When the cold and flu season approaches, there is the usual push to get immunized against the flu through vaccination by either having a killed flu virus injected into the blood stream with a needle or having a live but weakened flu virus administered by a nasal sprayer. Both types of influenza vaccines contain three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. For example, the 2010-2011 flu vaccine was designed to protect against 2009 H1N1 (Swine Flu), and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus).  These vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body against infection by the three viruses contained in the vaccines.  It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body against the designated three flu viruses.  

       The flu vaccine is a pathogen (disease causing organism) designed to stimulate the immune system into producing antibodies against a potential attack by the flu virus. The goal is to have antibodies to the flu virus already present if and when such virus attracts the body. A strong immune system, however, will naturally produce antibodies in response to attack by pathogenic organisms and will produce a host of other defense forces to protect the body from infection.        

       Our immune system is multifaceted and begins with our skin secreting certain acids which will destroy pathogens on contact.  We have mucus membranes lining our respiratory and digestive tract trapping pathogens and moving them out of the body or into the stomach where strong stomach acid will quickly neutralize them.  In the small intestine and colon, various friendly bacteria, such as acidophilus and bifidus, play an important role in providing control over organisms hostile to the body.

       If these first lines of defense fail to destroy a pathogen, the second line of defense goes into action. This army of defenders is made up of a variety of white blood cells divided into neutrophils, macrophages and lymphocytes.  Neutrophils are the first to swing into action as they swarm all over pathogens, killing them with enzymes.  If the neutrophils can’t get the job done, next on the scene are a group of large white cells called macrophages.  Like microscopic “pac men,” macrophages have the ability to gobble up pathogens, and clean up the debris left by the neutrophils activity.

       If pathogens escape the macrophages, they are next met by natural killer cells (NK cells).  These cells attack all manner of parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi and cancer cells by releasing toxic enzymes and also releasing the chemical compound interferon that stop viruses from replicating.  T lymphocytes also join the foray. These cells are formed in the bone marrow and then migrate to the thymus gland where they are further differentiated into effector, (cytotoxic T-cells), helper cells and suppressor cells.

       Effector cells, also known as killer lymphocytes, are able to destroy pathogens by producing cytotoxins which are poisonous to the pathogens.  Helper cells are responsible for calling up additional killer lymphocytes and antibodies when needed to complete the job.  Suppressor cells limit the activity of effector cells so that they don’t run wild. When T cells are unable to overcome particular pathogens by themselves, the helper cells call on the B lymphocytes which produce plasma cells which in turn secrete chemical agents called antibodies.  What is interesting about antibodies is that they are specifically matched to an individual pathogen and will be retained by B memory cells so that if you are exposed to the same pathogen again in the future, your body will rapidly respond with the appropriate antibody.

       Antibodies work by locking onto a pathogen and inactivating it.  The pathogen and antibody are destroyed by another chemical component of the immune system called compliment.  When the process is complete, macrophages and neutrophils return to the scene to gobble up the remains.  The thymus gland, spleen, tonsils, appendix and lymph nodes all play an important role in the development and proliferation of lymphocytes.

       With such an extraordinary defense system, why do we get sick and experience disease?  While the answer to that question is multifaceted, a major reason we get sick is that we often fail to support our immune system with proper nutrition.  The body’s immune response doesn’t just happen.  Like all areas of human physiology, the immune system requires a consistent supply of nutrients in order to function at optimal level.  Here are a few examples.

       VITAMIN C stimulates the movement of neutrophils and macrophages, as well as enhances T cell formation.   BETA-CAROTENE converts in the body to vitamin A which has been shown to stimulate the production of T lymphocytes. ZINC is important to T-cell and natural killer cell formation.  Supplementation with zinc has been shown to increase the ability of macrophages to digest invaders and to raise the level of interleukin-2 which in turn stimulates cytotoxic T-cells to attack invaders. SELENIUM is important to the production of antibodies and like zinc, is necessary for the production of interleukin-2 which activities T-cells. CO-ENZYME (CoQ10) has been found to dramatically increase the production of the antibody IgG.  This is the most abundant antibody in the body and plays a major role in the destruction of bacterial and viral organisms.

       The ability of our immune system to respond to pathogenic attack is dependent on our providing that system with a daily supply of nutrients required by this system to function at an optimal level.  Vaccination provides artificial stimulation of the immune systems components.  How well the immune system responds to such stimulation depends on how well it is nourished. A well nourished immune system will go a long way in protecting your body against pathogenic attack and may make the need for artificially stimulating it through vaccination unnecessary.

       Eating a diet rich in whole foods and avoiding processed refined foods is a major step toward achieving stronger immunity and enabling the body to better cope with pathogenic attack. Adding a high quality multiple vitamin/mineral supplement along with a green food concentrate will help to ensure strong immunity.

       In addition to the above, it is wise during the cold and flu season, to supplement with a quality immune formula. Such formulas provide a variety of botanical extracts that have been clinically proven to enhance immune response.  At Milk ‘N Honey we have a number of immune formulas that will strengthen your immune systems response not only to the flu virus but to other pathogens such as viruses that cause the common cold which is more prevalent than the flu during the winter months.