Function of immune system
Our immune system is complex and powerful. It keeps the infections under control, cleaning up the damaged cells and tissues. Our immune system also has close relationship with other body systems such as the digestive system, endocrine system(hormonal system). Thus having a well functioning immune system not only keeps us from infectious diseases, it is also essential for us to maintain a good overall health.
Immunity: a double-edged sword
The immune system is composed of a complex network of innate and adaptive components endowed with an extraordinary capacity to adapt and respond to highly diverse challenges.
Acting as a double-edged blade, our immune system is designed to give us the best protection against challenges in life. However, a dysregulated immune system can cause more harm than good. Allergy, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus, Crohn’s disease, IBS are the common examples of malfunctioned immune responses. The Covid-19 pandemic is the perfect wake up call for everyone to pay attention to the integrity of their immune system.
Many diseases are the consequences from a failed immune response, respiratory conditions like strep infection, pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis; skin conditions like eczema, urticaria/hives, psoriasis; digestive conditions like colitis, food allergy, appendicitis, hepatitis (Inflamed liver), cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder); urinary conditions like UTI, nephritis (inflamed kidney) and the whole category of auto-immune disorders. The wide range of symptoms across multiple body systems from Covid-19 and Long-COVID patients also reveal how much our body’s function is influenced by the immune system.
Three key issues for immunity and Chinese medicine’s approach
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, toxic compounds, radiation,
The inflammatory response is protective when the immune system is operating optimally, and becomes destructive when the immune system loses its ability to keep the inflammation checked.
Control inflammation with acupuncture.
There are several acupuncture points that can reduce the inflammation, Gallbladder(GB) 34, Large Intestine(LI)4, LI11, Stomach(ST)43 are some of the common points that I use to manage the inflammation.
Control inflammation with Chinese herbs.
In terms of herbal medicine, dozens of Chinese herbs that I often use to treat the inflammation, some of them are well known to the west such as dandelion and turmeric. In Chinese herbology, we have developed more specific uses of anti-inflammatory herbs. For example, We use Huang Qin(Skullcap) for lung infection, Huang Bai() for urinary tract infection, Dandelion for inflammation in stomach and breast tissue. These detailed uses and indications makes Chinese herbal treatment more effective and accurate compared to the generic approach of anti-inflammatory herbs in other herbal medicine schools.
2. Microbiota and Gut Health
Microbiota are the trillions of microscopic organisms hosted in the body. It plays a fundamental role in the induction, training and function of the host immune system. When operating optimally this immune system–microbiota alliance allows the induction of protective responses to pathogens and the maintenance of regulatory pathways involved in the maintenance of tolerance to innocuous antigens.
Diseases that increasingly affect humans such as allergies, autism, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders arise from a failure to control misfired immune responses against self The alteration of the composition and function of the microbiota as a result of antibiotic use, In addition to diet evolution in the last century has transformed our microbial allies into potential liabilities.
The use of antibiotics does get infections under control often, but it interrupt the microbial balance in our gut that is critical to maintain the normal immune function, therefore it can become counter-productive, Chinese medicine has its advantage that helping the body fight infection with natural therapies, such as herbs and acupuncture, and not having the side effect of damaging the underlying balance in out body.
The use of anti-inflammatory drugs has similar problems. Inflammation is the natural immune function when there is tissue damage, and the same mechanism also is responsible for the tissue repair following the damage. Recent science has shown that use of anti-inflammatory drugs may delay the overall healing process.
Improve immune heath through digestive system
The majority of the microbiota residuals in our GI tract. Therefore our Gut health plays the key role in regulating our immune system’s function. In Chinese medicine, the pronunciations of the words digestion and immune are pronounced the same: WEI. It is not clear if this is by design or just coincidence. But the go-to acupuncture point for digestive issues: Stomach(ST)36, is also used as a powerful point for immune health. This may indicate that ancient Chinese already recognized the importance of digestion to immune health.
Another example is the herbal formula “Liu Jun Zi Tang”(Six gentlemen’s concoction) is used to restore digestive function. It is also widely used to help patients whose immune system is compromised.
Chinese Medicine For Your Immune Health
Our body is a complex system that requires more than just one-directional action. To optimize immune health, we need an approach that can address the complexity of the system.
Chinese Medicine recognizes the complex nature of the immune system and its relationship with other systems. And it has a holistic approach and solutions that can deal with the multifaceted nature of immune health by utilizing different modalities such as acupuncture and herbal medicine.
The goal of treatment
Through personalized treatment tailored to the individual situations, and on-going fine-toned adjustment, The goal of Chinese medicine treatment is to correct the imbalance that underlies the immune health, and restore the body’s ability to decipher between itself, the environment, and pathogens.
Dalu Wang is a licensed Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and acupuncturist located in Toronto. He is speicialized in treating chronic internal diseases and immune health with Chinese medicine and acupuncture.