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The Human Immune System - By Dr. Rahim, MD

IF THERE ARE ANY MIRACLES,
THE BODY'S IMMUNE SYSTEM MUST SURELY BE ONE

The body's ability to protect itself from disease, to regulate the conditions of its own health, and to repair and to regenerate infected or damaged cells within itself, without outside help, is a true God-given miracle. Finding out how it does so has always been the greatest challenge to science.

But using what little is known about the workings of the immune system, medical practitioners recognize that there are procedures and medicines they can employ to augment the work of the immune system, and indeed to repair it when it is damaged. They recognize too that modern life, with the increasing number of toxins in the environment, and with disease-causing bacteria and viruses mutating at an alarming rate, the immune system often needs medical support in order to do what it is genetically programmed to do. What is known is that there are at least eight specific saccarides involved in intercellular 'communication' within the body, a system of 'networking' that governs the immune system. What this means is that every cell in the body, every gland or organ, as well as the cells of the blood, are linked within the immune system through these saccarides. Everything in the body depends to some degree on these molecules, and when any of them are missing, the immune system does not function at full capacity.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STAY HEALTHY
You do not have to have a total understanding of the workings of your immune system to stay healthy. Your immune system is doing its job whether or not you understand it. All you need to do is to adopt the proper lifestyle to allow it to function, and to ensure that your body receives what it needs to bolster its disease prevention capabilities. you must not underestimate your body's capacity to heal it, to prevent infections, and to slow done the aging process. You cannot buy good health from the doctor; you have to build it yourself. You have to take responsibility for your own health, and for the health of those dependent on you. This is where supplements, which boost the immune system come into play. Be sure to ask your doctor or medical practitioner about these supplements.

TREATABLE DISEASES AND CONDITIONS
All illnesses will respond favorably to a boost to the immune system. Conditions as diverse as diabetes, fibromyalgia, autism, asthma, heart disease, cancer, and various types hepatitis and respiratory infections, will respond positively to immuno-boosting supplements. From the complaints that arise during menopause to depression and strokes, from conditions as incapacitating as muscular dystrophy to ones as grave as a cancerous tumor, any form of help to the immune system will have a beneficial effect.

Always remember: your body is capable of combating these ailments. But is up to you to ensure that your immune system is healthy and strong enough to deal with the challenges that modern life throws at it. Staying healthy is a major challenge for everyone; taking responsibility for your own health and the health of your loved ones is of critical importance.

GENERAL INFORMATION
The immune system goes after "organic" things -- mostly alive, like germs, but also it goes after protein substances that are not alive. While a virus is NOT alive, your immune system should be able to handle any of them. Also parasites and fungus problems. You will find that traditional medicine almost completely ignores the immune system -- thinking that the only solution for a sore throat is an antibiotic.

The first rule of health would be, don't allow toxins and bugs into your body. The next step, once you have allowed that stuff to enter, is to get rid of it. The immune system is your first line of defense -- drugs are usually effective on a short-term basis, but often damage the immune system so that it is no longer available and you are all the more dependent on drugs in the future.

DRUGS
Both medicinal and recreational drugs can substantially lower the immune system. For example, antibiotics destroy the healthy bacteria in our stomachs which are essential for healthy digestion. Immune system depletion is also an unfortunate side-effect of some of today's modern treatments (for example in chemotherapy and radiotherapy) which can decimate immune resilience. Whilst powerful medicines might be necessary for short-term survival, the long-term view must include the healing of the body's natural defence systems.

If there is a natural product we can take instead of the drug your doctor wants to prescribe us, we should take the natural one (provided our doctor is in agreement if he or she doesn't like the idea of you taking responsibility for your own health, you are with the wrong doctor). Doctors today are very busy and tend to focus almost entirely on fast-to-prescribe drug remedies ("magic bullets") to everyday complaints. Few know very much about nutrition or alternative remedies so you might have to challenge your doctor -- not a pleasant thing to do but certainly good for your health!

Viral and bacterial infections are by far the most common causes of illness for most people. They cause things like colds, influenza, measles, mumps, malaria, AIDS and so on. The job of your immune system is to protect your body from these infections. The immune system protects you in several ways:

  1. It creates a barrier that prevents bacteria and viruses from entering your body.
  2. If a bacteria or virus does get into the body, the immune system tries to detect and eliminate it before it can make itself at home and reproduce.
  3. If the virus or bacteria is able to reproduce and start causing problems, your immune system is in charge of eliminating it.
  4. Finding cancerous (or other unwanted cells) and eliminating them.

The most obvious parts of the immune system are the barriers we can easily see. Like our skin, eyes, nose, and mouth. Skin is tough and resistant to bacteria and secretes antibacterial substances. Tears and mucus contain enzyme that breaks down the cell walls of many bacteria. Saliva is also anti-bacterial. Since the nasal passage and lungs are coated in mucus, many germs not killed immediately are trapped in the mucus and soon swallowed. Mast cells also line the nasal passages, throat, lungs and skin. Any bacteria or virus that wants to gain entry to your body must first make it past these defences.

COMPONENTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Once inside the body, a germ deals with the immune system at a different level. The major components of the immune system are:

Antibodies
Antibodies (also referred to as immunoglobulins and gammaglobulins) are y-shaped proteins that respond to specific bacteria, viruses or toxins, called antigens. They are produced by white blood cells.
Antibodies can bind to toxins, disabling their chemical actions or signal that an invader needs to be removed.
Whenever you see an abbreviation like IgE in a medical document, you now know that what they are talking about is an antibody.
Antibodies come in five classes:

  • Immunoglobulin A (IgA)
  • Immunoglobulin D (IgD)
  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE)
  • Immunoglobulin G (IgG)
  • Immunoglobulin M (IgM)

Bone Marrow
Produces new blood cells, both red and white. In the case of red blood cells the cells are fully formed in the marrow and then enter the bloodstream. Most white blood cells, mature elsewhere. The marrow produces all blood cells from stem cells. They are called "stem cells" because they can branch off and become many different types of cells they are precursors to different cell types. Stem cells change into actual, specific types of white blood cell

Complement System
Complement system - If germs get through the body's physical and chemical barriers into the bloodstream, a mixture of liquid proteins called complement is activated and attacks them. The complement system includes a series of proteins. While there are millions of different antibodies in your blood stream, each sensitive to a specific antigen, there are only a handful of proteins in the complement system. They float freely in your blood. Complements are manufactured in the liver. The complement proteins are activated by and work with (complement) the antibodies. They cause lysing (bruising) of cells and signal to phagocytes that a cell needs to be removed.

Spleen
The spleen filters the blood looking for foreign cells. The spleen is also looking for old red blood cells in need of replacement. A person missing his/her spleen gets sick much more often than someone with a spleen. The spleen contains two main types of tissue: red tissue that disposes of worn-out blood cells, and white tissue that contains lymphoid tissue. Different parts of the spleen specialize in different kinds of immune cells. When microorganisms get carried by the blood into the red tissue, they become trapped by the immune cells known as macrophages.

Thymus
The thymus lives in your chest, between your breast bone and your heart. It is responsible for producing T-cells, and is especially important in newborn babies - without a thymus a baby's immune system collapses and the baby will die. The thymus seems to be much less important in adults - for example, you can remove it and an adult will live because other parts of the immune system can handle the load. However, the thymus is important, especially to T cell maturation.

Lymph System
All the body tissues are continually bathed in a clear, watery fluid that comes form the blood called lymph fluid. The lymph system detects and removes the bacteria and waste. The lymph fluid eventually arrives at the lymph nodes, considered the body's waste treatment plants, for processing.

Lymph nodes are basically filters that trap germs and other foreign bodies. The nodes have armies of lymphocytes to deal with the germs. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell, which neutralizes or destroys germs. When fighting infection lymph nodes can become infected.

Lymphoid organs include the bone marrow and the thymus, as well as lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils and adenoids, the appendix, and clumps of lymphoid tissue in the small intestine known as Peyer's patches.

Hormones
There are several hormones generated by components of the immune system. These hormones are known generally as lymphokines. It is also known that certain hormones in the body suppress the immune system. These are the steroids and corticosteroids (components of adrenaline).

Tymosin is a hormone that encourages lymphocyte production (a lymphocyte is a form of white blood cell). It is thought to be produced by the thymus. Interleukin are another type of hormone generated by white blood cells. Interleukins-1 is produced by macrophages after they eat a foreign cell. When it reaches the Hypothalamus, IL-1 produces fever and fatigue, killing off many types of bacteria.

Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) is also produced by macrophages. It is able to kill tumor cells, and to promote the creation of new blood vessels.

Interferon interferes with viruses (hence the name) and is produced by most cells in the body. Interferons, like antibodies and complements, are proteins, and their hob is to let cells signal to one another. When a cell detects interferon from other cells, it produces proteins that help prevent viral replication in the cell.

White Blood Cells
White blood cells are probably the most important part of your immune system. White blood cells are actually a large collection of different cells that work together to destroy bacteria and viruses. Here are the different types, names and classifications of white blood cells working inside your body right now:

Leukocytes
Learning all of these different names and the function of each cell type takes a bit of effort, but you can understand scientific articles a lot better once you get it all figured out! Here's a quick summary to help you get all of the different cell types organized in your brain.

All white blood cells are known officially as leukocytes. White blood cells are not like normal cells in the body -- they actually act like independent, living single-cell organisms able to move and capture things on their own. White blood cells behave very much like amoeba in their movements and are able to engulf other cells and bacteria. Many white blood cells cannot divide and reproduce on their own, but instead have a factory somewhere in the body that produces them. That factory is the bone marrow.

LEUKOCYTES ARE DIVIDED INTO THREE CLASSES:

  • Granulocytes - Granulocytes make up 50% to 60% of all leukocytes. Granulocytes are themselves divided into three classes: neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils. Granulocytes get their name because they contain granules, and these granules contain different chemicals depending on the type of cell.

  • Lymphocyte - Lymphocytes make up 30% to 40% of all leukocytes. Lymphocytes come in two classes: B cells (those that mature in bone marrow) and T cells (those that mature in the thymus).

  • Monocyte - Monocytes make up 7% or so of all leukocytes. Monocytes evolve into macrophages.

All white blood cells start in bone marrow as stem cells. Stem cells are generic cells that can form into the many different types of leukocytes as they mature. For example, you can take a mouse, irradiate it to kill off its bone marrow's ability to produce new blood cells, and then inject stem cells into the mouse's blood stream. The stem cells will divide and differentiate into all different types of white blood cells. A "bone marrow transplant" is accomplished simply by injecting stem cells from a donor into the blood stream. The stem cells find their way into the marrow and make their home there.

Neutrophils
Neutrophils are by far the most common form of white blood cells that you have in your body. Your bone marrow produces trillions of them every day and releases them into the bloodstream, but their life span is short, normally less than a day. Neutrophils squeeze through the capillary walls and into infected tissue where they kill the invaders (e.g., bacteria) and then engulf the remnants by phagocytosis

This is a never-ending task, even in healthy people: Our throat, nasal passages, and colon harbour vast numbers of bacteria. Most of these are commensals, and do us no harm. But that is because neutrophils keep them in check.

However, heavy doses of radiation, chemotherapy and many forms of stress can reduce the numbers of neutrophils so that formerly harmless bacteria begin to proliferate. The resulting opportunistic infection can be life-threatening.

Eosinophils and Basophils
Eosinophils and basophils are far less common than neutrophils. Eosinophils seem focused on parasites in the skin and the lungs, while Basophils carry histamine and therefore important (along with mast cells) to causing inflammation. From the immune system's standpoint inflammation is a good thing. It brings in more blood and it dilates capillary walls so that more immune system cells can get to the site of infection.

Macrophages
Macrophages are the biggest (hence the name "macro"). Monocytes are released by the bone marrow, float in the bloodstream, enter tissue and turn into macrophages. Most boundary tissue has its own devoted macrophages. For example, alveolar macrophages live in thelungs and keep the lungs clean (by ingesting foreign particles like smoke and dust) and disease free (by ingesting bacteria and microbes). Macrophages are called langerhans cells when they live in the skin. Macrophages also swim freely. One of their jobs is to clean up dead neutrophils -- macropghages clean up pus, for example, as part of the healing process.

  • Lymphocytes handle most of the bacterial and viral infections that we get. Lymphocytes start in the bone marrow. Those destined to become B cells develop in the marrow before entering the bloodstream. T cells start in the marrow but migrate through the bloodstream to the thymus and mature there. T cells and B cells are often found in the bloodstream but tend to concentrate in lymph tissue such as the lymph nodes, the thymus and the spleen. There is also quite a bit of lymph tissue in the digestive system. B cells and T cells have different functions.

  • B cells, when stimulated, mature into plasma cells -- these are the cells that produce antibodies. A specific B cell is tuned to a specific germ, and when the germ is present in the body the B cell clones itself and produces millions of antibodies designed to eliminate the germ.

  • T cells, on the other hand, actually bump up against cells and kill them. T cells known as Killer T cells can detect cells in your body that are harbouring viruses, and when it detects such a cell it kills it. Two other types of T cells, known as Helper and Suppressor T cells, help sensitize killer T cells and control the immune response.

Helper T Cells
are activated by Interleukin-1, produced by macrophages. Once activated, Helper T cells produce Interleukin-2, then interferon and other chemicals. These chemicals activate B cells so that they produce antibodies. The complexity and level of interaction between neutrophils, macrophages, T cells and B cells is really quite amazing.

Because white blood cells are so important to the immune system, they are used as a measure of immune system health. When you hear that someone has a "strong immune system" or a "suppressed immune system", one way it was determined was by counting different types of white blood cells in a blood sample. A normal white blood cell count is in the range of 4,000 to 11,000 cells per microliter of blood. 1.8 to 2.0 helper T-cells per suppressor T-cell is normal. A normal absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is in the range of 1,500 to 8,000 cells per microliter.

Natural Killer Cells
Natural killer cells are different from T- and B-lymphocytes in that they do not have unique receptors for a particular antigenic target. Thus, these cells provide a non-specific immune response to various pathogens. They require certain cytokines to become activated and to increase in numbers. They participate in several of the immune responses and can help antibodies kill target cells.

Platelets
Platelets are formed when cytoplasmic fragments of megakaryocytes, which are very large cells in the bone marrow, pinch off into the circulation as they age. The platelet is metabolically more active than the red blood cell and has a variety of functions. Platelets play an important and not fully understood role in the formation of the blood clot by coagulating to occlude a cut blood vessel and provide a surface on which strands of fibrin form an organized clot, by contracting to pull the fibrin strands together to make the clot firm and permanent, and, perhaps most important, by providing or mediating a series of coagulation factors necessary to the formation of the clot. Platelets also store and transport several chemicals, including serotonin, epinephrine, and histamine (the importance of which in this capacity is unknown), and they phagocytose (absorb) foreign bodies, including viruses, as well.

Plasma
The liquid portion of the blood, the plasma, is a complex solution containing more than 90 percent water. The water of the plasma is freely exchangeable with that of body cells and other extra cellular fluids and is available to maintain the normal state of hydration of all tissues. Water, the single largest constituent of the body, is essential to the existence of every living cell. The major solute of plasma is a heterogeneous group of proteins constituting about 7 percent of the plasma by weight. The principle difference between the plasma and the extra cellular fluid of the tissues is the high protein content of the plasma. Plasma protein exerts an osmotic effect by which water tends to move from other extra cellular fluid to the plasma. Fatty substances (lipids) are present in plasma in suspension and in solution. Other plasma constituents include salts, glucose, amino acids, vitamins, hormones, and waste products of metabolism.

Red Blood Cell
The red cell is enclosed in a thin membrane that is composed of chemically complex lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates in a highly organized structure. Extraordinary distortion of the red cell occurs in its passage through minute blood vessels, many of which have a diameter less than that of the red cell. When the deforming stress is removed, the cell springs back to its original shape. The red cell readily tolerates bending and folding, but, if appreciable stretching of the membrane occurs, the cell is damaged or destroyed. The membrane is freely permeable to water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, glucose, urea, and certain other substances, but it is impermeable to hemoglobin. Within the cell the major cation is potassium; in contrast, in plasma and extra cellular fluids the major cation is predominantly sodium. A pumping mechanism, driven by enzymes within the red cell, maintains its sodium and potassium concentrations.

 

 

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