Immune System Dysfunction
With the emergence of so many diseases and syndromes with unknown causes, we must turn our attention to the immune system and why it is failing to function properly in so many individuals. Before effectively treating whatever malady someone might suffer from, the cause of why he or she became ill in the first place must be addressed. What is the root cause? Autoimmune diseases, new diseases like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are all associated with immune dysfunction, whether primary or secondary. Conceivably, if we continue to discover new illnesses which originate from faulty immune response, we can be sure that immune system dysfunction will become one of the major disease categories of the 21st century.
Causes of Immune System Impairment
Studies of the National Institutes of Health in a meeting on alternative medicine reported that they had studied a group of people caring for elderly Alzheimer's patients as compared to another test group who were not. You can imagine the stress involved in the day to day care of anyone with Alzheimer's. They inflicted a cut or wound on both test groups and observed the healing process and how long it took to complete. Healing is a direct manifestation of immune system function and efficiency. Those caring for the Alzheimer's patients took 25 percent longer to heal. The conclusion is that stress directly inhibits the healing process. Anyone who approaches a health care expert with stress complaints and asks for medicine to alleviate stress is probably suffering from immune dysfunction to some degree. For this reason, it is always important to provide that person with immune building nutrients and herbals in combination with stress-relieving agents to improve function or stop degradation. Another study observed an adult care facility where people came to participate in social activity only. These were ambulatory elderly. This group was assessed for immune function, some changes implemented and several months later, was reevaluated. A marked improvement in immune function was noted. Why? Because this group had been given a simple multivitamin and mineral supplement. This daily supplement greatly improved their immune function. For the elderly, who typically suffer from immune weakness, this was a simple yet profoundly beneficial addition. While this is a relatively easy step we can take to boost our immunity, there are other activities which can significantly combat the deleterious health effects of stress in our lives. Dr Herbert Benson, a cardiologist trained at Harvard University who wrote The Relaxation Response, proved through his research that people who meditated for 15 to 20 minutes per day reacted differently to stress. While it may be true that under stressful conditions their blood pressure would rise, it would only stay elevated for 20 or 30 minutes rather than for hours at a time. The effects of stress were markedly reduced for people who meditated regularly.
Deficiencies of virtually any single nutrient can negatively impact the immune system; however, certain compounds are vital to immune function. One of these is zinc. Zinc as a single deficiency can cause severe immune impairment. Zinc deficiencies are rather common; a fact which certainly has very important health implications for all of us. It is involved in at least 90 metallienzymatic reactions in the body many of which are immune-related. Any individual who is complaining of disease susceptibility or catches everything that comes along, may want to turn to immune-building herbs like astragalus or echinacea. While those are certainly beneficial, if this person is lacking in zinc or any other nutrient, that concern must be addressed first. Unquestionably, immune-building herbs will work much better if certain nutrients are supplie