandulars as long as these are free of pesticides and viruses that could cause disease.
***May initially stimulate immune activity and then be suppressive.
On the positive side, a balanced and optimistic attitude, healthy lifestyle habits in regard to diet, and basic care of the human body will support the optimal function of not only our immune system but our entire body. As I have said, there are not many specific agents that increase immunity. Our immune function is optimum when we supply our body with the necessary nutrients, take time to relax and recreate, and do not block and weaken our natural vital energy circulation through the other factors that are listed as immune suppressors. Adopt more of these lifestyle-related immune supporters!
For whom is this immune enhancement program best suited? It can be employed by those people with chronic fatigue, particularly secondary to viral infections, or by anyone with repeated illnesses or infections who needs a stronger immune defense system. People under stress, both physical and psychological, need to strengthen their immune systems. Really, anyone subject to several of the factors listed in the "immune suppressors" chart might benefit from this Immune Enhancement program, which is not really dissimilar from the programs for Anti-Aging and Cancer Prevention. People who have cancer or have had cancer will want to make sure they include many of the recommendations in this program as well.
Our immune functions can be evaluated in a variety of ways. If we are healthy and full of energy and do not get many infectious diseases, it is not likely that we need any blood tests for our immune system; it is probably normal. But if we are easily fatigued or get recurrent colds, flus, or other infections by viruses, bacteria, yeast, or parasites, our immune system may be out of balance or deficient in one or more functions.
The most common blood test that indicates immunological activity is a simple, inexpensive complete blood count, or CBC. Particularly important is the white blood cell count (WBC). The differential count gives us the percentages of the basic WBCs—polymorphonucleocytes (PMN-phagocytes), bands (PMN-percursors), lymphocytes (the immune directors, including T and B lymphocytes although they are not specifically noted), and the other less common monocytes (scavengers), eosinophils (allergy cells), and basophils.
Through another blood test, the specialized T and B cell study provides a sensitive index of the immune system. A complete test provides absolute levels and relative percentages of T cells and B cells, T-helper (TH) cells, T-suppressor (TS) cells, Natural Killer (NK) cells and the helper/suppressor (TH:TS) ratio. This TH:TS ratio is currently the most generally utilized monitor of immune function. It may be elevated in problems such as infections or allergies, or decreased in other infections or in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The TH:TS ratio can be monitored over the course of certain illnesses to determine the effectiveness of treatment. In healthy people, it is also thought to be one of the better objective monitors of more subtle immune status. More finite measurements of immune status may be available soon, such as the level of interleukin 2. Other tests that may also be relevant in an immunological evaluation include antibody (Ig-immunoglobulin) levels, complement, interferon, routine blood and liver function tests, and allergy tests for both environmental and food allergens.
Reducing any active allergic response through avoidance, desensitization, and detoxification may help to reduce the immunosuppressant effects of existing allergies. More generally, avoiding chemicals and other factors from the immune suppressor list may also minimize any immune function weaknesses. Further measures for immune support include the ideas presented in other programs, Executives and Travel or Anti-Stress. Intense, as well as chronic, unrelenting stress and emotions are real concerns in weakening immunity. Preventive care in lifestyle, diet, and supplements is ultimately most important.
The immune-supporting diet plan includes the common sense suggestions discussed in Chapter 13, Your Ideal Diet, as well as suggestions from the programs for Allergies, Anti-Stress, and Cancer Prevention. A low-chemical, low-sugar, and low-fat diet is mandatory! A rotating diet, without regular use of milk or its products, eggs, wheat, corn, sugar, and yeast or other specific foods to which one may be allergic, is suggested.
Wholesome foods free of chemicals and pesticides are the best. Care must be taken to prevent food exposure to microorganisms, including parasites, as they may have a deleterious influence on our immune health. Low chemical intake is important. This means avoiding both chemicals in foods and chemical consumptive habits, such as alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, marijuana, and nicotine—as is always the case for optimal health. A water purification system which removes chemicals is also a good investment for our health (See Chapter 1).
Care must be taken to obtain sufficient dietary proteins and L- amino acids that help form the immune tissues and antibodies. For proper protein production, adequate amounts of pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc are very important. The essential fatty acids are also required for cell and tissue health. On the other hand, excess protein and saturated fats are "clogging" to the vascular and lymphatic systems and may suppress immunity. Fasting and detoxification diets can strengthen immune functions and reduce immune overload and reactions, as can be seen in allergies and infections or autoimmune problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. The reduced intake of allergenic substances and the cleansing of potentially allergenic materials from the body can reduce many symptoms and allow the T lymphocytes to restore balance and reduce their hyperreactivity.
With regard to specific supplements, it is most important to prevent deficiencies of many vital nutrients, such as vitamins A and C and zinc, by following the previous suggestions and eating foods high in these nutrients. Additional supplements, if not excessive, are insurance, possibly in the face of poor digestion and assimilation, to provide adequate nutrients to the cells and tissues.
Useful supplements for immune enhancement begin with a basic multiple that includes the essential vitamins and minerals plus the important antioxidant nutrients. If the multiple does not provide adequate amounts of the antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium, then an antioxidant formula or additional specific nutrients are needed to reach the optimum levels. Of course, this program is designed for those with some immune suppression or those who want to enhance a sluggish immune system. The positive side of those many important nutrients whose deficiency leads to weakened functions is that adequate levels support or stimulate those actions.
Vitamin C is probably the most important of the antioxidant nutrients. A higher level of intake than usual, about 4–10 grams if tolerated, can help in antibody response and in some white blood cell functions. Vitamin C has also been shown to increase production of interferon, a substance with antiviral and, possibly, anticancer effects. Vitamin C levels have been found to be commonly decreased in the presence of such situations as surgery, stress, and progressive disease, as well as colds and other infections, especially those of viral origin. In these situations, it is needed in increased amounts. The vitamin C-complex nutrients, such as rutin and other bioflavonoids, may also have mild antioxidant, synergistic effects. Bioflavonoids appear to act with vitamin C to potentiate its anti-inflammatory properties and improve cellular defense against various microbes. Quercetin, a type of bioflavonoid, has also recently been found to function as an immune supporter and antihistamine.