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The immune system is most important to the body...

It is the immune system that fights off disease-carrying germs and bacteria that enter the body. Our environment contains a large number of infectious microbial agents including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Any of these cause pathological damage if they multiply unchecked, however, the majority of infections are of limited duration in immune competent individuals. This is due to the individual's immune system which controls infectious agents.

70% of the immune system is situated in the gut lining of humans, outlining the need to detoxify the gut of the commonly found parasites and yeasts on a regular basis.






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What is the immune system?

The immune system is a body-wide network of specialised cells and processes. There are two divisions: humoral immunity and cell-mediated immunity.

  1. Humoral immunity produces antibodies in response to a vast array of invading viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and other substances foreign to your body. These invaders are called antigens. The humoral immune system makes a specific antibody for each antigen, capable of recognising and attacking only that one. As you become exposed to more and more antigens, you build a huge library of thousands of different antibodies, a lifelong immunologic memory encoded in proteins. With proper maintenance, it will protect you very well.
  2. Cell-mediated immunity is concerned with specialised cells. The most important are the T-cell and B-cell lymphocytes that differentiate into many different subsets with different reactions. Lymphocytes use the antibodies to enable them to recognise and attack invading antigens. When they do this, their numbers multiply rapidly. This is called the lymphocyte proliferative response. The stronger it is, the stronger your immunity.

Natural killer cells are large lymphocytes that do not need an antibody response in order to recognise many foreign cells. They can attack unknown invaders immediately without waiting up to 10 days for antibodies to form or be activated. Natural killer cells are crucial as your first line of defence, especially to athletes, that wards off a new virus or other invader, until the antigen-specific immune response can occur.

The phagocytes are the cannibalistic foot soldiers of the immune system. Whenever the body is injured or invaded by foreign particles, an inflammatory response occurs that brings phagocytes scurrying to the site where they busily ingest dead and dying body cells. The two main phagocytes are called macrophages, which are formed from monocytes, and neutrophils. The battle with foreign invaders cause macrophages and neutrophils to use up a lot of oxygen. The oxygen used produces a ton of free radicals, toxic oxygen by-products that damage your cells. No wonder the antioxidant vitamins and minerals are at top of the list for protecting your immune system.

Vitamin E stimulates your immunity...

Premature babies have low vitamin E status and very poor immune response. Injections of Vitamin E raise immune strength to that of normal babies. Vitamin E content of lymphocytes and neutrophils is 10-20 times that of red blood cells, indicating the importance of this nutrient to their function. There are now over 100 studies since 1980 showing the immune enhancing effects of Vitamin E. In one recent report, diabetics with the depressed immunity that is a plague of their disease, were given daily Vitamin E supplements of 25mg/kg bodyweight for two weeks. Immunity, measured by the monocyte response, returned to the normal range. It works on healthy people too. Vitamin E supplementation can even improve normal immunity in the absence of infection.

Vitamin C enhances your immunity...

Required for T-lymphocyte function, stimulating Natural Killer cells. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms by half. The concentration of Vitamin C in neutrophils and macrophages is about 150 times that of your blood plasma. During their oxidative burst, while killing infection, the neutrophils suck up Vitamin C like a sponge. Not surprising that neutrophil responses (or part of your immunity) are suppressed in Vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to enhance neutrophil response in healthy individuals.

Selenium can boost immunity...

It does this by working in synergy with Vitamin E as an antioxidant. Adequate supplies of Selenium are crucial to maintain the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase inside your cells, and therefore your immunity. In one series of studies, animals supplemented with Selenium alone, increased their immune strength by 400%.

Zinc boosts immunity by acting as a co factor for antioxidants...

Zinc is involved in over 80 different enzyme systems including immune function. Needed for cell mediated immunity and prevents virus binding within cells. Animal studies show that Zinc deficiency causes a rapid decline of T lymphocyte function. Immunity is equally rapidly restored by Zinc supplementation. In animals with normal immunity, supplemental Zinc improves the lymphocyte response. In carefully controlled studies, Zinc enhanced immunity above normal levels. Don't take too much Zinc though (greater than 60mg per day), or the wrong type, as you can run into temporary problems (altered Copper metabolism and immune suppression).

Beta carotene and Vitamin A strengthen immunity...

They do so by acting as antioxidants and cause the macrophages of the immune system to release a specific chemical called tumour necrosis factor. They enhance the proliferative response of T and B lymphocytes. Humoral immunity can also be strengthened by a healthy dose of CoQ10, by increasing antibody production, improving cell-mediated immunity and improving resistance to bacterial and viral infections.

Glutamine is vital to immunity...

Cell replication in the immune system requires adequate Glutamine. Your muscle cells make almost all of your Glutamine requirements, but the immune system uses a ton of it. We must remember that nutrients work synergistically - many other nutrients are involved in immunity including Folate, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 , Pantothenic acid, and Chromium. Dietary fat reduces immunity and dietary protein in the form of ultrafiltered whey enhances immunity. Remember complete nutrition!

Herbal products to stimulate or support the immune system...

Olive Leaf Extract: Olive Leaf Extract for infections of viral, fungal and bacterial origin. Initially take 1-2 capsules two-three times a day until relief is obtained, then reduce to 1 capsule two-three times a day, until 3 days after all symptoms go. Superior Olive leaf contains 2000mg Olive leaf per capsule, 6000mg Elderberry, as well as the immunity minerals selenium and zinc. We also have the Comvita Olive Leaf liquid.

Echinacea is the herb of choice for upper respiratory problems, such as in the throat. It offers an excellent anesthetic effect, making it invaluable for a sore throat. The liquid can be gargled, as well as taken internally.  We stock the Kiwiherb Liquid Echinacea range, for both adults and children, as well as Gaiakids Echinacea Supreme and Echinacea Goldeseal. We also have Echinacea, Echinacea Goldenseal and Echinacea and Astragalus capsules.

Sambucus Elderberry Extract: This Elderberry extract comes in 4 different formulas, including Sambucus original, Sambucus Sugar free (suitable for diabetics), Sambucus Immune and Sambucus for kids. The dosage for adults is initially 2 teaspoons four times a day, then 2 teaspoons twice a day.

System Well is a comprehensive herbal combination to help build up a weakened immune system. It targets seven essential aspects of healthy immunity in the body. This all time favourite of ours is loved by people all over the world and can be used after a cold or the flu or any time you feel like your immune system needs a herbal boost.  

Nutritional support for Healthy Immunity includes:

Multi Vite caps - essential for general health, but even more important during infection as they are used at a much greater rate.

Advanced Antioxidant Formula - normal response to infection includes the release of inflammatory mediators, however, these mediators cause inflammatory stress and can also cause depletion of nutrients, and loss of muscle and adipose tissue. Antioxidants help to counteract this problem.

Mega Zinc powder, which can be used by the whole family (make sure you have eaten first, as zinc is nauseating on an empty stomach). It comes in a naturally sweetened Raspberry flavour.

Essential Oils - vapourising Tea tree, Eucalyptus, Pine and Frankincense all help to boost immunity and ward off bugs, while Orange is uplifting and refreshing. A steam inhalation using Pine, Frankincense and Tea tree is useful to clear airways and ease breathing.

Some interesting points on Immunity...

  • Consume plenty of fluids, especially fresh juices, herbal teas and quality water, to prevent dehydration and help flush out the body.
  • The most common causes of immune dysfunction are pesticides, heavy metals, vaccination, physical trauma, nutritional deficiencies and stress. These must be addressed for complete immune competency.
  • The three types of immune dysfunction are immune suppression, allergy, and autoimmunity problems. These may require the help of an experienced practitioner.
  • Limit excessive exercise during infection, as this will only use precious energy better spent fighting off bugs. Gentle rebounding may help get the lymphatics moving.
  • A high alcohol and fat intake will reduce immunity.
  • Do not use aspirin with viral infections. Complications can arise.
  • Use hot, pungent herbs for heating the body and stimulating the immune system. Ginger, Garlic and Cayenne pepper are particularly good and may be brewed up with Lemons, Honey, Water, and Apple cider vinegar.
  • Eat whole, nourishing foods like fruit, raw vegetables, wholegrain, seeds, cereals etc. Avoid empty or non-foods like alcohol, coffee, refined carbohydrates (white sugar, flour etc) and tobacco.
  • Relax and avoid stress to reduce nutrient depletion.
  • To aid a healthy immune system, regular exercise is essential in moderation for the stimulation of the lymphatics.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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