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The Importance of Immune Health

Updated: Jan 5

When discovering the importance of immune health, we must realize the human antibody repertoire has the potential to make a quintillion (one million trillion) unique antibodies. We don't need vaccines or pharmaceuticals to encourage optimal immune system performance -- just real nutrients.

Person repelling (immune) to illness-causing antigens like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxin

As someone with an autoimmune disease, I often hear how people are “protecting” my health. Realistically, I am the only person capable of protecting my health. It is not anyone’s job, except my own, to protect my health. My health is my responsibility. Although people often don’t like hearing this, this is true.

Pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines are not the answer to immunity, especially when you have an autoimmune disease. Only I can give my body the necessary nutrients for a strong immune system. Understanding the immune system’s role and encouraging it to perform optimally is the only way to protect my health. Since my health is protected, I’d like to ensure yours is too.


Understanding Immune Health

The immune system protects the body from invaders (antigens) it doesn’t recognize, like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins. The immune system comprises different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to trigger a bodily reaction to unknown substances. The immune system responds by surrounding and covering the invader to eliminate it (1).

We have two parts to our immune system – the innate immune system and the adaptive (or acquired) immune system. Both parts of the immune system come together, fulfilling three primary roles (1):

  • Fight disease-causing germs (pathogens), removing them from the body

  • Recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the body

  • Fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells

The innate immune system is the body’s first responder, creating barriers to protect the body. The innate immune system initiates a nonspecific, rapid response to invaders, ensuring they’re captured, contained, and neutralized. Think of the innate immune system as a Roomba, just roaming around, looking for germs to clean up (2).

The adaptive immune system makes antibodies to protect against harmful diseases. The adaptive immune system identifies and stores data, creating a database of specific or acquired responses to each antigen. When the adaptive immune system recognizes a previously encountered antigen, it responds with the corresponding antibodies to eliminate it (3). This system is always learning and can change its response to match new information it learns about each antigen.

Although the innate and adaptive immune systems are two very important parts of the immune system, the immune system is much larger than just those two systems. The immune system is made up of a complex collection of cells and organs, including (4):

  • White blood cells

  • Lymph nodes (that’s why when you’re sick, the doctor feels your throat)

  • Spleen

  • Tonsils and adenoids

  • Thymus

  • Bone marrow

  • Skin, mucous membranes, and other first-line defenses

  • Stomach and bowel

Boosting Vs. Supporting the Immune System

We’ve all heard of “boosting” the immune system, but that’s not how the immune system works. There is no shortcut to immunity, not in pills or vaccines. The purpose of the immune system isn’t to ‘rev it up’ into overdrive or create some kind of ‘super immunity;’ that’s not how immunity works. Instead, the goal is to support the body and optimize the immune system’s functions. When you support your immune system, you potentially support your body's ability to fight sickness. That’s where food and herbs come into play.

Foods and herbs that can be used daily to support the immune system include:

Smoothies, freshly pressed juices, herbal teas, and even homemade meals with coconut oil are excellent ways to incorporate these foods and herbs.

Herbal tinctures are also an excellent way to quickly get some of these herbs in. Earthley offers Elderberry Elixir in two formulas. The original formula (alcohol-based) includes elderberries, astragalus root, cloves, ginger root, and mullein leaf. The kid’s formula (glycerin-based) includes elderberries, orange peel, mullein, and calendula.

Additionally, Earthley offers two DIY Elderberry Kits. No need to overbuy herbs or spend time researching for the best recipe. Simply boil in water and add honey, syrup, or a sweetener. Cough and Cold formula is made from elderberries, Ceylon cinnamon chips, turmeric root, and whole cloves. Immune Support formula is made from elderberries, rosehips, Ceylon cinnamon chips, and astragalus root. Each kit makes about two cups of syrup, enough to last one month for a family of four.

If you’re worried about taking elderberry with an autoimmune disease, consider adaptogenic herbs for immune support. Earthley's Adaptogenic Immunity combines five certified organic herbs that can support the immune system, improve the body’s ability to cope with stress, and nourish you for total body wellness! This alcohol-free, botanical liquid is highly bioavailable and easy to assimilate. These herbs are generally safe even for people who have been told not to use “immune boosters.”

Signs of Autoimmunity

Sometimes, the immune system makes an error, reacting to the body’s own cells, causing inflammation and damage to healthy cells and a weakened immune system. This error is known as an autoimmune response, autoimmunity, or being immunocompromised (18). Signs of autoimmunity include (19):

  • Cold hands

  • Bathroom problems

  • Dry eyes

  • Fatigue

  • Mild fever

  • Headaches

  • Rash

  • Joint aches

  • Patchy hair loss

  • Repeated infections

  • Sensitive to sun

  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Unexplained weight change

  • White patches on the skin

  • Yellowing of your skin or eyes

autoimmunity symptom checklist (Cold hands, Bathroom problems, Fatigue, Headaches, Rash or white patches on the skin, Joint aches, Patchy hair loss, Repeated infections, Sensitive to sun, Tingling or numbness in hands or feet, Trouble swallowing, Unexplained weight change)

Influences on Immune Health

Additionally, many things can impact your immune system. From general health to environmental toxins, ensuring everything functions smoothly is crucial for immune health. Some things that can impact the immune system include:

If the immune system functions ideally, it protects against germs after its initial encounter with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or toxins. Studies have estimated that the human antibody repertoire has the potential to make a quintillion (one million trillion) unique antibodies (29). The body (or immune system) stores all the information about a germ after its first encounter, especially how to fight it. Then, if it ever returns, the body recognizes it, analyzes the data, and can fight it faster – this is known as natural immunity. Think of natural immunity as a germ-fighting army. The antigens have waited their entire life with special intel on this particular intruder; now, their only mission is to destroy it. Remember, natural immunity varies according to the person and the germ, and supporting the immune system is crucial.

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Tips When Handling Sickness

If you read Earthley’s Immunity Tool Guide, you know we’re always exposed to germs. Unfortunately, sometimes, when we’re rundown, germs can get a foothold in our bodies, and sickness strikes. When our immune systems function correctly, the body senses these foreign substances and launches a natural defense mechanism – among other things, a fever.

A fever is one of the body’s tools in activating the immune system to do its job effectively! It mobilizes parts of the immune system to fight and suppress/kill germs by creating an inhospitable environment (30). The increased temperature also activates other immune defenses to kill the bug, so lowering the fever isn't the best idea.

Whether the illness is influenza, strep throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, or any other illness, supporting your body’s natural process is crucial. Before attempting to lower a fever, consider supporting it by:

  1. Resting

  2. Keeping comfortable

  3. Staying hydrated –

  4. Taking detox baths – Check out Earthley’s Herbal Detox Bath

  5. Supporting the lymphatic system – Check out Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream

⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.

How do you support your immune system?

Sarena-Rae Santos

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