The immune system contains receptors for endorphins and neuropeptides. It travels through the entire body contacting every cell. If the system recognizes cells, they leave them alone. If they do not recognize the cells, they attack, thereby defending the body against bacteria and virus infected cells. There are connections between the immune system and the central nervous system. The immune system responds to chemicals and secretes chemical messages. The immune system has nerve cells that connect the brain to the spleen and other organs producing immune cells. Stress can affect the immune system.
Organs of the immune system are called lymphoid organs. These organs produce the white blood cells that mediate the immune system. These white blood cells are called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow. One particular set, the T-cells, spend time in the thymus where they mature and develop the ability to distinguish self from nonself. They travel constantly through the body. A small number stand alert in the lymph nodes and spleen which have specialized compartments for different kinds of immune system cells. These organs all contain networks of nerve cells that allow the brain and central nervous system to influence immunity.
Communication between these cells occur by interferons, interleukines and other chemical messagers that govern the immune system. There should be a balance between helper and suppresser T cells. Acupuncture restores this balance.
The body's way to defend against infections, cancers, viruses, and foreign substances is to identify, destroy, inactivate or eliminate them.
The blood system is controlled by the B lymphocytes that produce antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that defend against bacteria and viruses found in body fluids.
The cellular immune system responds against cancer cells and viruses that are inside the body's cells. They are aided by T lymphocytes and macrophages whose job it is to surround and dissolve the invaders. They are also aided by natural killer cells (NK) that defend against virus infected cells and cancer.
An underactive immune system is seen in AIDS. An overactive immune system cannot distinguish between self and non self and is at risk for allergies and auto immune disease such as arthritis. Immune dysfunction can contribute to the development and spread of cancer. Acupuncture can stimulate and balance the immune system.
Billions of B cells are on guard. Each recognizes only one specific invader or antigen. Receptors on theses B cells catch the antigen or invader and engulf it. Helper T cells come to help and attach to the B cells releasing interleukins. Interleukins are chemicals that make the B cells become an antibody factory. Antibody factories are called plasma cells. Plasma cells multiply and pump out millions of identical antibodies into the blood where they hunt down the foreigners ( the antigens). Antibodies now:
Viruses (antigens) enter the blood and cells respond.
Herpes Viruses remain for life unlike other viruses. They flare up unpredictably. Examples of herpes viruses are; genital, cold sores, infectious mono, cytomegalic virus, chicken pox, shingle, and epstein virus. The cellular immune system keeps them down. When this is not adequate, the body produces antibodies to the virus. When antibodies are high, it means the virus is not controlled. Higher antibodies to herpes is a sign of low immune function.
Allergies are triggered when the immune system becomes oversensitized to something in the environment. There is an intense inflammatory response when the allergen is present. The allergen stimulates antibodies which stimulate mast cells (white blood cells). Histamine is then stimulated, which inflames the nose and eyes.
Autoimmune Diseases like allergies result in excess immune system activity. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and type I diabetes are examples of this. Antibodies identify the body's healthy cells, and identifies them as foreigners. These antibodies then invade and attack these normal cells resulting in chronic inflammation. Acupuncture can suppress this excess reaction and thus decrease the chronic inflammation.
Cancer and AIDS Many scientists feel that cancer cells arise in the body all the time but are held in check by immune cells. When the immune system is ineffective, they clump together forming cancer tumors ( similar to snow flakes becoming a snow ball ). In AIDS, there is a destruction of the cellular immune system that kills key helper T cells.
Vaccinations When the body is under stress it is likely to produce antibodies to the vaccine and more boosters are needed.