Immunity is the capability of the body to resist infection and ultimately fight disease. Of all the physiological systems in the human body, the immune system is one of the most important. Just imagine a world without medicines or any other kind of artificial healing processes. It would have been impossible for human beings and other species to have lived, evolved and even thrived over thousands of years, without an effective immune system.
The immune system is very complex and highly distributed, consisting of not only specific organs and tissues, but every cell of the body. Each cell has varying levels of immune function and is programmed to detect and react to alien particles. It also includes physical barriers such as the skin and mucous membranes and various processes like inflammation, fever, sneezing, coughing, discharges and so on.
Along with the natural ability to detect and fight infections, the immune system has the added ability to learn and remember from previous infections. The immune system is like a highly advanced security system – it has memory, is adaptive and can also be programmed to fight infections(using vaccines). It also has some shortcomings too -sometimes it doesn’t react adequately(leading to infection) or overreacts(leading to allergic/autoimmune problems).
The sensitivity and response of the immune system can be manipulated using drugs such as antibiotics and vaccines, which aid the immune response and help fight infections. On the other hand, drugs like anti-histamines and steroids basically suppress the immune response to control allergy, inflammation etc. Some drugs have an immuno-modulatory effect, i.e., they either stimulate or suppress the immune system based on the conditions present and finally induce a state of balance. A single drug can stimulate the immune system, in case of infection as well as suppress it, in case of allergy. Most herbal and homeopathic drugs exhibit such immunomodulatory effects.
Ideally, the human body should be able to prevent and resolve most kinds of common problems without any treatment. Although there are many disease and allergy causing agents in the environment at any given time, most people have optimum levels of immunity to stave them off and remain unaffected. But some people are more susceptible to such environmental factors because their immune systems have been either weakened or disturbed by disease, poor diet, bad lifestyle, unhygienic conditions, chronic stress and even incorrect medical treatment.
Long lasting health can be obtained only by restoring the immune system to its most optimum level, such that it’s neither weak nor oversensitive. When a state of fine balance is imparted to the immune system, the tendency to contract disease reduces drastically. Perhaps it’ll be apt to conclude this post by recalling the well known difference of opinion between Louis Pasteur and his colleague, Beauchamp. While Pasteur always emphasized more on germs as the cause of disease, Beauchamp insisted that the health of the host was more important. Finally, on his deathbed, Pasteur is said to have stated that, “the host is everything, the germs are nothing”. However conventional medicine seems to have chosen to ignore Pasteur’s last words. Thus it’s now time to focus more on utilizing the potential of the immune system rather than trying to directly eliminate the causes.