Boosting Immune System (Important in times of many viruses)

The immune system evolved as a defence system to protect individuals from invading microorganisms and malignant disorders and help to maintain homeostasis. The word immunity means the state of protection from infectious disease. Immunology is a branch of biomedical science that covers the study of all aspects of the immune response in all organisms. The study of the molecular and cellular components that comprise the immune system, including their function and interaction, is called immunology 

Our immune system is facing a unique historical challenge as we encounter increased environmental, industrial, social, pharmaceutical, dietary and spiritual stressors. This microcosmic challenge is a reflection of the larger environmental challenge that our macrocosmic world is also facing. The pressures of global population increase, industrial expansion and the destabilization of many natural ecosystems are clearly stressing the earth’s natural immunity. These challenges also have a negative impact on our immune systems. 

How the immune system works 

In order to protect us from foreign invaders, the immune system must be able to differentiate from ‘self’ or ‘non-self’ or what is ‘us’ and what is ‘not us’. In order to fulfil this objective the immune system galvanizes the cooperation of numerous cells, organs and chemicals to work coherently to protect us against disease. There are two categories of immunity; a natural, innate, non-specific immunity and an acquired, adaptive, specific immunity. 

Non-specific immunity 

Non-specific immunity is a natural, genetic type of immunity present at birth. Our innate immunity includes the skin, certain chemicals in the blood and special immune system cells that attack foreign substances in the body. It is responsible for 99.9% of all immune activity and is our first line of defence. 

Non-specific immunity is partly regulated by macrophages that literally hoover up foreign bodies in a process known as phagocytosis; Andrographis, Guduchi, Ashwagandha and Garlic all increase the action of phagocytosis. 

Natural Killer (NK) cells are a part of this non-specific system that acts independently of other chemical messages and act as the first line of defence against many diseases. They are formed in the bone marrow and then travel to lymphoid tissue (tonsils, lymph nodes and spleen). From here they either attack cells infected with viruses or DNA damage (eg tumour cells). They also work as part of the acquired immune system (see below) and release cytokines that modulate T and B lymphocytes; Licorice and Garlic assist NK cell activity. 

Specific chemicals are used by this aspect of immunity to keep the body healthy; interferons, interleukins, Tumour Necrotic Factor; Ashwagandha, Turmeric and Green tea have all been shown to positively affect these immune system workers. 

Specific immunity 

Specific immunity was a later development in our evolution and generates lymphocyte activity at a cellular level against invading foreign substances known as antigens. It is an induced response that is slower than our innate immune response. It has to be learned by the body and it also creates a memory. For example, the adaptive immune system creates a secondary response to a pathogenic infection by a disease to which the body can become immune after recovery (e.g. chickenpox) or via vaccination, or from receiving antibodies via your mother’s breast milk. 

T-lymphocytes are released by this specific immunity and they have ‘killer’ ‘helper’ and ‘suppressor’ activity; Kutki, Andrographis, Garlic and Licorice modulate T-cells. 

B-lymphocytes are produced by the bone marrow in adults and live in the spleen and digestive tract. They are transformed into plasma cells which create immunoglobulin antibodies on meeting a foreign invader and create memories of these invaders to recognise them when they next appear; Ashwagandha and Licorice modulate B-lymphocyte activity; Punarnava, Guduchi, Karela, Turmeric, Garlic and Licorice all help to modulate antibody response. 

Immune system consist of: 

● Thymus 

● Spleen 

● Lymph system 

● Bone marrow 

● White blood cells 

● Antibodies 

● Hormones 

● Neurons 

The integrated nature of the immune system 

As we know about the psychosomatic relationship of our body, the endocrine and nervous systems are in continual feedback with the immune system and their state of balance regulates the immune response. So, the balance of our hormones and the functioning of our neurons are implicated in how our immune system responds to visiting foreign substances. The brain and immune system have a continual dialogue so that immune-mediated chemicals inform the brain what to do and vice versa. It is clear how we can underperform when faced with an intolerable level of negative stress. As we know, emotional, hormonal and immune states all affect our digestion, sleep and mood. Certain studies have shown how different emotional states affect the immune system: 

Symptoms of low immunity 

● Regular or persistent bacterial, fungal, viral or parasitic infections 

● Slow-healing wounds 

● Autoimmune diseases 

● Allergies 

● Inflammatory disorders 

● Chronic fatigue 

● Depression 

● Chronic degenerative conditions; impaired immune system response is present in such diseases as cancer, candidiasis, AIDS, TB 

The Ayurvedic understanding of immunity 

Ayurveda philosophy and guidance is excellent on how we can maintain and boost immunity. Ayurveda has a beautiful understanding of our immunity which it considers within a completely holistic context, including both a qualitative and quantitative understanding. 

”The immunity (vyadhi-kshamatva) is a strength within all of us that resists the causes of diseases and their aggressive tendencies.” -Chakrapanidatta 

The Ayurvedic system of medicine not only deals with treating the diseases but also aims to prevent the disease. Vyadhikshamatva (Immunity) is described in Ayurveda and this concept is considered equivalent to immunity. The concept of Vyadhikshamatva is related to Kapha, Bala, Agni and Ojas. From the Ayurvedic perspective this manifests as impaired digestive agni, tissue dhatu, constitutional dosha as well as our inherited reserve ojas and the life-force prana. These directly and indirectly affect our deeper sense of health and well-being. One way of reversing this deficiency is to focus on nourishing the different aspects of immunity. It maintains the ecological relationship between the body-mind-spirit and the world in which we live and interact. Our immunity is a holistic system interconnected with the psychological-neurological- endocrine systems, it is multi-dimensional and requires nourishment from diverse sources. Healthy communication between these different sources is the key to healthy well being. 

● Vatta immune will manifest in people where there is a Vatta immune problems poor response to disease and general depletion. This often involves lingering illness, chronic degeneration, wasting and weakness. This requires immune stimulants and immune tonics; Tulsi and Ashwagandha are good 

Pitta immune problems will manifest with inappropriate and extended inflammation. This will require reducing the inflammatory cascade and reordering the immune response; Andrographis and Guduchi and good examples. 

Kapha immune problems will manifest with abnormal growths and mucus secretions. This will require clearing treatments that reduce congestion and remove stagnation; Pippali and Ginger are good examples. 

Ayurvedic Treatment 

good immunity in an Ayurvedic context comes from: 

● Avoiding the causes of poor immunity. 

● Balance of the dosha

● Balanced digestion. 

● Reduced toxins. 

● Keeping the channels of circulation open. 

● A strong heart and balanced emotions. 

● Avoidance of negative habits. 

Signs of successful treatment and wellbeing:

● A healthy appetite and a balanced desire for food without cravings 

● Appreciation of the flavour of food and feeling satisfied after eating 

● Good digestion without any signs of discomfort, belching, flatulence 

● Clear voice 

● Relief from any pain or discomfort 

● Proper functioning of the senses; hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smell 

● Clear complexion 

● Appropriate length and quality of sleep 

● Regular elimination of stool, urine and sweat 

● Constant energy with good stamina & the ability to exercise 

● Enthusiasm for life 

● Youthfulness and reduced ageing 

● Balanced emotions; neither too happy with success nor too sad in times of difficulty 

● Regularly compassionate, peaceful, loving, generous and calm 

Lifestyle routines that build vital immunity: 

● Exercise 

● Yoga: 

● Deep Breathing techniques (Pranayama) 

● Meditation: 

● Expressing your emotions (verbally or through writing) 

● Regular massage: 

● Surround yourself in a pleasant environment: 

● Getting the correct amount of sleep is essential to good immunity. 

● Making harmony within and everyone around you. 

Learn more about lifestyle guidelines at, 

Diet to boost immunity 

An important factor in immunity is the avoidance of poor quality foods that have been refined, heavily processed, denatured, are stale or rancid; examples are margarines with hydrogenated oils, low quality oils, refined sugars or processed and preserved foods. In order to ensure that agni ( digestive capacity) is primed which Essential for any type of compromised immunity condition that it removes toxins and regenerates any deficiencies. 

● Wholegrains; millet and roasted buckwheat are alkaline and can benefit the acidity associated with ageing along with brown and basmati rice, barley, quinoa and amaranth. 

● Pulses: mung beans, chickpeas 

● Superfoods: sprouted beans (chickpeas, mung, fenugreek, sunflower, pumpkin), 5 soaked and peeled almonds 

● Vegetables; carrots, asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms (shitake, oyster, maitake), ginger, cooked garlic, cooked onion, beetroots, celery, high in a range of cell-protecting and immune-boosting flavonoids. 

● Beta-carotenes: yellow and orange vegetables; carrots, squash, pumpkin, paprika, chlorophyll rich micro-algae. Rich in cellular protecting anti-oxidants. 

● Cruciferous vegetables: the Brassicafamily; cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts are high in indoles and isothiocyanates that are anti-cancer agents. 

● Chlorophyll foods: dark, green leafy vegetables, micro-algae-spirulina. 

● Sulphur: Allium family; garlic, onions, chives. 

● Oils: omega-3 oils –hemp seed oil, linseed oil 

● Fruit: primarily berries with skins. Citrus peels. 

● Dairy: Herbs infused ghee available 

Immune nourishing soup 

Guduchi roots (Tinospora cordifolia) 10g Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) 10 g Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) 10g Preferably to Take coarse powder of the above three herbs. 

Simmer in 1.5 litres water- 1/2 hour Strain and remove Guduchi, Ashwagandha and Amalaki Add 1⁄2 cup soaked and sprouted mung beans Add root vegetables: Beetroots, carrots Add seasonal greens- kale, spinach, nettles, asparagus Add ginger, rosemary, thyme, turmeric Add 1 drumstick Simmer for 45 mins Adjust quantities and water as desired 

Eat 1-2 x/ week for general immune tonification 

Benefits the immune system, digestion, allergies, fatigue, inflammatory conditions.

“While resting in the spirit, the mind, pure and stable, shines as a lamp shines with a bright flame from within the lantern.” CharakaSamhita 5.5.15