The immune system from a Western perspective
Our bodies are constantly exposed to various bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. We owe the fact that we don't constantly get sick to our immune system, which fights the invaders with the help of lymphocytes (white blood cells that originate in the bone marrow) and antibodies. Other vital organs that support the immune system include the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, and a network of capillaries and lymphatic vessels.
In Western immunology, a distinction is made between an innate, unspecific and an acquired, specific (adaptive) immune system. The innate immune system, which is found in almost all living beings, produces a non-specific reaction and has no immunological memory. The adaptive immune system, on the other hand, which has so far only been found in vertebrates with jaws, is characterized by a) specificity and b) memory. The former refers to the adaptability of the immune system in that it is able to recognize special structures of the invaders and to form suitable antibodies against these antigens. The latter means that the immune system “remembers” pathogens that have once invaded and can activate the antibodies specifically formed for them more quickly if there is a renewed infection with the same microorganism.
Immunity can be acquired either through infection or through vaccination against a specific disease.
The immune system in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, numerous measures to increase immune strength were described in detail over 2000 years ago. The core goal of Ayurveda is longevity (“Ayus”), with the best possible physical and mental health. To achieve this goal, humans need strength (“Bala”) and a healthy essence (“Ojas”), as the finest product of a perfect metabolism, in order to overcome or treat diseases resist. Both Bala and Ojas are, on the one hand, constitutionally innate and, on the other hand, individually acquired and therefore influenceable. And this is exactly where Ayurvedic prevention and healing concepts come into play.
Constitutionally, Bala and Ojas are linked to healthy Kapha, so people dominated by Kapha dosha have the strongest immune systems. Pitta types, on the other hand, are prone to skin infections or allergies as well as inflammatory processes. When Vata is dominant, the immune system is weakest. In order to understand the immune system in Ayurvedic terms, we have to think holistically. His condition reflects the balance of body, senses and mind, which influence each other. Ayurvedic immunology therefore always works multimodally using all therapeutic methods. The Ayurvedic therapies to strengthen the immune system can be divided into soothing and cleansing measures. Relieving measures include taking nutritional supplements, optimizing diet and lifestyle. When it comes to cleansing therapies, a distinction is made between internal and external cleansing.
Nutrition: fresh and easily digestible food builds body tissue, promotes bala (strength) and leads to the formation of immune-boosting ojas (essence of a healthy metabolism). Ayurvedic meals are predominantly warm and freshly prepared. Raw food should only be consumed in the midday hours, as that is when the digestive fire Agni is strongest. The interval between meals should be 4-8 hours and snacks should be avoided.
Lifestyle: Deciding is v.a a healthy sleep, which should be between 6 and 8 hours; According to Ayurveda, more sleep increases Kapha, less Vata Dosha - both of which can result in a weakening of the immune system. After getting up, the Ayurvedic morning routine includes drinking hot water (to stimulate the digestive fire Agni), removing coating from the tongue with a tongue scraper and rinsing the mouth with oil (usually with sesame oil). Breathing deeply and consciously through the nose is also very important; There are various breathing techniques here such as: alternate breathing or Ujjayi breathing, which are said to reduce stress and strengthen the immune system. Regular exercise is also important in Ayurveda. How intense this should be depends not least on the respective dosha: while Kapha types should regularly do intensive exercise, those with Pitta dominance prefer quieter activities such as walking or cycling.
Dietary supplements: are widely used in Ayurveda to strengthen the immune system, especially.a Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Pippali (long pepper), Amalaki and Tulsi.
External cleaning and care: This mainly involves:a to prevent pathogens from entering the organism through the skin, respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract. The skin and mucous membranes should always be well supplied with blood and moisturized to ensure adequate resistance. This happens in Ayurveda v.a through oil massages. But moist heat (Svedana) also has an immune-strengthening effect in Ayurveda.
Inner purification: According to Ayurvedic understanding, diseases have their origin in the accumulation of food that has not been sufficiently metabolized. Prevention and therapy with appropriate cleaning measures such as: Intestinal enemas to remove metabolic waste.
The immune system in TCM
While in Western medicine a largely digital distinction is made between “healthy” and “sick” as a description of the condition, TCM sees health as a dynamic process that is continually confronted with influences from both inside and outside. In TCM, the “Wei-Qi” (“Wei” means “outside”) is considered the seat of the immune defense and is intended to prevent pests from outside penetrating the organism. The stronger the “Wei Qi”, the stronger the body’s defenses.
According to TCM, these damaging (pathogenic) influences hinder the free flow of life energy Qi in the meridians, resulting in an energy blockage that weakens the immune system. TCM deals accordingly.a with the protection of the organism from influences that weaken it. These include, for example: climatic conditions such as heat or humidity as well as injuries, genetic material, stress and poor nutrition. Prevention and therapy in TCM therefore focus on strengthening the life energy Qi and removing energy blockages.
As in Ayurveda, nutrition also has a special meaning in TCM: while in Ayurveda warming food is intended to strengthen the digestive fire Agni, TCM is about strengthening the Qi through warming foods. These include, for example: Winter vegetables, legumes, cinnamon, ginger, smoked fish, nuts or pomegranate. It is important to note that hot foods (according to TCM understanding these are also spicy foods) should be avoided as they open pores and have a cooling effect on the organism. It should also be mentioned that the Western recommendation to eat citrus fruits to strengthen the immune system contradicts the TCM understanding, as these have a cooling effect on the body and thus weaken Qi and thus the immune system instead of strengthening it .
In addition to diet, sleep and exercise also play an important role in strong Qi. According to the TCM organ clock, you should go to bed between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Meditative forms of movement such as Qi Gong as well as acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion and cupping help to dissolve energy blockages.
Important nutrients that can help strengthen our immune system
Zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system. According to the National Consumption Study (NVS II) for Germany, the average intake of zinc is 8 mg per day for women and 11 mg per day for men. The German Nutrition Society recommends that women consume 7-10 mg of zinc per day and men 11-16 mg of zinc per day (depending on how rich the diet is in phytates). In many cases, especially men, there is an undersupply of zinc. For better bioavailability of zinc, Ayurveda recommends taking it together with Amla (Amalaki), but this has not been scientifically proven.
Vitamin D and Vitamin C contribute to the normal function of the immune system.
Rosehips are known for their high vitamin C content and even contain more of it than lemon or sea buckthorn. Depending on the type of rose and degree of ripeness, the rose hip can contain up to 5000 mg of vitamin C per 100 g. Hildegard von Bingen already relied on rosehip tea to strengthen the immune system and prevent colds.
Amla is the “royal fruit” in Ayurveda, an essential component of Triphala and balances all three doshas, especially.a but the pitta dosha. The tannoids contained in Amla are said to have a vitamin C-like effect on the immune system by accumulating in the leukocytes and activating T cells. Amla also has a very high concentration of antioxidants, e.g. contains amla approx. 30 times more polyphenols than red wine. This is also confirmed by the detection of a very high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value for certain Amla powders (cf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841576/ ).
Astragalus is a tragacanth root that is one of the most important medicinal plants in TCM and is considered to have an immune-modulating effect, i.e.H stimulates a weak immune system and reduces excessive immune reactions, e.g. for allergies or autoimmune diseases. Its roots are considered a Qi tonic, i.e.H In TCM terms, strengthen life energy. This is why the chicken soups that are popular in TCM to strengthen the immune system also contain i.dR Tragacanth roots. The root is now also known to us in the West and its active ingredients have been well studied. For example, Astragalus is often used to relieve symptoms of allergies such as: hay fever used.
ABM is an almond mushroom (Agaricus blazei) that has very high concentrations of long-chain polysaccharides, especially beta-glucans. Beta-glucans can support both the innate and the adaptive immune system, for example by: increase phagocytosis as an important component of the cellular immune system and stimulate the production of cytokines that regulate the growth and differentiation of cells (cf. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24774968/ ). The almond mushroom has even higher concentrations of beta-glucans than reishi or shiitake.
Legal consumer information
German and European case law wants to protect consumers from supposedly misleading claims about effectiveness. The statements made here refer to the original Ayurvedic and TCM texts. This ancient knowledge, which is thousands of years old, is based on experiences that are passed on from generation to generation. It is not intended to claim that the products described here have an effect in the sense of western medicine. All products are nutritional supplements; they are not medications and have no medical effect. If you are sick and need medical care, please contact your doctor or pharmacist.