Creative Eldering: Do-It-Yourself Immunity Building
Surely you have seen plans for building your own workbench, resurfacing your own countertops, or even building your own deck. But have you heard of building up your own immune system? Likely not. For the average person, their standard American diet (S.A.D.) and typical sedentary lifestyle probably contributes to weakening or “deconstructing” their immune system function.
The first step is to understand a little bit about your immune system. What are the components that make your immune system in the first place? While many people are familiar with the basic concept of the immune system, its complexity remains a great mystery to most people, even some doctors. Your immune system is composed of many different organs and specialized cells. Specific hormones and natural body-made chemicals travel through your bloodstream and transmit messages between the endangered parts of your body and the various components of your immune system that need to be “on active duty” for a particular “fight”.
A simple metaphor for your immune system is to think of it as your protective army. When various invaders, such as disease-causing bacteria or viruses, or even parasites or harmful toxins find their way inside your body, a specific alarm system is activated and the “troops” most suited to that particular “enemy” are summoned to engage in a “full-on attack”. Well anyway, that’s the way it should happen if your immune system is highly functioning and your soldiers are strong and agile and truly committed to protecting you.
Your immune system includes a network of “fighter cells” and organs. T-cells (thymus cells) and B-cells (bone marrow or bursa cells) work hard to fight infection and must be attentive and on active duty to maintain the health of your immune system. You could consider these individual troops to be the “movable” parts of your immune system. These soldiers are specialized lymphocytes or white blood cells and T-cells. You might think of your T-cells as your “special forces” soldiers, they are called “killer T-cells”. They often seek out and destroy harmful organisms that have invaded your body, or they may act as “generals” or directors that identify invaders and encourage your body to produce other specialized immunity cells.
Your beta cells or b-cells, act as armed guards capable of producing potent weapons that are called anti-bodies. Your antibodies attach themselves to foreign substances within your body and neutralize them. One of the most interesting cellular responses that your immune system performs occurs after an “invasion” takes place and after the infection has been “conquered”. Now memory cells are produced during the initial stages of this “battle” and circulate in your bloodstream and through your lymph nodes for several years to remind your body to respond more quickly to any similar repeated attacks or infections. This function allows you to build up your immunity to be more resistant to specific infectious invaders.
In decades past, likely in your childhood, mothers of young children would purposefully expose their children to others that had active cases of measles, mumps, even chickenpox. The wisdom of those mothers was to expose their young children to the simple communicable childhood diseases earlier rather than later in life and gain lifelong immunity to those diseases for their children. In reality, this method probably presented less risk to those children and conferred more long-lasting immunity than the current regimen of problematic immunizations and potential side effects that is currently in vogue. In fact, statistics indicate that individuals who had a true case of chickenpox in childhood are much less likely to experience shingles as an older adult than those who did not naturally build their immunity by having chickenpox.
Your immune system has several “stationary “components. These are typically organs, including your thymus gland, your thyroid gland, your lymph nodes, your spleen, your tonsils, your appendix and also your bone marrow. Your thymus gland is located under your sternum or breastbone. A simple self-help measure to stimulate the thymus to make the killer T cells is to gently tap over your thymus for about 30 to 60 seconds every morning. This is easily done before getting out of bed. If you’re feeling a little under the weather or worried about succumbing to an infection, tap over your thymus gland multiple times per day.
Your thyroid gland is located in the front area of your throat and it also plays a part in your immunity. Keeping your thyroid gland balanced and healthy is beneficial to your immune function. Your lymph nodes are found in multiple areas throughout your body including both sides of your neck, your groin area, and in each armpit. Lymphatic tissue is also found in your tonsils at the back of your throat, in your appendix located in the lower right quadrant of your abdomen, and in your spleen located in the upper left quadrant of your abdomen, protected by your left lower ribs. Each of these organs are responsible for either the production of your immune supporting cells or they serve as a “barracks” area for the soldiers to gather and wait in before being called to active duty.
The most basic things you can do to build up your immune system are lifestyle improvements that will keep “your troops” and organs happy. Give them plenty of fresh purified water, nutritious whole foods with an emphasis on organic fruits and vegetables. Sugar is proven to diminish the white blood cell levels since your immune system classifies it as a dangerous toxin. When you eat sugar, your white blood cells are called up for active duty and attempt to neutralize the toxin. The problem is that this is a “kamikaze mission” and the brave “soldiers” on the “front line” are killed by the toxin. Food preservatives and additives and many vegetable oils impair your immune function as well.
Vitamins A, C, and D are all immunity builders. If you are concerned about a cold or an infection beginning, you can ramp up the dosage to five or six times normal for several days to help your “soldiers” gain stamina. Several herbs are also helpful. Common ones include Astragalus, Echinacea, cat’ s claw, and shiitake and maitake mushrooms. Check with your holistic practitioner or nutritional consultant for advice in adding these to your immunity regimen.
If you treat your immune system well, it will help you stay well.