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Decoding Immunity

Every day our body is faced with numerous challenges. Despite being surrounded by viruses, bacteria, and toxins, our bodies manage to ward off the great majority of them. Wonder why? Well, the credit goes to our immune system, the body’s primary defense against infections, diseases, viruses, bacteria, etc.

However, sometimes our defenses can’t keep up. In fact, most of you must have observed that while some people fall sick frequently, others remain healthy in similar or even adverse conditions. The answer lies in the health and balance of our immune system. Those with a stronger immunity are less likely to fall sick compared to those with a weak immune system. 

The human body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself and defend against disease. However, when our defenses are low and illness has set in, it interferes with our body’s natural healing powers. This leaves us in an unbalanced state and our immunity suffers.

There is considerable heterogeneity among individuals in the vigor of their immunological function, largely owing to factors such as genetics, environment, lifestyle, nutrition, and the interaction of these factors. It has been established that the body's tissues, cells, and proteins in the immune system work together to achieve this function. 

Types Of Immunity
Our immune system is equipped with two lines of defense; innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

Innate immunity is the first immunological, non-specific (antigen-independent) mechanism responsible for fighting against an invading pathogen and rapid immune response, occurring within minutes or hours.

Adaptive immunity, on the other hand, is antigen-dependent and antigen-specific. It has the capacity for memory, which enables the host to mount a more rapid and efficient immune response upon subsequent exposure to the antigen.

There is synergy between the adaptive immune system and its innate counterpart. Any defects in either system can provoke illness or disease, such as autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiency disorders, and hypersensitivity reactions.

Different Ways Through Which The Body Fights Against The Pathogens

1. Innate Immunity- Innate Immunity is the defense mechanism we are born with.
2. Skin – The skin is slightly acidic (approx. pH 5.0 to 6.0) due to skin oil, secretions from sweat glands, and organic acids produced by commensal staphylococcus bacteria. These acids contain a high concentration of sodium chloride that protects us from infections.
3. Mucous Membrane- The upper membrane of the respiratory system, digestive system, eye (conjunctiva) & urogenital system secretes fluids that resist penetration & trap many microorganisms.
4. Gastrointestinal tract- Microbes that reach the stomach are killed by gastric acid juice (a mixture of hydrochloric acid, proteolytic enzymes, and mucus). This gastric juice is highly acidic (pH 2.0- 3.0) and is sufficient to destroy most of the microorganisms.
5. Adaptive Immunity- Immunity can also be developed by the person after entry of a pathogen or antigen into the body.
6. Immunization - Immunity can be acquired by artificially injecting the pathogen into the body. This process is called immunization or vaccination.

Immunity & Ayurveda
Ayurveda, the age-old science endowed with the principle of healing through nature, offers a vast repository of guidelines that help lead a healthy lifestyle that focuses on strengthening immunity.

According to Ayurveda, immunity is described as 'Vyadhikshamatva'. The word Vyadhikshamtva is made up of two words i.e. Vyadhi and Kshamtva. Vyadhikshamtva can be translated to the inner strength of a body to resist the occurrence of any disease. It denotes the resistance power of the body against the first occurrence of any disease. 

Vyadhikshamatva also develops resistance against a disease that has affected the body once. It is very similar to Ojas and Bala. 

Ojas is the essence or Upchaya of seven Dhatus, while Bala is indicative of work. Bala is the manifestation of Ojas. Therefore, both Ojas and Bala are defined as inner and outer strength. Ojas is the vital force that provides strength to the body be it physical, mental, or immunological. So for a healthy body, it is important to restore the Ojas. 

Bala, on the other hand, is categorized into three different types; Sahaj Bala, Kalaj Bala & Yuktikrit Bala. Sahaj Bala is the innate physical and mental strength we are endowed with at birth. Kalaj Bala is defined as the strength of our body that's dependent on age & changing seasons. For eg. when we are young we have good strength and resistance, as we grow old the strength and resistance get depleted. Yuktikrit Bala is acquired by practicing good exercise and a balanced diet. Regular exercise and a good diet help enhance Yuktikrit Bala.

Apart from the ones mentioned above, many other factors are also responsible for Vyadhikshamtva like the equilibrium of doshas, Dhatus, the balance of all Agnis, and the patency of srotas (channels).

Swarna Prashan, Traditional Vaccination
As per the direction of Vaidya, implementing the ancient time-tested method of immunization, “Swarna Prashan” the Ayurvedic way of boosting the immunity of infants, can help prevent many serious infections.

Swarna Prashana is a natural way to enhance immunity and overall health and has been practiced for 1000s of years by our ancestors. Acharya Kashyapa introduced the term Swarnaprashana. The term translates to the administration of gold alone or along with other herbs in a Leha/Prasha form, a semi-solid dosage form of Ayurvedic medicine. In Jatakarma Samskara, it is said that Swarna or gold should be administered soon after birth as one of the procedures of newborn care.

Swarnaprashana acts at the level of nutrition, metabolism, growth and development, physical strength, and immunity. Acharya Kashyapa recommended facing east while preparing Swarnaprashana. Acharya Susrutha and Charaka, respectively mentioned the usage of Swarna on Pushya Nakshatra (a star in the Hindu calendar).  

To reap its benefits as an immuno-modulator, it can be administered to children at an early age as the period until one year from birth is considered to be the most vulnerable time for infections as the immune system isn't fully formed. But as per other Ayurvedic texts, gold can be administered up to the age of 16 years. However, only purified gold should be used in swarnaprashana. The purification process of gold is also described in the Ayurvedic scriptures. The process helps remove its toxicity and enhance its medicinal properties. Thus, making it safe to use for children. 

While the use of gold in the immune system can be justified from the various study reports, it is best to refrain from using it daily and for seriously ill children.

There are various Ayurvedic herbs and medicines at butterfly ayurveda that can help boost our immunity. Stay tuned for our next blog on 'Formulation Of I-Immune', an Ayurvedic medicine that can help bolster the body’s natural defenses and simultaneously promote overall health and well-being. Formulated using Ayurvedic herbs like Triphala, Haldi, Trikatu, Mulethi, Papaya Leaves, Shigru, Manjishtha, Ashwagandha, Wheat Grass, and Guduchi Satva, I-Immune serves as an effective stress buster, metabolism booster, aids digestion and increases overall immunity with the platelet count.

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