How Do Toxins Affect The Immune System?
What Does The Immune System Do For Us, And Why Is It So Important To Keep It Healthy?
The immune system is our defence mechanism against the outside world, disease and infection. It is a crucial part of our ability to stay healthy, and a compromised immune system has ramifications that can be very serious.
The immune system expels pathogens, toxic chemicals and cells that may produce tumours. It is finely tuned and highly sophisticated and it seeks and finds “foreign” particles and diseases and renders them useless.
It is the body’s natural defence system, and yet it seems that millions of people worldwide are succumbing to diseases which indicate a weakened immune system- asthma, allergies, arthritis, auto-immune disorders, cancer, connective tissue disorders, diabetes, eczema, food intolerances, infections, and inflammatory disorders. If we look at asthma alone, between 100 and 150 million people suffer from this worldwide, many of them children, and the numbers are escalating rapidly.
The sharp increase in the number of people globally who are suffering from these diseases is a mystery to the medical profession, but if we look at the toxic pollution levels and how prolific synthetic chemicals are in our societies, it does not take long to find a correlation between our collective declining health and toxic pollution.
There are many different effects that the toxic chemicals have on our bodies but one of the most prevalent is that many of the toxins damage virtually every aspect of our immune system. Some of the toxins cause the immune system to go into overdrive, so it reacts to everything as if it is a threat, and becomes too sensitive. Other chemicals cause the immune system to under –react, thus allowing diseases and infections to invade easily, and thus the patient suffers from frequent colds, flu, and worse.
Mercury and other heavy metals have also been shown to compromise the immune system. As the toxins accumulate, they stimulate the immune system to overreact, and thus it is in constant attack mode, and reactions in the form of allergies and asthma, for example, become more and more severe. Mercury has also been linked to depression and to some mental health conditions.
The immune system has a built- in method of discerning what is “foreign” and what is self, and a healthy immune system will attack and remove that which is not self or that which is harmful. However, in the case of auto immune diseases, like asthma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system loses its ability to differentiate between self and non-self, and the body starts attacking itself.
How Can You Tell If Your Immune System Is Compromised?
When the immune system is functioning optimally, we are healthy. When it gets attacked by environmental toxins and pesticides, herbicides, and pollutants in our air, water and food, it loses its ability to fight off invaders. Similarly, certain medications, and recreational drugs, poor nutrition, chronic disease, stress, infection, or advancing age all contribute to a weakened immune system.
Indicators that the immune system is weakened are-
Fatigue and loss of stamina
Frequent colds or infections
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Skin rashes and cold sores
Increased severity of allergy symptoms
What Is The Effect Of Stress On The Immune System?
One of the reasons that rest and relaxation are important when considering the strengthening of the immune system is that it has been proven that stress can alter the immune function. Cortisol, a hormone that has been named the “stress hormone” is secreted in increased levels when the body is in “fight or flight” mode. If someone is in a constant state of fear, or panic, or anger, cortisol, which is supposed to be secreted into the blood stream to give you the extra energy that you need to flee or fight, becomes a constant presence in the blood. Cortisol has been found to have immunosuppressive effects, which in turn can affect wound healing and other healing processes.
It is not just emotions that can cause our body to experience stress. Poor diet, or dieting, smoking, excessive drinking or drug taking, lack of sleep, self-harm, some medications, and a high toxic burden are some of the factors that can contribute to an increased cortisol level in the blood, which in turn will be harmful to the immune system.
The parasympathetic nerve system (the system that should normally return the body to homeostasis after a fight or flight response) should be responsible for clearing away the build up of toxins in the body caused by the stress factor, but it struggles to do so if the client is in a constant state of stress.
Sectors of society that are most likely to suffer from stress are:
- Women in general, but particularly working mothers
- Less-educated individuals
- Divorced or widowed individuals
- The unemployed
- Isolated individuals
- People who are targets of racial or sexual discrimination
- City- dwellers
What Can We Do To Strengthen The Immune System?
There are several natural ways to strengthen the immune system should you fall ill. Traditional ones include high doses of vitamin C, and rest. Light exercise and meditation are also suggested when there is a weak immune system, deep breathing and yoga, and eating healthful foods, while avoiding over processed and fat/sugar saturated food. Massages, hot baths, and stress management techniques are also recommended to relax you when the immune system is under-functioning. Herbal remedies and trying to be more optimistic are also advised, as well as alternative therapies and sometimes even counseling.
Written by Caroline Nettle.
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*This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner or vet.
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