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Immunity: Self vs. Non-Self

November 2009

Immunity is a hot topic in the news these days. In addition to it being cold and flu season, the H1N1 Virus has more people asking me how they can support their immune systems. To answer those questions and more, see my recent article entitled Colds & the Flu.

In the very real sense, our immune system defends us against microbial attackers like bacteria and viruses. It does so through our intact skin, our nasal passages, and our digestive system. When working properly, it is incredibly effective and efficient. Throughout the year, how many days are you actually sick? If your answer is the vast minority, then your immune system is quite strong. And when you do get sick, like in the case of food poisoning, observe how quickly it responds to rid your body of the toxins.

Now, I am the first person to admit that sometimes a cold is just a cold. But when faced with on-going immune challenges like food and air allergies, asthma, frequent colds and the flu, respiratory problems, and auto-immune conditions, we must begin to ask the same question we ask for any chronic condition: why is my body not repairing itself? The answer can lie not just in the physical body but at deeper levels as well.

Immunity is about discerning Self from Non-Self. What is mine? And what is not mine? What do I allow in? And what do I appropriately keep out? In fact every cell in our bodies including the organ of our skin, is comprised of a semi-permeable membrane which functions to allow a very fluid exchange with our environment, the strength of which is within our control.

This is about having healthy boundaries. Are mine so rigid I allow no outside influence? Do I not allow myself to receive the love of friends and family? Have I so disconnected from my immune system that it takes a serious health condition to get my attention? Or perhaps my boundaries are so porous that I take on the world’s problems as my own. Perhaps I am constantly asking my immune system to work over time fending off invaders that I allow in.

Discovering clarity about this begins by establishing a clear sense of Self. If I know who I am, I know who I am in reference to someone else. If I know what my issues are, I know what issues are not mine.

Let’s take the example of allergies. Allergies are a hyper-reactivity to our environment. They reflect confusion within your immune system about how to respond to a perceived attacker. That no matter how common place this “invader” may be, like dust, your system kicks into high gear. Even the mildest trigger elicits a severe response. When did this hyper-sensitivity begin? Was there a time when as a child you were consistently under attack? This could have been due to a chronic illness, over-prescribing of medications before your immune system was intact, or even from a lack of physical safety at home. Perhaps these “attacks” occurred so subtly over time that all you experience on a daily basis today is a curious hyper-vigilance to your surroundings; perhaps you experience an under-current of fear even in the most familiar places; perhaps you have not felt comfortable in your own skin; perhaps you have allergies.

The road to recovery from a chronically compromised immune system is shaped by addressing both the physical body—controlling symptoms and rebalancing the system to prevent further recurrences—and the psycho-emotional body—disentangling your sense of Self from Non-Self. Through the use of acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs, we can work at both levels to finally help you regain what you deserve to have, a healthy and vital immune system.


© Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2009. All Rights Reserved.

The information presented here is not medical advice, is not intended as medical advice, and is intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture and is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of this information.

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This site and any articles on this site are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice and are intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of the information on this site and any articles.