The immune system from a western perspective
Our body is constantly exposed to various bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. The fact that we don't get sick all the time is thanks to our immune system, which fights the invaders with the help of lymphocytes (white blood cells originating in the bone marrow) and antibodies. Other vital organs that support the immune system are the spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, and a network of capillaries and lymphatics.
In western immunology, a distinction is made between an innate, non-specific and an acquired, specific (adaptive) immune system. The innate immune system, found in almost all living beings, elicits a non-specific response and has no immunological memory. In contrast, the adaptive immune system, 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 the special structures of the invaders and to form suitable antibodies against these antigens. The latter means that the immune system "remembers" pathogens that have penetrated it and can activate the antibodies specially formed for them more quickly if the same microorganism is infected again.
The 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 the immune system were described in detail more than 2000 years ago. The core goal of Ayurveda is longevity ("Ayus"), with the best possible physical and mental health. In order 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 to overcome diseases resist. Both bala and ojas are constitutionally innate on the one hand and acquired individually on the other hand and can therefore be influenced. And this is exactly where Ayurvedic prevention and healing concepts come in.
Constitutionally, bala and ojas are associated with healthy kapha, so people in whom kapha dosha is dominant have the strongest immune systems. Pitta types, on the other hand, are prone to skin infections or allergies and inflammatory processes. With Vata dominance, the immune system is at its 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 therapy methods. The Ayurvedic therapies to strengthen the immune system can be divided into soothing and cleansing measures. Palliative measures include taking dietary supplements, optimizing diet and lifestyle. In the case of cleansing therapies, a further 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 mainly warm and freshly prepared. Raw food should only be consumed in the midday hours, since that is when the digestive fire Agni is strongest. The interval between meals should be 4-8 hours and snacks should be avoided.
Lifestyle: Above all, healthy sleep, which should be between 6 and 8 hours, is decisive; According to Ayurvedic understanding, more sleep increases Kapha, less Vata dosha – both 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 coatings from the tongue with a tongue scraper and rinsing the mouth with oil (usually with sesame oil). Deep and conscious breathing through the nose is also of great importance ; there are various breathing techniques such as alternating breathing or Ujjayi breathing, which are said to have a stress-reducing and immune-boosting effect. 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 sports, Pitta dominance should be preferred to quieter activities such as walking or cycling.
Food supplements: Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Pippali (long pepper), Amalaki and Tulsi are widely used in Ayurveda to strengthen the immune system.
External cleaning and care: This is primarily about preventing pathogens from penetrating the organism through the skin, respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract. Skin and mucous membranes should always be well supplied with blood and moistened to ensure adequate resistance. In Ayurveda, this is done primarily through oil massages. But moist heat (Svedana) also has an immune-strengthening effect in Ayurveda.
Internal cleansing: According to Ayurvedic understanding, diseases have their starting point in the accumulation of insufficiently metabolized food. This is where prevention and therapy come in with appropriate cleansing measures such as intestinal enemas to eliminate metabolic waste.
The immune system in TCM
While Western medicine largely distinguishes digitally between "healthy" and "ill" as a description of the condition, TCM understands health as a dynamic process that is continuously confronted with both internal and external influences. In TCM, the "Wei-Qi" ("Wei" means "outside") is considered the seat of the immune system and is intended to prevent pests from penetrating the organism from the outside. The stronger the "Wei-Qi", the stronger the body's defences.
According to TCM, these damaging (pathogenic) influences impede the free flow of life energy Qi in the meridians, resulting in energy blockades that weaken the immune system. Accordingly, TCM deals primarily 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 is also of particular importance in TCM: while in Ayurveda warming food is supposed to strengthen the digestive fire Agni, TCM is about strengthening the Qi through warming food. 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 recommendation resulting from Western understanding to eat citrus fruits to strengthen the immune system contradicts the understanding of TCM, since these have a cooling effect on the body and thus weaken Qi and thus the immune system instead of strengthening it .
In addition to nutrition, sleep and exercise also play an important role for a strong Qi. According to the TCM organ clock, one should go to bed between 9 and 11 p.m. Meditative forms of movement such asQi Gong as well as acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion and cupping help to dissolve energy blockages
Key nutrients that can help boost our immune system
Zinc contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system. According to the National Consumption Study (NVS II) for Germany, the mean intake of zinc is 8 mg per day for women and 11 mg per day for men. The German Society for Nutrition recommends that women should consume 7-10 mg and men 11-16 mg of zinc per day (depending on how phytate-rich the diet is). In many cases, men in particular are found to be undersupplied with zinc. For better bioavailability of zinc, Ayurveda recommends taking it with Amla (Amalaki), but this has not been scientifically proven.
Vitamin D and vitamin C contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system.
Rose hips 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 the degree of ripeness, the rosehip 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 "king fruit" in Ayurveda, an essential component of Triphala and balances all three doshas, but above all 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. In addition, Amla has a very high concentration of antioxidants, e.g. Amla contains approx. 30 times more polyphenols than red wine. This is also confirmed by the evidence 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 an astragalus root, which is one of the most important medicinal plants in TCM and is considered there to be immunomodulating, i.e. it stimulates a weak immune system and reduces excessive immune reactions, e.g. in allergies or autoimmune diseases. Its roots are considered a Qi tonic, i.e. they strengthen life energy in TCM understanding. Therefore, the chicken soups popular in TCM for strengthening the immune system usually contain astragalus roots. In the meantime, the root is also known to us in the west and its active ingredients have been well studied. For example, astragalus is often used to relieve the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever.
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 acquired, adaptive immune system, for example by increasing phagocytosis as an important component of the cellular immune system and stimulating the production of cytokines that regulate the growth and differentiation of cells (see 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 the consumer from supposedly misleading claims. The statements made here refer to the original Ayurvedic and TCM texts. This knowledge, which has been handed down for thousands of years, is based on experiences that are passed on from generation to generation. It should not be claimed that the products described here have any effect in the sense of western medicine. All products are dietary supplements; they are not medicines and have no medicinal effect.If you are ill and need medical care, please contact your doctor or pharmacist