The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection and disease. The immune system keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated so it can recognize and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again. A strong immune system, working correctly, helps to keep you from getting sick, reduce severity of illness, and prevent future illness. However, when it’s been compromised by inflammatory disorders such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, anxiety, depression, and especially excess body fat, the immune system is weakened and pathogens and viruses like COVID-19 can more easily cause you to become sick or diseased.
THE PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Many cells and organs work together to protect the body. White blood cells, also called leukocytes (LOO-kuh-sytes), play an important role in the immune system. Some types of white blood cells, called phagocytes (FAH-guh-sytes), chew up invading organisms. Others, called lymphocytes (LIM-fuh-sytes), help the body remember the invaders and destroy them.
One type of phagocyte is the neutrophil (NOO-truh-fil), which fights bacteria. When someone might have a bacterial infection, doctors may order a blood test to see what caused the body to have lots of neutrophils to confirm a bacterial infection. Other types of phagocytes do their own work to ensure that the body responds to invaders.
The two kinds of lymphocytes are B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. Lymphocytes start out in the bone marrow and either stay there and mature into B cells or go to the thymus gland to mature into T cells. B lymphocytes are like the body’s intelligence system – they find their targets and send defenses to target them. T cells are your warriors – they destroy the invaders that the intelligence system finds.
HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM WORKS
When the body senses foreign substances (called antigens), the immune system works to recognize the antigens and eliminate them.
B lymphocytes are triggered to make antibodies (also called immunoglobulins). These proteins lock onto specific antigens. After they are made, antibodies usually stay in our bodies in case we must fight the same germ again. That is why someone who gets sick with a disease, like chickenpox, usually will not get sick from the same disease again.
This is how immunizations (vaccines) prevent some diseases. An immunization introduces the body to an antigen in a way that does not make someone sick. Side effects are different, and commonly confused with illness. The side effects such as fever, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, etc. from immunizations demonstrate that the immunization is working by creating an immune response. The vaccine helps the body make antibodies that will protect the person from future attack by the germ.
Although antibodies can recognize an antigen and lock onto it, they cannot destroy it without help. That is the job of helper T cells. They destroy antigens tagged by antibodies or cells that are infected or somehow changed. (Some T cells are called “killer cells.”) T cells also help signal other immune cells (like phagocytes) to go into action.
STRENGTHENING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
You can take proactive and preventative measures to strengthen your immune system. The first step is to test your immune system. Once you identify your weak areas, PRO Medical experts can design a plan to super-strengthen your immune system to help your body fight off potential illness and diseases. The pillars of immunity include correct exercise, nutrition, proper sleep, and mental wellness (reduced stress/anxiety/depression).
In the new age of COVID-19 and super bugs, a strong immune system is our best defense against disease. For people with strong immune systems, most pathogens are destroyed before causing illness. Or if an illness develops, it’s usually mild and doesn’t require medical attention or hospitalization.
FIVE TIPS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
1. Be active and as often as possible. The right exercise boosts the immune system by mobilizing your infection fighting immune cells. Also, short bursts of activity stimulate the immune system.
2. Make time to meditate or do Yoga. If you have high levels of inflammation, your immune system doesn’t work well. Research shows that Yoga and meditation result in decreased anxiety, stress and depression which are inflammatory. Improving your mental wellness reduces inflammation so the immune system works better.
3. Keep your gut bacteria/microbes happy because they are important to immune health. Consume yogurt, sauerkraut, and fiber rich foods. Prebiotics are certain kinds of fiber and probiotics are fermented foods.
4. Sleep is important. Circadian rhythm stability is important for all symptoms including the immune system.
5. Social connections keep your immune system from being destroyed by isolation, loneliness, bereavement, or conflict which are all inflammatory disorders.