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Your immune system is a one body system you tend to notice only when it is disrupted. The immune system works continuously helping the body identify and kill pathogens like viruses, toxins, and bacteria. You have probably seen evidence your immune system is working although you may not have realized it. The red bump that follows a mosquito bite results from your immune system working, as well as the redness and possibly pus that accompany a small cut or scrape. Viral and bacterial infections are the most common cause of illness for most people. Examples include colds, flu, measles and AIDS.
The immune system protects the body from infection in three different ways. First, it works to prevent the initial entrance of viruses and bacteria by setting up a barrier. Secondly, if something gets past the initial barrier the immune system works to find it and destroy it before it can replicate. Thirdly, if the virus or bacteria does begin to duplicate, the immune system will fight the infection and work to eliminate it from the body.
Two of the most common attacks on the immune system are colds and flu. Both are caused by viruses getting by the initial protection barrier. Both can result in common symptoms like coughing, runny nose, sinus congestion, sneezing and sore throat. The flu will be characterized typically by a high fever and more pronounced body aches. The flu has the potential for more serious side effects and results in almost 36,000 deaths each year in the U.S. Adults average two to four colds each year and children three to eight colds. Most of the 1 billion colds in the U.S. each year occur during the fall and winter seasons.
Several ailments result from the immune system functioning improperly. The most common are diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and allergies. In juvenile diabetes the immune system for some unknown reason attacks the pancreas cells that produce insulin. In rheumatoid arthritis the tissues inside joints are attacked.
With allergies the immune system reacts to pathogens like mold, dust, or pollen that normally would be harmless. Symptoms can be mild to life threatening. Most common are watery eyes, sneezing, and itching. Approximately 20% of Americans suffer from allergies.
A number of natural supplements are often used to help boost the immune system. Vitamins C and A and the B-complex help support immune system function. Large doses of vitamin C taken at the onset of cold symptoms may help shorten the cold’s duration. Zinc, usually in lozenge or nasal spray form, also shows ability to limit the cold’s impact. Echinacea, often combined with goldenseal, is a popular herb for fighting colds. Elderberry, Cat’s Claw, and Quercetin are other popular immune system supports.
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