Immune System

Immune System Share

The immune system is a complex network of unique molecules, cells, organs and systems, all working together to operate the defence system which is continuously bombarded by stimuli from both internal and external sources.

It protects the body against diseases, infections and keeps it healthy. The way our immune system (IS) works influences our susceptibility to pathogens (germs) and the way we recover.

There are 2 processes of the immune system (IS) that work together.

  1. Innate immunity – which delivers an immediate and nonspecific response. Very quick acting it includes phagocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, microflora (bacteria) and non-specific inflammatory chemicals. Infection triggers an immediate non-specific reaction that does not involve memory of previous infections. Inflammation starts quickly to destroy microbes and starts tissue repair. Certain chemicals are produced to attract white blood cells to the infection site.
  2. Acquired or adaptive – this a specific response that takes time to develop. It can be days or weeks. There is a memory on immune cells of already encountered pathogens, whether it is toxin, allergen, fungi, virus or bacteria. If these pathogens enter the body this IS produces a specific response that acts faster and stronger. We are developing this IS throughout our lives. It includes B and T lymphocytes and the previous innate components.

If any line of defence is compromised, our IS becomes underactive, that is when we get recurrent infections, or overactive which promotes inflammation, allergy or autoimmunity.

It is essential that we support the body’s immune health throughout the year to make it well equipped and stronger so it can cope with daily pathogen exposure and is able to prevent degenerative illnesses, control allergies, prevent infections and deal with cancer cells.

It is vital to listen to our body and nourish our immune system.

Digestive health has a massive impact on the IS, not just showing symptoms like cold or flu but also allergies and skin conditions as they are hugely connected. About 70% of our immunity is in our gut. (i) Therefore it is important to make sure that our digestive health is working well. That our microbiome, the microflora (bacteria), is diverse and abundant to be able to fight off unwanted pathogens. It is also important to have a good level of stomach acid as this is one of the first lines of defence.

Why are there more colds and flus in the winter months?

IHCAN magazine lists few reasons: (ii)

  • Viruses do not replicate well in high UV light
  • Some viruses (rhinovirus, coronavirus) flourish in cold weather
  • Low levels of vitamin D in some people lowers resistance to infections
  • Dryer indoor climate
  • People stay indoors more surrounded by more people
  • Not enough fresh air

That is why getting outside, getting fresh air in your house and making sure you keep good hand hygiene is helpful.

Please wait for my Immune system – Part 2 to get tips on how to enhance your immunity.

Health Be

Hana

Sources:

  1. Integrative Healthcare and Applied Nutrition IHCAN. 2018. Personalised nutrition and probiotics? First find out what you’re dealing with. pp 18-22
  2. Nutrition Mag. 2018. ‘Immune health’. Research and education for tomorrow’s practitioner. Target Publishing Limited. Pp 17-24 Available at: nutritionmag.com (Accessed 17th Sept 2018)