A healthy immune system keeps a person from getting sick. It recognizes foreign material in the body such as a cold virus or a bacteria or a damaged cell, and launches an attack against these objects, then gives a signal to stop attacking when the "danger" has passed. When the immune system is functioning normally, the illnesses we get are things that are strong enough to overwhelm our body's defenses. When the immune system is weak, we become sick more easily. In Oriental Medicine, we say that the pathogen is stronger than the qi when the patient becomes ill as a result of an external pathogen such as a cold or flu virus. back to top
When Good Systems go Bad
There are many things which can negatively effect the immune system's ability to handle all the pathogenic influences it is exposed to, and there are several types of illnesses or disharmonies which directly effect the immune system
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system's ability to distinguish foreign invaders from the body's own tissue is impaired. In some cases, the part of the immune system which signals the body to STOP attacking becomes impaired. In these cases, immune response may be launched against the patient's own tissue resulting in pain and inflammation, breakdown of tissue and other problems. Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. There is growing evidence that atherosclerosis, diabeties, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, certain thyroid disorders, and many other diseases have at least some autoimmune component in their mechanisms.
In immune deficiency disorders, something damages the cells of the immune system enough that the immune system is unable to do its job as well as usual. Consider a production line with 50% of the workers out sick. There are not enough workers to get all of the job done, so certain things pile up. This is what happens in HIV/AIDS. The virus attacks the cells of the immune system, lowering the number of T-cells (a specific type of cell in the immune system). With fewer T-cells around, pathogens which would normally be easily destroyed begin to pile up in the body, leaving the body vulnerable to a host of diseases it would normally fight with ease.
There are also cancers of the immune system such as leukemia which can damage the white blood cells making them unable to do their jobs.
Some medications can decrease the function of the immune system. For example, cancer drugs are designed to effect rapidly reproducing cells. White blood cells reproduce more rapidly than many other cells in the body, and many chemotherapy medications have an effect on the overall function of the immune system. back to top
An ounce of Prevention
Oriental Medicine has an excellent track record with treating disorders of the immune system. There are a number of Chinese herbs which have direct effects on stimulating white blood cell production, improving liver and kidney function, and strengthening the body. (Please note that these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.) Several acupuncture points have been documented to increase white blood cell production.
Treatment starts with a complete evaluation of your history and present complaints including physical examination and review of relevant medical records. An Oriental Medicine diagnosis is made, and a treatment plan is developed which may incorporate a variety of modalities including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and moxibustion. If you are fighting a cold or other "external pathogen", cupping may be used to help draw the pathogen out to the surface and prevent the illness from going deeper.
The most effective treatment for the immune system is prevention of problems. Treatment to boost qi and blood before you are sick is more helpful than treatment after you become ill. If you know you have a weakened immune system, regular preventative maintenance is critical. You change the oil on your car every 3 months or 3000 miles. You should also tune up your qi at least this frequently. If you become sick, quick action will help to minimize the duration and effect of the illness. Treatment will be several times per week, probably with your herb formula being changed with each visit, until the illness is resolved.
At Eastern Body Therapy, we provide individualized treatment plans based on your Oriental Medicine diagnosis and your western condition. We encourage you to continue working with your physician, and will be asking for copies of your laboratory studies in order to see if our treatment is working. Treatment may be weekly, biweekly, monthly or another schedule depending on what you have, how long you've had it, and how well you respond to the treatment. back to top