THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR A DOCTOR. YOU SHOULDN’T USE IT FOR THE PURPOSE OF SELF-DIAGNOSING OR SELF-MEDICATING BUT RATHER SO YOU CAN HAVE A MORE INFORMED DISCUSSION WITH A PROFESSIONAL TCM PRACTITIONER OR YOUR FAMILY GP.
Our body’s physiological immune system is made up of special organs, cells and chemicals that fight infection (microbes). The main parts of the immune system are: white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow. These are the parts of your immune system that actively fight infection.
The immune system keeps a record of every microbe it has ever defeated, in types of white blood cells (B- and T-lymphocytes) known as memory cells. This means it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again, before it can multiply and make you feel sick. Some infections, like the flu and the common cold, have to be fought many times because so many different viruses or strains of the same type of virus can cause these illnesses. Catching a cold or flu from one virus does not give you immunity against the others.
The main parts of the immune system are:
White blood cells are the key players in your immune system. They are made in your bone marrow and are part of the lymphatic system. White blood cells move through blood and tissue throughout your body, looking for foreign invaders (microbes) such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. When they find them, they launch an immune attack. White blood cells include lymphocytes (such as B-cells, T-cells and natural killer cells), and many other types of immune cells.
Antibodies help the body to fight microbes or the toxins (poisons) they produce. They do this by recognising substances called antigens on the surface of the microbe, or in the chemicals they produce, which mark the microbe or toxin as being foreign. The antibodies then mark these antigens for destruction. There are many cells, proteins and chemicals involved in this attack.
The complement system is made up of proteins whose actions complement the work done by antibodies.
The lymphatic system is a network of delicate tubes throughout the body. The main roles of the lymphatic system are to:
The lymphatic system is made up of:
The spleen is a blood-filtering organ that removes microbes and destroys old or damaged red blood cells. It also makes disease-fighting components of the immune system (including antibodies and lymphocytes).
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue found inside your bones. It produces the red blood cells our bodies need to carry oxygen, the white blood cells we use to fight infection, and the platelets we need to help our blood clot.
The thymus filters and monitors your blood content. It produces the white blood cells called T-lymphocytes.
As well as the immune system, the body has several other ways to defend itself against microbes, including:
A rise in body temperature, or fever, can happen with some infections. This is actually an immune system response. A rise in temperature can kill some microbes. Fever also triggers the body’s repair process.
It is common for people to have an over- or underactive immune system. Overactivity of the immune system can take many forms, including:
Underactivity of the immune system, also called immunodeficiency, can:
An underactive immune system does not function correctly and makes people vulnerable to infections. It can be life threatening in severe cases. People who have had an organ transplant need immunosuppression treatment to prevent the body from attacking the transplanted organ.
Immunisation such as Covid-19 vaccine works by copying the body’s natural immune response. A vaccine (a small amount of a specially treated virus, bacterium or toxin) is injected into the body. The body then makes antibodies to it. If a vaccinated person is exposed to the actual virus, bacterium or toxin, they won’t get sick because their body will recognise it and know how to attack it successfully. Vaccinations are available against many diseases, including measles and tetanus. The immunisations you may need are decided by your health, age, lifestyle and occupation.
With this increased life expectancy, we are facing new diseases associated with aging, and scientists have discovered that these single molecule drugs are no longer able to effectively treat more complicated conditions. A new way of dealing with age-related health issues is urgently needed, and so understanding the differences between herbal medicine and Western medicine can help us face this growing challenge. This is also evident in the pursuit of finding a treatment cure for Covid-19 virus where vaccination development strategies co-develop alongside TCM herbal prescription such as QingFeiPaiDuTang (清肺排毒汤) in an effort to combat the pandemic.
We are challenged by the choice of using traditional medicine or modern medicine. Traditional medicine, known as Traditional Chinese medicine, includes surgery, moxibustion, hot cupping, acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine and nutraceutical medicine. Modern medicine, known as Western medicine, includes surgery and most commonly single molecular drugs.
WHAT IS A SYSTEM IN TCM?
Our Physiological system is comprised of everything that creates and sustains it. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. If all of the parts of a system are in harmony with one another, then the whole system is in harmony. Disturb one thing and you create a disturbance that ripples through the whole system.
First and foremost, Western medicine aims to eliminate an existing problem.
Chinese medicine diagnoses through the symptoms of the patient described and appearances (eye, skin and tongue color as well as pulse), then seeks to address the overall systemic problem with a focus on preventing any potential adverse effects.
Western medicine treats symptoms and treats the target or target organ as isolated from the rest of the body instead of as one whole interconnected system. Western medicine provides diagnosis through lab test and it focuses on eliminating symptoms but normally fails to address adverse effects on the body.
Chinese medicine focuses on the body’s overall response to treatment and recognizes the body as one interconnected biosystem. Treatment changes the overall condition of the body including the immune system, but also takes care of the specific target problem.
Western medicine has used our immune system as a diagnostic tool, including immunotyping and tracking immune responses (adopted immunity or acquired immunity, Th1 or Th2, autoimmune response or immunotolerance). Chinese medicine uses “Yin and Yang” or “Kidney deficiency or spleen deficiency” as key features to evaluate body responses to treatment.
The common connection between Western and Chinese medicine is the immune system. Western medicine can use the immune system to do personalized and precision treatment, such as cancer. Through the quantification to Kidney and Spleen deficiency, we may find the mislinkage between Chinese medicine and western medicine, and then find a best treatment method for a disease.
Two concepts that are unique and fundamental to Chinese medicine are Qi (usually translated as “vital energy”) and yin and yang (the harmony of all the opposite elements and forces that make up existence). These two concepts form what we might call the “roots” of Chinese medicine. The principle of interconnectedness also applies between different physical aspects of our bodies. For example, the Kidney organ correlates with the tissue of bone/teeth, the sensory taste of salt, the sensory organ of the ear, and the areas of the lower back, knees, and the heels/feet.
Strengthening our “Zhang-Fu” organs will enable our body organs to function more effectively in optimising the main parts of our immune system such as: white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow, thus reducing issues such as inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Overall, we believe the best treatment approach for treating human disease should follow the principle of Chinese medicine “Jun-Chen-Zhou-Shi” and appropriately combining it with Western medicine (Jun) while carefully and wisely combining all other elements in the formula in order to prevent adverse effects for an optimal recovery outcome.