Understanding the Immune System

By James Geiger, MD

What is Your Immune System?

With the responsibility of protecting your body from illness and disease, your immune system is one of the most important components of your overall health. This complex network of cells, tissues, and organs works together to fight off fungi, bacteria, parasites, and other microbes while maintaining healthy tissue. While we are just beginning to understand how this intricate communication works, modern science has helped us identify lifestyle behaviors that support its proper function.

The immune system isn’t a single entity, but a collection of structures and processes that protect us against disease or other potentially dangerous foreign bodies. The main components of the immune system are the lymph nodes, spleen, bone marrow, lymphocytes, thymus, and leuokocytes. Lymph nodes are the bean-shaped structures that store and help transport the cells that fight infection. The spleen contains the white blood cells, assists with blood circulation, and helps dispose of old and damaged cells. Bone marrow, the yellow tissue inside bones, produces white blood cells. The two types of lymphocytes, B and T-cells, are the white blood cells that actually defend the body against bacteria, toxins, and infections. The thymus is the leaf-shaped organ where the T-cells mature. Lastly, leuokocytes are another type of white blood cell, responsible for identifying and eliminating pathogens. We are exposed to countless potentially harmful microbes on a day-to-day basis, when functioning properly, the immune system distinguishes these threats from our healthy tissue and attacks them.

Following the healthy lifestyle behaviors outlined by doTERRA’s lifestyle wellness pyramid is the first step in supporting optimal immune system function.

Supporting Your Immune System

Nutrition: While there is no specific food, nutrient, or supplement that has been proven to directly improve the immune system on its own, its function depends on the vitamins and minerals provided by a balanced diet of whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins. Malnourishment and micronutrient deficiencies can result in altered immune responses and increased risk for illness. In particular, in vitro studies have demonstrated that deficiencies of minerals zinc, selenium, and iron and vitamins A, B6, C, and E may be correlated with altered immune responses.(1) Supplementing your diet with specific vitamins, minerals, and probiotics may build up and fortify the immune system.(2) Microplex VMz® food nutrient complex is rich in vitamin D3, which has been shown to support a healthy immune system.(3)* PB Assist®+ probiotic defense formula contains six strains of microogranisms which support the healthy functioning of the immune system by maintaining balance and proliferation of beneficial bacteria.* Additionally, some essential oils such as Oregano may help maintain a healthy immune system when taken internally.* Add 2–3 drops to a veggie capsule or try doTERRA On Guard®+ softgels for daily immune support.* Taken daily, along with a healthy balanced diet, these supplements can be your first line of defense in preserving immune system health.

Exercise: While recent research has shown that failure to exercise can temporarily decrease healthy immune response and make you more susceptible to illness, exercise contributes to overall health and well-being, subsequently contributing to the maintenance of a healthy immune system.(4) It is believed that regular exercise may also directly promote immune system health by promoting improved circulation, allowing the components of the immune system to move freely and do their job more effectively. The natural support of energy production and healthy circulation provided by taking Mito2Max® energy and stamina complex can help you make physical activity a part of your daily life, contributing to a healthy immune system.

Sleep: Both quantity and quality of sleep are important for maintaining a healthy immune system. The effectiveness of rest is dependent on the circadian biological clock, which regulates the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. It is important that we get enough sleep and that we follow a consistent schedule of activity and rest periods. If we are sleep deprived, our T-cells, lymphocytes that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity, decrease the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines.(5) Furthermore, sleep influences the interaction between antigens, any substance that the body must produce antibodies to fight off, and T helper cells such as interleukin-12, in a process known as immunological memory. In one study, researchers found that the length and quality of sleep the previous night affected the production of antigenspecific T-cells in response to a hepatitis A vaccination.(6) With each interruption in your sleep pattern comes a decrease in your body’s ability to respond to the intruders it needs to fight off to stay healthy. Put a few drops of Lavender in the diffuser and enjoy its relaxing aroma as you hit the sheets. A peaceful environment can promote a restful night’s sleep to keep that immune system ticking.

Healthy lifestyle behaviors not only influence how you look and feel, but your body’s ability to ward off harmful invaders. Support your immune system by cleaning up that diet, adding some immune-supporting supplements and oils to your daily routine, getting up off the couch, and getting into a consistent sleeping pattern.


  1. Mora J, Iwata M, von Andrian U. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008; 8(9): 685-698. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2016;29:34-41.
  2. Lasselin J, Alvarez-Salas E, Grigoleit J. Well-being and immune response: a multi-system perspective. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2016;29:34-41.
  3. Powers H, Hill M, Mushtaq S, Dainty J, Majsak-Newman G, Williams E. Correcting a marginal riboflavin deficiency improves hematologic status in young women in the United Kingdom (RIBOFEM). Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 93(6): 1274-1284.
  4. Bishop N, Gleeson M. Acute and chronic effects of exercise on markers of mucosal immunity. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2009;14:4444-56.
  5. Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012; 463(1): 121–137.
  6. Lange T, Perras B, Fehm H, Born J. Born J. Sleep enhances the human antibody response to hepatitis A vaccination. Psychosom Med. 2003; 65:831–835.

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