In this webinar, we look deeper into the role of the immune system as an Integral network that is tied directly to the health of our patients, and how to support immune function by favorably altering the biological terrain.
The “immune system” is a term used to describe a number of structures and functions associated with self-preservation.
A central defining characteristic of immune system function is the ability to identify self, versus non-self, and to be able to act on that distinction. The spleen, thymus, and a number of areas that are rich with concentrated lymph tissue (Peyer’s patches, adenoids) are all considered primary immune system structures. The circulatory network of lymph vessels, including the lymphoid tissue and the lymphocytes, exists in every part of the body. It is deeply interconnected with the circulatory system and aids in the transport of nutrients and waste throughout the body.
Although we characterize the immune system as a discrete network, our physiology is a seamless overlay of structures and functions that are intimately interconnected.
Endocrine hormones directly affect immune function, and immune cells synthesize, store, and excrete endocrine hormones. The implications of this relationship are far-reaching and imply the basic principle that one cannot have a healthy immune system without having a healthy endocrine system. There are many known examples of how this plays out in the body, and even more examples that have not yet been elucidated.
Elevated insulin and blood sugar levels, altered lipid metabolism, dysregulated inflammatory signaling, imbalanced microbiota, HPTA axis dysregulation, and destabilized mast cell responses are just a few examples of physiological imbalances that have a direct effect on immune function.
In TCM terms, the predominance of pathological factors hinders the proper flow of energy and materials in the body. Energy manufacture, the creation of ATP, and the generation of qi are required for all body processes. Anything that inhibits mitochondrial function will inevitably inhibit immune function. The cells of the immune system require significant amounts of energy to perform their essential role in maintaining microbial balance in the body, and for clearly determining what is pathological, and what is beneficial.
As we face the current pandemic, the fundamental approach must be to strengthen the patient. By correcting endocrine imbalances, the immune system can function at a higher level.
Many immune system supportive agents in the botanical medicine toolbox have a dual function of tonifying the qi, meaning improving energy manufacture and accessibility across the body, while also clearing away pathological factors, such as Dampness.
Herbs like echinacea, astragalus, and medicinal mushrooms, are all considered to be immune system enhancing agents. However, their physiological effects are not isolated to the discrete structures of the immune system. Additionally, a host of botanical and nutritional agents can improve immune function through their normalizing effects on the endocrine system. Complex, multi-faceted actions across the immunoendocrine axis simultaneously improve endocrine and immune function.
The call for individualized medicine, taking into account the constitutional state of each patient, is louder than ever.
Although the search for effective single-molecule, single-target medicines, along with the race for a vaccine will inevitably continue, the botanical and nutritional medicine toolboxes are ideally suited to prepare our population for whatever health threats we will face in the months and years to come.
In “An Ecological Perspective on Metabolic Syndrome and its Role in Health and Disease,” we discussed the role of metabolic syndrome in the manifestation of disease (click here to view).
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Note: This webinar is intended for healthcare practitioners.