11 March 2008

Is it necessary to raise immunity?

Osip Karmachevsky, MedportalIf everything is more or less clear with allergies, vitamin deficiency and other summer-spring health problems, then there is a lot of controversy in the notorious weakening of immunity.

For people without medical education, the concept of immunity and its weakening is usually quite vague. Basically, it is formed by advertising companies of drugs aimed at "strengthening" and "strengthening" the obviously reduced immunity of everyone. But is the devil as terrible as he is painted? And in general, what is immunity and how does it work? This is probably the place to start.

On guard of orderA person needs an immune system to resist pathogenic invasions – both from the outside (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) and from the inside (malignant degeneration of their own cells).

The same invasion for her is a transplanted organ, so after transplantation you have to constantly take drugs that depress the immune defense.

In order to understand how immunity works, it is easiest to draw a parallel with... law enforcement agencies.

When a foreign agent appears in the body, it is detained (absorbed) by the "patrol service" in the form of macrophage cells. They also "establish the identity" of the detainee by recognizing his antigens – molecules specific to a particular type of "enemy". They are, for example, proteins of microbial membranes.

The received information is sent to the "database", which is stored by a certain type of lymphocytes – T-helpers. They supply this information to other types of lymphocytes – T-killers, which find and destroy the "criminal", and B-lymphocytes, which produce antibodies – protein molecules that bind "enemy" antigens.

Information about some antigens is acquired and fixed in the process of evolution and is inherent in all people from birth – such immunity is called species immunity. Acquired immunity is formed by contact with antigens during life.

There are also failures of immunity. Sometimes the "guardians of order" make mistakes and attack "peaceful citizens" – the cells of their own body. This leads to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes mellitus. And it happens that one of the "divisions" is not active enough – as a result, the corresponding type of immunity is violated. For example, a violation of antitumor immunity leads to the development of malignant neoplasms. Excessive zeal of the "internal troops" also does not lead to anything good – this is how allergic diseases arise.

The weak linkThe foundations of the modern understanding of immunity were laid at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries by the German scientist Paul Ehrlich, who discovered immunity with the participation of antibodies, and the Russian scientist Ilya Mechnikov, who discovered cellular immunity.

For this contribution to world science, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1908.

Usually, when they talk about a decrease in immunity, they mean a weakening of the overall immune response (the production of "informational" substances, cellular reactions, antibody production) on the invasion of pathogenic microorganisms (most often – pathogens of colds), and not the breakdown of any particular link of immunity.

At the same time, the criteria for such a decrease are more than vague, unless, of course, we are talking about serious immunodeficiency conditions, such as, for example, AIDS. Prolonged pustular skin diseases – streptoderma, furunculosis, impetigo, etc., quite clearly indicate the deterioration of immunity. It can also be suspected with frequent (5-6 or more times a year) sluggish colds. But this does not mean that with a runny nose that lasts for several weeks, it is worth sounding the alarm and absorbing immunostimulants by handfuls.

In addition, the stimulation of immunity in the current state of affairs is a subject for serious discussion. In Western countries, the term "immunostimulation" is generally considered to be poorly correct, since the therapeutic effect should be directed at any specific immune functions, and not at the entire immune system as a whole. Most often, this term is used to describe the maintenance of immunity in a constant "state of heightened readiness" for the invasion of microbes, which is more correctly called immunomodulation. By the way, some hormones have such an effect – female sex hormones, somatotropin (growth hormone), prolactin, etc., but it is clear that it is impossible to use them for the purpose of immunostimulation.

Unfortunately, there are practically no drugs that can "strengthen the immune system in general." You can vaccinate or strengthen immunity against specific infections – there are vaccinations for this. You can fight, again, with a specific infection by injecting ready-made appropriate antibodies into the body. But proposals to medically "improve immunity" in most cases, alas, are only an advertising ploy.

The topic of immune stimulation in the post-Soviet space is especially popular. Many research institutes and scientific and practical centers are engaged in it, and as a result, the Russian pharmacopoeia contains dozens of immunostimulating drugs. There is no such state of affairs anywhere else in the world. And not for nothing – it is very difficult to accumulate the experience necessary for mass introduction into clinical practice for such a number of drugs in a short time. We have not accumulated it either.  The immunostimulants produced show an increase in immune reactions "in vitro" and at the biochemical level, but it is difficult to say what their real benefits are and what the long–term consequences of their use will be. Not to mention the fact that information about many mechanisms of immunity has become known relatively recently, and scientists are constantly receiving new data on its functioning. And this does not add confidence in the correctness and safety of the general stimulation of an under-studied system.

It turns out that nothing can be done? It's not that bad. There are several recommendations that will help maintain immunity at a normal level.

  • Do not neglect the vaccination calendar. This advice primarily applies to those traveling to exotic countries and to parents who want to protect their children from many dangerous infections. Also, do not forget that adults need to be revaccinated once every ten years for diphtheria and tetanus.
  • Make sure that the food is complete in the amount and composition of nutrients, vitamins and trace elements – the immune system is very sensitive to their deficiency or imbalance. During spring asthenia (loss of strength), when the body is weakened after cold weather, short daylight hours and lack of vitamins in food, include multivitamin preparations with trace elements in the diet.
  • Ensure yourself a normal night's rest – even a single lack of sleep temporarily weakens immune responses.
  • Learn to resist psychological stress and stress, as they also lead to a decrease in the body's resistance. If necessary, you can master any relaxation technique (yoga, breathing exercises, etc.).
  • Keep yourself in normal physical shape, spend more time in the fresh air.
  • Promptly and completely treated for any infectious diseases.
    From time to time, support the body with tonic preparations of plants – ginseng, lemongrass, eleutherococcus. They are perhaps the only ones capable of stimulating nonspecific immunity without unpredictable consequences (the experience of their use has more than one hundred years).

Of course, the above tips look too general, from the category: "You, my dear, eat carrots and jog." But with regard to the reduction of immunity, they come to the fore, because the immune system is extremely sensitive to things related to lifestyle.

Well, if there are suspicions of a serious violation of immunity, do not postpone a visit to the doctor – there may have been a breakdown of a specific link of the immune system, and you cannot do without specific treatment.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru11.03.2008

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