Learn More ...
Basics of the
by Leonid G. Ber, MD
(published in the Energy Times, Sept. 1, 1998)
In a world filled
with pathogens and microbes, good health and resistance to disease is no
accident. It requires a vigorous and vigilant immune system. The immune system
should be viewed as an internal security force that is constantly checking the
identity of everything entering and already existing in the body. A cell or
substance may be recognized as "non-self" and a potential enemy if it does not
have the right molecular make-up. A cell displaying molecules produced according
to a different blueprint than the body's own code may be recognized as foreign.
To eliminate alien material that may harm the body, the immune system must take
that originate outside the self forms the key to overall immune system response.
This key is carried in the body by cells called macrophages (ma-kro-fajs), a
name derived from a Greek term meaning "big eater." Macrophages eat or engulf
foreign cells and molecules. When a macrophage encounters something that it
distinguishes as being "non-self" or abnormal, it can attack the enemy with a
series of assault weapons, including free-radicals (reactive substances) and
enzymes, that dissolve and weaken the intruder. In fact, an enzyme produced by
macrophages called lysozyme is recognized as one of nature's most powerful
anti-infective agents. These chemical defenses, along with engulfment and
complete digestion by macrophages, can effectively stymie invasion by
Harmful invasion can
originate in the body's own cells as well as begin from outside sources. While
we are constantly exposed to bacteria, viruses, fungal cells and parasites,
destructive cancerous growths often start within the body.
Every day, thousands of the body's cells mutate into possible cancers. Under
most circumstances, the immune system keeps these cells under control. But when
the immune "security" system slips up, these harmful growths multiply
initial immune response that recognizes invaders is
called a "non-specific defense mechanism" since this immune response is
generally the same toward all invaders. This counter-attack entails battling
every invader pretty much identically: a macrophage
can engage, dissolve, weaken, engulf, digest, eliminate. However, if, despite
the initial immune efforts, the problem persists, a macrophage can tag an
invader and "introduce" it to the rest of the immune system, thus recruiting
more specialized types of immune cells to enter the battle.
This tagging function endows macrophages with the name "antigen-presenting
cells." (Antigens are substances that can provoke specific responses by the
antigens are proteins. Proteins are relatively large molecules made of smaller
units called amino acids. The specific geometric organization of amino acids is
what conveys uniqueness to each protein. (Your genetic code forms a blueprint
for the production of your own, individual proteins.) Protein molecules produced
by one human being can act as an antigen for another human being. That's why
organs transplanted from one person to another can be rejected by the immune
system. Unless organs are transplanted from one identical
twin to another (who share the genetic blueprint for protein creation), doctors
must use immune-suppressing drugs to curtail organ rejection.
At the same time as
these medicines prevent transplant rejection, they also make people more
susceptible to infectious diseases and cancer.
one set of immune cells chemically tags antigens (invaders) for recognition,
other highly specialized parts of the immune system go into action: Cells called
T cells or T lymphocytes acknowledge the invaders and can take the further
action (second line of defense) that is necessary to render them harmless.
get their name from the thymus (an organ located behind the sternum) where they
originate. The thymus, most active when we're young, usually shrinks and
apparently slows or shuts down its activity about the age of forty.
thump… a basic energy
medicine technique… It brings both energy and blood to the gland which rejuvenates it, often
causing it to return to a more youthful size and function.)
A wide variety of T cells inhabit
lymph nodes (soft, usually round, pea- or nut-sized organs) and other body
areas. For instance, natural killer cells, as their name implies, are a
particularly aggressive type of T cell. Another type of T cell is called T
helper (a cell that supports development of immune response). T suppressors halt
immune response when infection ends.
order to make all these different cells work in concert, cytokines or messenger
molecules are produced that facilitate constant communications between all the
parts of the immune system.
organs of the immune system include:
marrow: a powerful cell producing organ where the majority of immune cells are
* spleen: an abdominal organ that
forms a reservoir for the production of immune cells.
nodes oversee particular segments of the body where they collect and recycle
tissue fluids. Like an early warning system, lymph nodes react when an invader
is detected in the part of the body that it controls.
another step in the so-called immune cascade entails action by lymphocytes,
called B cells, which originate in the bone marrow. These cells produce antibodies which are immune proteins (immunglobulins)
that attack specific antigens.
traveling in the blood, an antibody can bind to an antigen, curtailing its
harmful action. This bound up molecule forms a complex easily recognized by
scavenging macrophages which make a quick meal out of
the unlucky invader.
enemy cells are removed from the body, knowledge of this victory resides in the
immunological memory prolonging your resistance toward specific disease
pathogens indefinitely. That's why someone who has recovered from a disease like
the measles may be impervious to reinfection.
for Optimum Immunity
though the immune system consists of a complex team of hard-working cells,
enhancing your immunity is relatively easy:
healthy lifestyle. Avoid continuous stress and negative emotions or cope with
them through exercise or meditation. Consistent, moderate exercise can boost the
Massage can also help although extreme care must be taken when inflammation or
disease is already present.
hours a day. Sleep allows the body to recover and rebuild.
Protein synthesis, vital for a healthy immune system, increases during the
night. (Between 12-2am)
Stick to a
Your immune system consists of trillions of cells. Consequently, nutrients
important for cell health boost the immune system. A balanced low-calorie diet
rich in complex carbohydrates, "good" fats (including fish oils, olive oil and
flaxseed oil) along with vitamins, minerals and
phytonutrient antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables can fortify
immune cells. Plus, drinking plenty of water helps
improve circulation of lymph fluid.
recommendations are not hard to meet once they become a part of your daily
However, extra immune security may be necessary during flu season, while
traveling long distances (airplanes are notorious sources of pathogens) or when
working extensive hours in front of a computer screen. In addition, exposure to
x-rays, immunosuppressive chemicals, ultraviolet radiation (the sun) or simply aging may give your immune cells extra
Your "specific" immune system does not respond immediately to the
challenge of invasion by an infectious organism. Instead, it may require about 2
weeks for an effective reaction after antigen recognition and alerting T cells.
During this period, the macrophages' non-specific defense assumes a crucial role
in keeping infection in check.
activity by macrophages is especially important for recognizing and destroying
The most dangerous cancers are those that can mimic normal cells and avoid the
immune system's wrath. Few substances can activate macrophage function in the
contains substances that contribute to this process).
The most powerful macrophage activator recognized by the scientific community is
a sugar-like substance called beta-1,3-D-glucan.
Beta-glucan, extracted from the cell walls of common
when taken in certain small amounts, can prevent infection by making macrophages
more active in recognizing and attacking infectious bacteria, fungi and certain
kind of activation can encourage macrophages to attack previously unrecognized
tumor cells. As a result, tumors may be eradicated as the immune system
mobilizes and produces what may be known as "spontaneous healing."
macrophage works overtime fighting disease, its
demand for nutrients and energy increases dramatically. Vitamin C, known for its
immune supporting function, seems to be especially important for maintaining
fully active macrophages. Vitamin C collects in macrophages, often
reaching forty times the concentration found in surrounding blood. What
are conventionally considered normal amounts of vitamin C in the body may be
insufficient to keep macrophages well supplied with this antioxidant. Therefore,
extra amounts of vitamin C can keep the immune system in fighting trim.
Scientists are only now beginning to uncover the secrets of the highly organized
immune system. One thing's certain: The immunity security team depends on proper
lifestyle, nutrition and supplements to maintain the critical defenses necessary
for good health.
Dr. Ber received his doctorate in internal medicine from
the Yaroslavle, State Medical Institute in Yaroslavle, Russia. Article used with