Immune system refers to the organs and the processes that take place in the body to provide us with protection from the infection and toxins. Bone marrow, thymus gland, spleen, white blood cells, antibodies, lymphatic system and the complement system are the main constituents of the immune system. Any abnormality of the immune system can lead to immunodeficiencies, allergies and autoimmune diseases.
What are the common problems of the immune system?
Problems in the immune system arise either due to overactive or underactive immune system.
Overactive immune system manifests as:-
- Allergic diseases- In this the immune system produces reaction to otherwise harmless substances.
- Autoimmune diseases- In this the immune system produces reaction against the healthy parts of one’s own body.
Underactive immune system- It is also known as immunodeficiency. In this the immune system does not function properly and predispose the person to infections.
What are the 10 signs of a weak immune system?
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and immunology has reported certain signs of compromised immune system in adults. The signs of weak immune system include:-
- Frequent cold- It’s normal for adults to have cold and sneezing two to three times in a year. During that period the immune system takes three to four days to produce antibodies and help the body get rid of the infection. But if one catches colds constantly or if the cold does not run its course this is the sign of a weak immune system.
- Frequent diarrhoea- According to researches digestive tract has about 70 percent of the body’s immune system. Along with this the bacteria and other microorganisms present in the digestive tract protect the gut from infection and help the immune system. If one tends to have loose motions that are present for more than 2-4 weeks it indicates the possibility of immune disorder. Also low amount of favorable gut bacteria predisposes to viral infection or chronic inflammation.
- Frequent constipation and gas- If one has hard bowel movements or firm and small rabbit pellets like stools, it indicates the possibility of a weak immune system.
- Slow to heal wounds- When one gets an injury be it burn, scrape or cut, the body sends nutrient rich blood at the site of injury to protect the wound and help the skin regeneration. But if the immune system is weak and sluggish the wound does not heal for a long time and the skin can’t regenerate properly.
- If one tends to have more than four ear infections in a year.
- Having pneumonia twice in one year
- Having chronic sinusitis or bacterial sinusitis for more than three times in a year.
- Requiring course of antibiotics more than twice in a year.
- Feeling fatigued all the time- If one feels fatigued despite sleeping for adequate hours it is a possible indication of a weak immune system. This is because as the immune system struggles to fight the infections the body tries to save the energy to fuel the immune system to help it fight germs.
- High stress levels- According to the American Psychological Association, long term mental stress whether due to big assignment at work or an emotional upset at home weakens the immune system. This is because long term stress lowers the lymphocytes or the white blood cells in the body. If they are low in number this predisposes the body to catch viral infections such as common cold.
What causes a weak immune system?
Causes of the suppressed immune system are:-
- Lack of enough sleep- When we sleep our body produces certain cells and proteins called antibodies that help to fight infection.
- Anxiety- Anxious thoughts can lower the immune system in as less as 30 minutes. Chronic stress makes it harder for the body to keep herpes, shingles, flu and other viruses at bay.
- Low vitamin D- Vitamin D helps to boost the immune system. In summers 5-15 min exposure to sun’s rays on hands, arms and face 2-3 times a week is enough. In winter one needs a bit more.
- Certain medications- Drugs that are used to treat arthritis, allergies, IBS, lupus and organ transplant suppresses the immune system.
- Low fruits and vegetables in diet- The fruits and vegetables have fibre which helps to reduce the fat percentage of the body. Also, they provide components that help to make white blood cells. Therefore if they are not taken in sufficient amounts then the immunity becomes weak.
- Marijuana- Smoking marijuana causes the production of coloured mucus or phlegm and predisposition for lung infections.
- High-fat diet- Oils can decrease the efficiency of infection-fighting white blood cells. Obesity predisposes to getting flu and pneumonia. High-fat content in the diet can decrease the number of helpful bacteria in the gut that in turn lowering immune response.
- Not enough time outdoors- Sunlight energize T-cells which are important to fight infections. Also, plants produce phytoncides which when inhaled help to strengthen the immune system
- Smoking- Nicotine from smoking or chewing tobacco weakens the immune system of the body.
- Alcohol- Consuming more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men weakens the immune system. This predisposes to illnesses particularly pneumonia, liver diseases, certain cancer and tuberculosis.
- Grief- Long-term grief and sorrow decrease the immune response of the body.
- Lack of exercise- Exercise helps to increase blood circulation through different parts of the body. This helps the germ-fighting cells to reach where they are needed. Thus lack of regular aerobic exercise suppresses the immune response.
- No sex- Sex once a week is seen to raise the levels of immunoglobulin or IgA which helps in fighting germs. Also, those who have sex more than twice a week also have less IgA than those who have no sex at all.
How can we strengthen our immune system?
Certain habits and lifestyles can naturally help to keep the immune system healthy and strong. These include:-
- Regularly eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough sleep
- Wash hands
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Practice mind relaxation techniques and minimize stress from life.
- Get vaccinated regularly.
What is the homeopathic treatment for weak immunity?
In the conventional system of medicine, weak immunity is treated by providing immunoglobulins or antibodies to patients who don’t make enough antibodies or whose antibodies don’t function properly.
Vaccination is another method in which a small amount of the virus, toxin or bacterium that had been treated specially is injected into the body. This method provides protection against the specific bacterium, toxin or virus that had been earlier vaccinated in the person.
Also if a person is already infected then antibiotics and steroids are prescribed to control the infection in the body.
These methods have potential side effects and limitations. Providing readymade antibodies to the person does not help to strengthen the natural immune response of the body against infections. This makes the person dependent on such treatment. Also, such treatment is costly and so all patients cannot avail of it.
On the other hand, homeopathy provides safe and effective treatment to strengthen the weak immune system. The best homeopathic medicine for immunity is constitutional medicine. For this, a trained homeopathic physician takes a detailed case history of the patient.
Some of the commonly indicated homeopathic medicines to raise immunity are:-
- Arsenicum album– It is indicated when there is prostration which is out of proportion to the stage of the disease. Along with this prostration there is extreme restlessness, frequent desire for sips of water, and midnight aggravation of the complaints.
- Camphora– It is used in cases of weak immunity, shock and collapse. It is indicated when there is great sensitivity to cold. The surface of the body is cold to touch and there is complete and sudden prostration. It is also useful in the first stages of cold with sneezing, chilliness, restlessness and subsultus.
- Echinacea angustifolia- It helps to stimulate the immune system. It helps to stimulate macrophages and natural killer cells and enhances their efficiency. It also plays a significant role in chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
- Tuberculinum- It is useful to treat patients who have a loss of appetite, weight loss, recurrent respiratory infections, diarrhea soon on waking, ringworm, glandular enlargement, headaches and skin rash.
Our immune system is vital for good health. It protects us from infection and toxins. There are certain factors that are detrimental to the immune system. Unhealthy diet, sedentary life, excessive alcohol, smoking, long term stress, anxiety and inadequate sleep are some of the factors that weaken the immune system. There are certain warning signs of low immunity. Frequent respiratory infections, diarrhoea, gas or constipation, chronic fatigue, frequent requirement for antibiotics and slow wound healing are warning signs of low immunity. Making correction in lifestyle and dietary habits can help to improve immunity. Along with this homeopathy is seen to be safe and effective in stimulating the immune system and keeping the body healthy.