Thanks for the interesting question. I also share a keen interest in
the immune system and its care.
Your first question revolves around what blood tests can be done to
test your immune system. There are many, many blood tests that are can
be done to monitor and assess how someone's immune system is
performing. Just a few examples are:
* Rheumatoid factor (RF, Latex)
"This measures whether a certain amount of abnormal antibody called
rheumatoid factor is in the blood. The majority of people with
rheumatoid arthritis (a common disease of inflamed joints that can
cause joint alignment problems and loss of function) have a large
amount of rheumatoid factor in their blood."
* Antinuclear antibody tests (ANA)
"These detect a group of autoantibodies that are found in most people
with lupus and scleroderma and in a few people with rheumatoid
arthritis. These autoantibodies react with antigens in the nuclei of
cells. The antibodies suggest that an autoimmune illness may be
present, although many people test positive and have little evidence
of serious disease."
* Complement tests
"These tests measure the amount of complement proteins circulating in
the blood. Complement tests involve the reaction of antibodies with
antigens. These tests usually are reserved for diagnosing or
monitoring people with active lupus. Those people with lupus
frequently have lower-than-normal amounts of complement, especially if
the kidneys are affected."
* Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue typing tests
"These tests detect the presence of certain "genetic markers" or
traits in the blood. For example, B-27 is a genetic marker that nearly
always is present in people with ankylosing spondylitis (a disease
involving inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joint) and Reiter's
syndrome (a disease involving inflammation of the urethra, eyes, and
joints). This test also is positive in five to 10 percent of the
The above tests were all taken from the webpage:
Immunological blood tests
When your immune system requires testing, they often do what is called
an "immune panel", or a series of blood tests including tests for:
* Antinuclear Antibody
* Rhuematoid Factor
* Lupus Anticoagulant
* Anticardiolipin Antibodies
* Antithyroid Antibodies
From: Immunological Test
A larger array of tests can be found at:
If you look in the middle column, you can see what exactly is being
tested (blood, urine, etc.). The rightmost column gives a brief
description of the purpose of the test.
Another interesting page with a large list of available immunology
tests (and sample results) is:
The second part of your question deals with what other tests or things
you might be able to do to ensure that your immune system is
functioning properly. Knowing about the tests detailed above (and in
the pages linked) is an excellent start. However, I believe that
possessing knowledge about a subject (including aspects of your
health) is the best way to conquer/control it. The following site
(from www.howstuffworks.com) is the best layman's description of the
immune system I could find. (I *highly* recommend this site for
information about a wide variety of subjects.)
How Your Immune System Works
Read through all the pages in this area - they each provide valuable
The last part of your question asks about what you can do to improve
your immune system. There are dozens of recommended methodologies out
there - the following are just a few I was able to find:
* Eat immune boosting foods such as raw fruits and vegetables, raw
garlic and onion, raw vegetable juices, raw fenugreek, chili, ginger,
free range eggs, oily fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), avocadoes, fresh
wheat-germ, flaxseed (ground freshly and cold compressed oil), barley
grass (juice or sprouted seeds), wheat-grass juice, freshly sprouted
seeds and beans, cold pressed seed and vegetable oils, fresh seafood,
legumes, raw nuts and seeds.
* Sea-weeds such as kelp, dulse, agar-agar, nori, arame, kombu, wakame
and hijiki are excellent for improved function.
* Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel
sprouts, and kohlrabi contain phyto-nutrients that protect against
infections and cancer. Foods containing plant hormones (known as
phyto-estrogens) such as isoflavones and lignans, are soybeans, and
their products, alfalfa and flaxseed.
* Ensure adequate intake of the most important minerals for the immune
system--magnesium 400 mg daily, zinc chelate 20 mg daily, and selenium
200 mcg daily. These minerals are needed for immune function and are
anti-inflammatory. (li)Avoid mucous producing foods--animal milks,
cheese, ice-cream, cream, preserved meats, processed foods are the
* Drink 8 to 10 glasses of distilled water daily.
* Ensure adequate vitamin C intake by eating citrus fruits, red and
green peppers, kiwi, tomatoes, and take a supplement of approximately
* Take olive leaf extract. A good dose to maintain is 500mg twice
daily. It is recommended that you take brands that contain at least 10
percent of the active ingredient, oleuropein.
* Take "immune boosters" such as:
* Beta-carotene /Vita. A: 20000 IU per day
* Vita. C: 3000 mg per day
* Vita. E: 100 IU per day
* Zinc: 50mg per day
* Selenium: trace amounts
* Sulfur: trace amounts
* NAC: 200-400mg 2-3 times a day
* Echinacea/Goldenseal root: 250-500mg 3 times a day
* Pine Bark/Grape Seed Extracts: 2-3 caps per day
* HMB: 3 grams per day
* Glutamine: 10grams three times per day ( before and after training,
* "When your diet is deficient nutritionally, your defenses go down,
permitting proliferation of virus germs and the risk of illness. You
don't even have to be grossly undernourished. A few minor deficiencies
can break down the immune system," said R.K. Chandra, M.D., professor
of pediatric research at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.
"It's not that certain nutrients affect the immune system, said Thomas
Petro, Ph.D., a nutritionist at Purdue University. "It's that every
nutrient affects the immune system."
* Make regular exercise a part of your daily regimen. Exercise can do
wonders for a poorly functioning immune system and promote health in
various other ways.
* The optimal duration time of exercise is crucial for muscular,
strength, and recuperative gains. It is a known fact that muscle
stimulation is best achieved through a workout that is of high
intensity and brief duration. When you train too long, you tax your
nervous system, weaken your immune system, and diminish your chances
of muscle growth. I would definitely shoot for an intense workout
lasting no more than 50-70 minutes, max.
* Another factor that helps maintain immune system strength is regular
exercise. A daily walk---or a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise----can
help keep you young. For example, exercise burns up hormones like
noradrenalin, released during everyday stress. If these hormones
accumulate in your body, they can be harmful. Exercise invigorates
your circulatory system, improves your iron utilization and boosts
your immune system.
Too many people neglect the much-needed rest they need to function
optimally. Not only does the right amount of sleep re-energize you,
but also it is your body's time to build and repair. If we do not get
the adequate amounts of sleep, we are never going to be running on a
Repeated neglect of proper sleep can lead to many problems including a
suppressed Immune system. Make sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep a day.
If you don't, try to take a mid-day nap. Even if you are eating right
and taking all of the immune-boosting supplements, it will not matter
if you are not getting enough sleep.
State of Mind
* High stressed and emotionally depresses people tend to get sick a
lot. Remember that the quality of you thoughts can determine your
biochemical status. If you are too stressed and worry too much, your
body will produce more cortisol than normal. Extra cortisol will lower
the efficiency of the thymus gland and in turn lower your immune
system. When this occurs you are very easily able to get sick. Your
solution is to take a step back when you are feeling over stressed or
anxious and rewire your thoughts in a different direction. You must
get away from the situation for a while and re-gather your well being.
When I get super nervous or stressed over something, my mom always
tells me, "Nothing is worth getting sick over!"
* ...we need to reduce the amount of stress in our lives as much as
possible. A study by the American Academy of Science revealed that as
much as 80 percent of all illness can be directly tied to stress,
because it breaks down the defenses of the immune system and opens the
doorway to a host of injurious invaders. The National Institute on
Aging has released a list containing several ways people can reduce
stress in their lives and strengthen their immune systems, thereby
improving their longevity and chance of staying healthy.
Things to Avoid
* tobacco, smoking and alcohol.
* A basic list of things to avoid includes physiological,
psychological, and emotional stress; poor physical and aerobic
conditioning; lack of sleep, rest, and relaxation; and an especially
All of the above methods were gleaned from the following excellent
TIPS ON IMPROVING IMMUNE FUNCTION:
Improving Your Immune System
Prevention: The Best Medicine
I hope this information helps with your research.
If you need any clarification of the information I have provided,
please ask using the clarification feature and provide me with
additional details as to what you are looking for. As well, please
allow me to provide you with clarification(s) *before* you rate this
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