This is understandably a topic of interest currently.  Many theories exist regarding what immunity is and what makes one’s immune system more or less effective.  One theory that eloquently describes immunity comes from Chinese Medicine… it turns out, this theory appears to be quite accurate when applied clinically with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine or Chinese Nutrition.

The Spleen and the Lungs govern one’s immune system; although other systems in the body may be involved, these are common culprits of weak immunity.

Per, “the immune system is the body’s defense against infectious organisms and other invaders….The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body.”

Let’s clear up some terms to make this whole idea more easily understood.  The word “immune” in this case comes from a specific modern medical sense of “exempt (from a disease)” and was first used in this way in English in the 1800’s. The earliest word origin is from a very early European/East Indian language family and loosely means “not able to move against”.  THAT makes a lot of sense for those of us interested in word history…..

The word “system” comes from an early Greek word that means “form in order” indicating the organized fashion by which the body fights pathogens to protect itself.

The Spleen–understood in Western Medicine as part of the lymphatic system–governs internal immune function. The lymphatic system eliminates unnecessary and unhealthy material such as toxins and pathogens from the body. The following is a useful analogy: the lymphatic system could be likened to the alley behind a city home where debris is removed, whereas the circulatory system could be likened to the street in front of the house through which groceries and other needed items enter.

Diving in deeper, one discovers in Chinese Medical texts that the very under-rated Spleen, of all things, generates internal immune system activity, fighting pathogens that penetrate deeper into the body and destroying pathogens in the blood stream to prevent internal allergies. If one were to consume or inhale a potential allergen, a well-functioning Spleen allows the body to eliminate such material.

The Lungs–which open to the nose, throat, and sinuses–govern external immune function. If the sinuses and the Lungs are functioning optimally, the nasal mucosal membranes carry immune system factors that destroy incoming pathogenic material such as viruses, bacteria and pollen, etc.

The following thousands-year-old Chinese Medical quote helps to clarify further these organs’ role in immune function: “when the Spleen malfunctions it may cause fluids to accumulate in the body; when the Lungs malfunction they will take on those fluids”.  An example illustrating this principle follows: one consumes food and fluids that the Stomach and Spleen cannot fully metabolize. Those fluids may “travel” upwards into the Lungs. The Lungs, to protect themselves, may activate the cilia (very fine hairs designed to move substances upwards out of the Lungs), which may likely push the harmful material into the sinuses, causing sinus problems.  Seems sensible enough.  Perhaps too simple for some but nonetheless clinically sound in the practice of Acupuncture.  Often, when patients have sinus issues and we build the function of the Lungs and Spleen, seemingly miraculously but really not miraculous, the sinus issues improve and the condition often resolves.

What is the moral of this short and poignant story?  Find out how your Lungs, Spleen and lymphatic system are working along with the other organs and glands involved with immune function.  If there are weaknesses discovered and corrected, you will then happily have strengthened immunity against any pathogen.  As a matter of fact, you build up what has been described as an invisible wall against invaders, known as the “Wei Qi”, which translates loosely from Chinese into English as “the body’s defensive armor”.  Not a bad thing to have in the current year and beyond……