With brands adding Immunity to every possible product and everyone asking you to Increase, Strengthen or Empower your Immune system. Its important to understand how the immune system works and can even be harmful if over exercised. Let’s know more about the immunity meaning and immunity types.
Immune response is how your body protects itself from antigens (virus, bacteria or chemicals, toxins, etc).[i]
The body’s resistance to a disease is of utmost importance and thus the concept of immunity plays a major role is sustaining our health and well-being. Immunity and the role of immunomodulators has been a core concept in Ayurveda and has been practiced for centuries.
Immunomodulators in Modern science
With the notion of immunity changing at a rapid pace, the concept of immunomodulators are now finding place in modern medicine. “Phychoneuroimmunology,” a branch of modern science that studies the interrelation of psychological factors, nervous system and immunity has been recognised in Ayurveda for decades.[ii]
Modern medicine is now coming closer to the Ayurvedic principles of Vyadhi-ksamatva (the power of the body to stop or decrease a disease) and Ojas or Bala (the body’s ability to destroys the diseases causing agents). The Ojas and Bala are like defense mechanisms of our body and play a vital role is sustaining immunity.
3 kinds of immunity:
Vyadhi–ksamatvaor Balavaries from individual to individual and depends on environmental, nutritional, mental and physical factors. In Ayurveda immunity can classified as
- Sahaja Bala- An individual’s genetic or innate resistance to a disease which is acquired since birth. It forms the first line of defense and prevents harmful materials from entering the body.
- Kalaja Bala: Immunity that is influenced by seasonal traits as well as the age of an individual.
- Yuktikrit Bala: The acquired immunity of an individual builds a defense against specific antigen by means of appropriate diet, physical exercise, rest and restorative therapy, also known as Rasayana.
Rasayana (Ayurvedic therapy)
Rasayana can be a diet, a medicine or even a lifestyle. It is a state of nourishment that strengthens the Ojas and Bala which in turn upholds the immunity of an individual. Rasayana contributes to the replenishment of body tissues thus promoting longevity, improved memory and intelligence and several other benefits.
दीर्घमायुः स्मृतिं मेधामारोग्यं तरुणंवयः|
प्रभावर्णस्वरौदार्यं देहेन्द्रियबलं परम्||७||
वाक्सिद्धिं प्रणतिंकान्तिं लभते ना रसायनात्|
लाभोपायो हि शस्तानां रसादीनां रसायनम्||८||Charak Samhita, Part- I: Abhayamalakiya Rasayana Pada
By promotive treatment, one attains longevity, memory, intelligence, freedom from illness, youthfulness, excellence of lustre, complexion and voice, optimum strength of physique and sense organs, perfection in deliberation, respectability and brilliance. Rasayana is the means of attaining excellent qualities of rasa etc. dhatus i.e. body cells and tissues[iii]
Herbs as Rasayana contribute well to the body’s natural ability to fight diseases. Few commonly found herbs that have immunomodulatory effects are:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): or Indian Ginseng improves your body’s defense against diseases
- Guduci (Tinospora cordifolia): also known as heart-leaved moonseed or Giloy has anti-inflammatory properties
- Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum): or Tulsi which strengthens immunity by preventing bacteria, virus and other disease-causing pathogens
- Amalaki (Emblica officinalis): commonly known as Amla or Indian gooseberry increases immunoglobulin levels in infants and is a great contributor to strengthening the body’s defense mechanisms.
These herbs being widely available in our country, can be used by a vast majority of the population in order to strengthen immunity.
In lieu of the current situation, and the ever-increasing need of individuals to boost immunity, one should keep in mind that increased or excessive medication could produce autoimmune disorders.
Thus, excessive use of immunomodulators or vaccines can trigger these autoimmune responses and can result in the development of autoantibodies.[iv]
Few Autoimmune diseases are:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
A disease characterized by headaches, fatigue, problems with concentration and memory or sore throat, fever and muscle pain.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A chronic inflammatory arthritis affecting multiple diarthrodial joints.
- Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) : An autoimmune disease defined by a platelet count of less than 105 platelets/μL.
- Narcolepsy : A sleep disorder described as excessive sleepiness with uncontrollable rapid eye movement (REM) at any time of the day.
- Celiac Disease (CD) : A life-long autoimmune condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract, mainly the small intestine.
- Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR): An inflammatory rheumatic disease characterized by pain and morning stiffness of shoulders and pelvic girdles and joints. It mostly affects individuals above the age of 70.
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) : An inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that damages the myelin sheath of neurons.
Too much of an immune response or too little can have adverse effects on our body.
Thus, moderation is key and a good balance of Ojas and Bala along with Rasayana therapies, plays an important role in maintaining good health and well-being.
[ii] Tripathi, D., & Singh, P. (1999). The Concept and Practice of Immunomodulation in Ayurveda and the Role of Rasayanas as Immunomodulators. Ancient Science Of Life, XIX.
[iii] Charak Samhita
[iv] Guimarães, L., Baker, B., Perricone, C., & Shoenfeld, Y. (2015). Vaccines, adjuvants and autoimmunity. Pharmacological Research, 100, 190-209. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2015.08.003