Your immune system is spread throughout the body, but mostly in the wall of our intestines.

The lumps (lymph glands) that appear in your neck when you have a cold or sore throat, are part of this system. They contain lymphocytes, which are one of the main types of cells of the immune system.

Other large collections of lymph nodes are in our armpits, groins and abdomen. The latter can mimic acute appendicitis when inflamed. This is called mesenteric adenitis.

Our liver has special Kupffer cells which are part also. Our brain's glial cells perform immune functions as well as supporting our nerve cells.

It is really a bit artificial to even talk about it as a separate system, because it functions very closely with our nervous and endocrine gland systems.

One endocrine gland which has a major effect on immune function is the adrenal.

Our Adrenal glands sit on top of your Kidneys alongside the spine. Here their neighbors, the start of the small intestine (Duodenum,) Pancreas and Spleen are shown as well.

anatomy of adrenal glands

These organs are all in our upper abdomen, where they get some protection from our lower ribs.

And a bit on how it works

The immune and endocrine systems both make very extensive use of chemical messengers, called cytokines and hormones respectively. These are passed around in our blood circulation.

They turn processes on and off throughout our body.

In our nervous system the chemical messengers are called neurotransmitters, but these act very locally where they are released.

Our body always has brakes it can apply to control and limit any process. Cortisol from your adrenal glands is part of the inflammation control system.

People born with weakness of their adrenal glands, or who develop this later in life, are prone to diseases with excessive inflammation (and low blood sugar and low blood pressure.) Defective brakes.

Sometimes the control mechanisms are two way affairs, resulting in a sort of see-saw effect from mutual inhibition. This applies to a type of lymphocyte called the T helper cell, the one badly affected by HIV.

T helper cells come in different varieties, including Th1 and Th2. These fight microorganisms and parasites respectively. Mucus production and itch (so scratch) are Th2 mediated measures to dislodge worms and mites.

In Th2 dominance, one has these allergic type symptoms plus low Th1 and so increased susceptibility to infections from microorganisms (viruses and bacteria.)

And why this matters

Certain nutrients and herbs can alter Th1 / Th2 balance in your immune system, to help treat different diseases.

An example is that zinc deficiency can induce Th2 dominance, so zinc may be useful in people with allergies plus recurrent infections.

Adrenal fatigue¹ or "burnout" could also be thought of as defective shock absorbers, to continue the car analogy.

This can add decreased attention span, fatigue and blood sugar dysregulation to the chronic stress and poor nutrition which caused it to develop.

Our other half - the germs in our bowel (more than half actually)

Yes, more germs there than cells in our body!

Very important to our health too.

And easily upset.

Antibiotics, mercury amalgam fillings in our teeth and inadequate dietary fibre all upset these germs. This "dysbiosis" is a basic part of many health problems.

An American Academy of Pediatrics report in 2010, reviewed the medical uses of good germ supplements ("probiotics") and foods preferred by  good germs ("prebiotics.")

Randomized clinical trials have shown probiotics to be modestly effective in treating acute viral gastroenteritis in healthy children.

They are modestly effective for preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in otherwise healthy children.

Encouraging preliminary results were seen in randomized placebo controlled trials in which probiotics were used to treat childhood Helicobacter pylori gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic ulcerative colitis, and infantile colic and to prevent childhood atopy.

Highly trained athletes exercised to exhaustion provide an opportunity to test supplements as they are stressing their bodily systems to the limit. Respiratory infections are then frequent.

A probiotic supplement was used in one randomised placebo controlled double blind trial in these athletes and halved their respiratory infections.
A Cochrane meta-analysis on the same subject was also positive.

When you react badly to lots of drugs, it may be your immune system.

After your immune system, back to home page of this site.

References for your immune system

1. David Zava's site, ZRT labs


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