The human immune system is a natural defense system that protects the body from attacks.
Without it, humans would prove helpless to even the simplest of infections.
The 3 Areas of Your Body’s Innate Immune System
The skin and mucosal membranes
The skin produces sebum which keeps its pH slightly acidic to control growth of organisms on the skin, while mucosal membranes release fluids such as saliva and mucus that protect against pathogenic micro-organisms.
Secreted soluble proteins
Our bodies secrete proteins and enzymes which attack microorganisms.
Our bodies contain white blood cells that destroy invasive organisms or “antigens” and rid the body of abnormal cells.
Adaptive Immune System
Our immune system recognizes different antigens and stores them into memory for faster fighting responses the next time the antigens invade. (1)
Nutrients to Boost Immune Function
A weaken immune system may increase our susceptibility to infections due to a lack in ability to recognize and neutralize invading organisms.
Therefore, lifestyle changes along with a proper diet with the right nutrients are essential for developing a strong immune system to enhance our overall quality of life.
And at the front of nutrition research today is the application of micronutrients which include minerals, vitamins and related co-factors in immune system support.
Studies indicate that the administration of vitamin A in malnourished children helps protect against and reduce the death rate associated with measles. (2)
Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to reduced white blood cell response and shrinkage of the critical immune system organ.
Vitamin B12 manages cell division and growth.
A lack of this vitamin may obstruct the growth of white blood cells. (3)
This vitamin works with other antioxidants to enhance the activity of our white blood cells to neutralize free radicals without being harmed.
Supplementing your diet with this vitamin will generally improve an individual’s immune response. (4)
Supplemental zinc can help restore declining immunity.
The positive effects of zinc in adults however, have not been proven in children. (5)
Studies show that vitamin C helps to increase the immune system cells’ response to cold and flu.
One study suggests that taking vitamin C supplement at the first sign of a cold can help to ward off the cold. (6)
Echinacea for Better Immune Function
A widely known immune-support herb, Echinacea exerts some direct antimicrobial action and primarily boosts immune cell activity as well as prevents bacterial enzymes from breaking down the body’s tissues.
Traditionally, herbalists viewed it as a source of blood purifier and an aid to fighting infections.
There are nine different species of Echinacea, though only Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea pallida and Echinacea purpurea are widely used for medicinal purposes. (7)
Echinacea was the most widely used medicinal herb in America in 1895 for the treatment of various illnesses until it is replaced by antibiotics in the late 1920s.
Health Benefits of Echinacea
Echinacea increases the “non-specific” activity of the immune system.
This means it is capable of enhancing your body immune cells’ ability to fight against viruses, abnormal cells and bacteria.
Echinacea supports wound healing, reduces symptoms from virus attacks and speeds up your recovery.
Since it has anti-inflammatory properties, it may be used externally to treat inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
It may also improve your resistance against infectious conditions.
This herb can be used for the treatment of colds, flu, coughs, sore throat and other upper respiratory conditions.
Other uses include enlarged lymph glands, urinary tract infections and other minor infections. (8)
Want To Grow Your Own Echinacea?
Here is a wonderful video that will show you how it can be done. 🙂
1. NCBI. 2013. What are the organs of the immune system?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072579/. [Accessed 14 November 2016].
2. Eduardo Villamor and Wafaie W. Fawzi, 2005. Effects of Vitamin A Supplementation on Immune Responses and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, [Online]. 18(3), 446–464. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1195969/ [Accessed 14 November 2016].
3. University of Maryland Medical Center/Steven D. Ehrlich. 2015. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). [ONLINE] Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine. [Accessed 14 November 2016].
4. Pekmezci D, 2011. Vitamin E and immunity. Vitamins & Hormones Journal, [Online]. 86, 179-215. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21419272 [Accessed 14 November 2016].
5. Prasad AS, 2008. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Molecular Medicine, [Online]. 14(5-6), 353-7. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18385818 [Accessed 14 November 2016].
6. Douglas RM, Hemila H, D’Souza R, Chalker EB, Treacy B, 2004. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, [Online]. (4), CD000980. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15495002 [Accessed 14 November 2016].
7. Zili Zhai, Yi Liu, Lankun Wu, David S. Senchina, Eve S. Wurtele, Patricia A. Murphy, Marian L. Kohut and Joan E. Cunnick, 2007. Enhancement of Innate and Adaptive Immune Functions by Multiple Echinacea Species. Journal of Medicinal Food, [Online]. 10(3), 423–434. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2362099/ [Accessed 14 November 2016].
8. RM Barry Publications. 2007. Natural Alternative Medicine. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.rmbarry.com/research/natural_medicine.html. [Accessed 14 November 2016].
Published on 15 Nov 2016