Madre Grande Monastery

A Sacred site for healing, teaching, ceremony, and celebration


 The fact that both allopathic and alternative healing methods are successful can no longer be disputed. There must be, therefore, some underlying function in our mind-body system that responds to all of our healing efforts. To understand just how this functions, and in keeping with our intention of presenting information on alternative medicine, we will look at the immune system of our bodies. Perhaps it would be more reasonable to call it a wellness system than an immune system, for it keeps us well, rather than truly immune. We know we live in a veritable broth of bacterial, viral and pollutant chemicals, yet we maintain a state of wellness most of the time. Obviously it is not the mere presence of these substances that make us sick. We must have some system that allows us to resist their detrimental effects most of the time.


 It was once thought that we have no true immune system, however, it is now known that, in fact, we have a well-developed and complex immune system that interacts not only with our body function but also responds to our mental and emotional states. To understand how our immune system functions, we will first look at our two basic types of immunity, for we have both an innate immune function and an acquired one. Our white blood cells are the frontline of our body's defense system against invaders into our body. Every millimeter of our blood has around 7000 white blood cells. There are several kinds of these cells and they normally occur in these proportions: neutrophils, 62%; eosinophils, 2.3%; basophils, 0.4%; monocytes, 5.3%; and T- and B-lymphocytes, 30%. These cells are the main part of our innate immune system. Primarily the neutrophils are responsible for the normal clearing of bacteria and viruses from the blood. But when you have an injury and there is a large invasion of bacteria, the monocytes collect at the site of the injury and mature into very large cells called macrophages. These cells become five times larger than they were and grow up to 80 microns in size. In this form, they have a greatly increased ability to remove the invaders from our blood.


 Our acquired immune system, also called our adaptive immune system, functions similarly, but it has a very powerful ability to develop specific defenses against particular bacteria, viruses, and toxins. When a substance invades our body that has the ability to stimulate our adaptive system we call it an antigen. There are two broad classes of defenses against such antigens that we call humoral and cellular immunity. Both of these immunities arise from stem cells that are produced by the bone marrow.


 Our blood cells are produced in our bone marrow. Our humoral immunity develops from stem cells from the bone marrow. They mature into a type of blood cell that is carried to and circulates in the lymphatic system. These cells are termed B-lymphocytes and our blood is constantly filtered through their cleansing function. If there are antigens present they stimulate these B-cells to develop into plasma cells that can synthesize antibodies. Antibodies are specific molecules that can neutralize the effect of that particular antigen. They are large globulin molecules called immunoglobulins, Ig. There are five major categories of immunoglobulin antibodies; IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM. These are our major defenses against lethal bacterial and viral infections, and they are involved with our allergic responses as well.


 Our cellular immunity develops from stem cells in our bone marrow also. When these stem cells travel to the thymus gland they mature into sensitized white blood cells called T-lymphocytes. They have the ability to directly destroy invading antigens without producing antibodies. Furthermore, when some of these T-cells travel to the skin through the blood system, they are further changed by hormones produced in the epidermis into many forms of T-lymphocytes. These can either augment or suppress other components of the humoral and cellular immunity. Since many of these immune components are open to psychosocial influences, our acquired immunity is seen to have a specific developmental history for every individual. Thus, as is argued by integrative medicine, healing is an individual experience. Our immune function is subject to the influence of state-bound information acquired in early life experience and is, therefore, somewhat different for each one of us.