Improving Your Immune System

Aristo Vojdani, Ph.D.
Improving Immune Function

Dr. Aristo Vojdani is a renowned expert in immune function disorders and immunoassay technology. He was called before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to provide crucial evidence proving the existence of the neuroimmunological disorders suffered by Persian Gulf war veterans. His testimony was instrumental in creating the law that now guarantees free medical care for affected Veterans. Dr. Vojdani has published 69 peer-reviewed scientific articles and holds 6 patents on inventions related to immunoassay technology. He continues to conduct cutting edge immune system related research and to serve as an Associate Professor at Charles R. Drew School of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Improving Immune Function
The immune system is your body’s defense against invasion by foreign substances such as bacteria,viruses,and cancer cells. It is composed of a complex system of specialized tissues, cells, and organs whose purpose is to recognize and destroy these harmful invaders, thus preventing the development of infection and disease. Supporting and enhancing your immune system through healthy lifestyle choices as well as implementing select nutrients and herbs will help reduce your susceptibility to colds, the flu, and other infections and diseases.

Q:Why am I always catching a cold?
A:Recurrent or chronic infections – even very mild colds – occur when the immune system is weakened. Under such circumstances,there is a repetitive cycle that makes it difficult to overcome the tendency toward infection: a weakened system leads to infection, infection causes damage to the immune system, which further weakens resistance. In addition, stress,smoking, and an unhealthy diet can weaken the immune system and lead to increased susceptibility to illness and disease, including colds, flu, cancer, and AIDS.

Q:How does my immune system protect me from getting sick?
A: Your immune defense team is composed of a complex system of white blood cells,proteins in the blood called antibodies, and organs – the thymus, spleen, and liver that provide a defense against potential pathogens. When a foreign invader enters the body or a cell becomes cancerous, your immune system mobilizes special white blood cells and antibodies that directly attack the invader. White blood cells (leukocytes) are the mobile units of the immune system,providing a rapid and potent defense against any infectious agent that might be present. Several different types of white blood cells are normally found in the blood: monocytes, lymphocytes, and granulocytes. The granulocytes and monocytes (after swelling into macrophages)seek out and destroy harmful substances in your body, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and large tumor cells by ingesting them the process of phagocytosis.

Q:I ‘ve heard a lot about natural killer cells lately.What are they and how do they help my immune system?
A:Natural killer (NK) cells are powerful white blood cells that are armed with an estimated 100 different biochemical poisons for killing foreign invaders, mainly virus-infected cells and cancer cells. NK cells can be mobilized quickly and do not require specific recognition of the foreign invader. Other specialized white blood cells include B cells, which form antibodies, and T cells, which are responsible for cell-mediated immunity. Helper T cells serve as the major regulator of virtually all immune functions, while cytotoxic T cells directly attack invading organisms such as viruses and cancer cells.

Q:What can I do to help support my immune system?
A:Many factors can contribute to a less than optimally functioning immune system, such as stress, smoking, recurring or chronic illness, or an unhealthy diet. For example, high stress levels can inhibit your immune system by reducing circulating white blood cells and decreasing both antibody production and the activity of helper T cells and cytotoxic T cells. Thus, reducing your level of stress can go a long way toward improving your immunity. In addition,reducing your exposure to cigarette smoke and your consumption of simple sugars, alcohol, and fats, as well as eating more whole grains, legumes, and fresh fruits and vegetables and getting sufficient rest and exercise are all important. Lastly, the use of certain herbs and nutrients can have a profound impact on your immune system.

Q:I ‘ve heard a lot about the herb echinacea.Would you recommend it to help support my immune system?
A:Yes. Echinacea is among the most popular and best known herbs for promoting a healthy immune system. The three most common species, Echinacea angustifolia, E.pallida, and E.purpurea, have a long history of medicinal use, both in the United States and Europe. Indigenous to North America, it was traditionally used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments such as colds, coughs, sore throats, and infections. Today it is commonly recommended to help ward off and treat cold and flu infections and associated conditions.

Q:How does echinacea help the immune system?
A: Echinacea has been shown to produce a profound effect on the immune system as an immunostimulant , an agent that increases the activity of the immune system. This action is believed to result from the stimulation of immune cells (macrophages,granulocytes, leukocytes) and of mediators that are released by the cellular immune system. Numerous studies have confirmed echinacea’s ability to stimulate phagocytosis, a major factor in the immune response. In addition to immune support, echinacea exerts direct antiviral activity and helps prevent the spread of bacteria.

Q:What exactly is an immunoglobulin?
A:Mammals,including humans,obtain immunity against microorganisms and their toxins before or shortly after birth by the transfer of immunoglobulins from the mother to the newborn. Immunoglobulins are protein molecules that function as antibodies against many unhealthful microorganisms,such as bacteria,viruses,and other foreign invaders. In humans,these immune enhancing proteins pass from the mother ‘s blood to the baby in the uterus so that the baby is born with a passive immunity. In both humans and cows, immunoglobulins are transferred in high quantities after birth in the colostrum,or “mother ‘s first milk,” and in lower quantities thereafter. These antibodies are nondifferential, meaning that antibodies derived from animal sources are active against the same diseases in humans.

Q:How can these immunoglobulins help me?
A:The intestinal tract provides the first line of defense as an immune barrier to foreign antigens or organisms that pass through the intestinal environment. Because digestive enzymes do not break down immunoglobulins, they enter the intestine intact where they not only play a role in the defense of the intestinal lining against invading organisms, but also prevent the absorption of foreign proteins. Immunoglobulins also work to increase the activity level of the immune system. Through these attributes, immunoglobulins make an important contribution to restoring the integrity of a damaged intestinal tract,so that valuable nutrients can once again be utilized.

Q:If I have dairy intolerance,can I still use a whey protein supplement?
A:Most people with dairy intolerance are reacting to either the lactose or casein content of dairy products. A supplement providing concentrated high quality whey protein as defined above is tolerated much better than most dairy products because it is virtually casein-free (less than 1/2 of 1 percent) and has a relatively low lactose content (about 5 percent).

MET272 4/99, rev 11/99 Copyright ©1999 Advanced Nutrition Publications, Inc. providing both a basic dietary form of protein and for supplementation,a high quality whey protein concentrate is an excellent choice.

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