The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that work to defend the body against pathogens. Every microbe that enters the body and is defeated is stored in your body's memory so that it can be easily recognized and destroyed quickly should it re-enter the body. 

Primary factors, primarily genetics, are responsible for poor immune function, with individuals being affected from birth. Secondary, acquired factors can also impact the immune system's strength, including certain health conditions and toxic outside sources.

The immune system consists of particular organs, cells, and chemicals that protect the body, including:

White blood cells: These look for invading pathogens and stimulate an immune response once identified.

Antibodies: These recognize antigens (substances on the surface of microbes) as foreign so that they can be destroyed.

The lymphatic system: This system contains white blood cells, lymph nodes that trap microbes, and the lymphatic system, which contains fluid that processes and transports any debris leftover from immune responses.

Spleen: This organ removes microbes and produces antibodies and white blood cells. 

Thymus: This gland produces a specific type of white blood cell called T cells. 

Bone marrow: This is responsible for producing white blood cells

The complement system: This system contains proteins that complement the work of antibodies. 

How these components work together is important for immunity. It's essential to test immune function to ensure that it is working efficiently to protect you.

Why Do I Need to Test Immune Function?

Proper immune system function is necessary for the body to defend your health. Whether genetics or an outside source have interfered with immune function, the result is the same. Without identification and treatment, serious complications can arise. 

♦ Recurrent infections, infections that last longer, or opportunistic infections
♦ Death from a serious infection
♦ Possible damage to the digestive system because nearly 70% of the immune system resides in your gut. If levels of the beneficial bacteria are low (as occurs with poor immune function), the digestive tract will become more vulnerable to microbe invasion.

Proper evaluation of your immune system can identify if your immune system is functioning properly. If not, treatment options can be recommended to strengthen your immunity and help support proper immune health

Symptoms of Poor Immune Function

Your immune system is responsible for protecting the entire body. When not functioning as needed, several systems in the body are affected. The symptoms of poor immune function will vary across individuals, but the general signs to look for include:

♦ Frequent cold and infections
♦ Slow-healing wounds
♦ Blood disorders (reduced red blood cell or platelet count)
Skin rashes
♦ Reduced function in organs
Digestive system problems

Certain factors can impact your immune system. Being aware of these risks can prompt you to seek testing to help identify issues early so you can maintain proper immune health. Common risk factors of poor immunity can include primary risk factors such as having a family member diagnosed with poor immune system function and secondary factors, including:

♦ Intravenous drug use
♦ High-risk sexual behavior
♦ Limited access to nutrition
♦ Overall poor physical health
♦ Consumption of a large number of medications

Understanding Immune Testing 

Should you feel that your immune function needs to be tested, an allergist or immunologist will be the professional to seek out. After a physical exam and a discussion of your symptoms and medical history, there may be additional testing looking at the immune cells and proteins in your blood to evaluate your immune function. 

Blood tests are performed to determine if you have normal levels of blood cells, immune cells, and immunoglobulins to help support proper immune function. Blood tests can also determine if your immune system responds appropriately and produces antibodies that identify and kill foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses.

Not having enough immune cells or antibodies, having too many, and having immune cells or antibodies that do not work properly can indicate immune deficiencies. The specific immune cells that are counted are white blood cells. White blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and move through your blood, trying to find foreign microbes. Types of white blood cells include:

Lymphocytes: These include B cells that produce antibodies, T cells that recognize and remove microbes, and natural killer cells that attack and destroy viruses. 

Neutrophils: These target bacteria and fungus and make up the majority of the white blood cells in the body. 

Monocytes: These are the largest white blood cells and provide support during chronic conditions. 

Basophils: These are more commonly present after allergic reactions.

Eosinophils: These respond to invading parasites and stimulate an immune response in their presence. 

A higher or lower than normal count of white blood cells can indicate that your immune system has been compromised. Additional testing may be required to identify how the immune system is being affected. 

Treatment Options for Immune Function

The treatment options for immune function depend on the underlying cause. Antibiotics will typically be used for infections, antihistamines for allergic reactions, and other medications might be prescribed to relieve common symptoms associated with infections such as pain, fever, and congestion. Additionally, there are treatment options to boost immune function, including:

Immunoglobulin therapy: This is a blood-based treatment used when your immune system is unable to make antibodies necessary to defend your body. 

Interferon-gamma therapy: This injection is used to reduce the severity and frequency of recurrent infections. For individuals born with poor immune function, this therapy is rarely used but can be beneficial.  

Growth factors: A growth factor is a naturally occurring substance that can stimulate wound healing and the proliferation of immune cells. An increase in the production of immune cells can provide support for a healthy immune system.  

Natural Treatment to Support Immune Function

Several natural ingredients have been discovered that may be beneficial to immune system function. 1MD Nutrition’s doctor-formulated ImmunityMD® and BreatheMD™ Respiratory Health contain these ingredients based on their targeted effectiveness for immune system health. These healing ingredients support immune function and reduce the risk of side effects.

ImmunityMD® is a probiotics-based supplement designed to support immune function. The blend of probiotics and prebiotic fiber supports the digestive system's ability to absorb nutrients and block toxins to better support immune function. In addition to these natural ingredients, ImmunityMD® also contains L-lysine and zinc to support your immunity further. 

L-lysine is an amino acid that helps support the proper structure and function of specific antibodies that identify and neutralize foreign microbes. Higher levels of l-lysine in the blood increase levels of these antibodies to strengthen your immunity. L-lysine also alters your body chemistry to make it inhospitable for invading microbes.

♦ Zinc is an essential element for immune system function, stimulating T cell activity, and regulating the immune response. 

BreatheMD™ Respiratory Health is a doctor-formulated combination of natural ingredients to support immune system health and promote proper respiratory function. This potent immunity and respiratory supplement contain African geranium, a breakthrough traditional herb known to support immune function with eight essential botanicals, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

BreatheMD™ Respiratory Health works synergistically to support immune system defenses. It also helps support respiratory system performance and provides better immunity with effective dosages of these clinically studied natural ingredients. 

African geranium: This herbal extract was traditionally used to soothe the upper respiratory tract and has been found to reduce the severity of common respiratory symptoms. It also supports the body's natural healing process and effectively stimulates the immune system response to protect against foreign microbes.  

L-cysteine: An amino acid that helps stimulate glutathione production. This enzyme can also support healing along the respiratory tract.  

Vitamin E: This essential vitamin plays a key role in immunity by stimulating the production of T cells in the thymus gland to support a stronger immune response. Our ability to retain vitamin E decreases with age, so it becomes important to maintain levels through supplementation. 

Vitamin C: Vitamin C amplifies vitamin E's effects by helping recycle spent vitamin E and supporting immune system cell activity. Vitamin C also supports the body's first line of defense by strengthening epithelial cells, which serve as a barrier preventing microbes from entering the body.  

Vitamin D3: In the form of cholecalciferol, this nutrient supports overall immune function by stimulating immune cell activity. 

Chromium: The essential micronutrient, chromium, supports the production and activity of key white blood cells responsible for attacking foreign microbes.

Marshmallow root: This herb helps support respiratory system performance and healing by expediting the removal of dead cells. 

Final Thoughts

The immune system is the body’s defense and is charged with keeping microbes out or removing them should they get in. Genetics and poor lifestyle choices can lead to poor immune system function, increasing the risk of serious health complications. 

Upon identifying any of the mentioned symptoms or acknowledging risk factors, regular immune function testing is recommended. With testing, immune function can be closely monitored, and treatment options will be more effective in maintaining proper immunity and defense. 

The revolutionary formulas of both ImmunityMD® and BreatheMD™ Respiratory Health are designed to support immune system healing and function. With regular testing and prompt diagnosis and 1MD Nutrition’s natural immune system health supplements, you can protect your health and maintain optimal immunity and quality of life. 

Dr. Brian Greenberg

Dr. Brian Greenberg is an immunologist, allergist, and pediatrician who received his medical degree from the University of Florida, and completed his residency and fellowship at UCLA. He has practiced medicine in Southern California for almost 25 years.