Understanding Your Immune System

Your immune system is a network of defender cells, organs and tissues.  The main task of this network is to defend the body against many types of invaders — bacteria, parasites, fungi, etc., that have the potential to harm your health.

The human body provides an ideal environment for many disease causing microbes and pathogens. They would be able to survive, multiply and thrive if not for the immune system. It works to keep these microbes out, or to seek them out and kill them if they have already entered your body.

The immune system consists of both specialized and non-specialized defenses. Examples of non-specialized defenses include skin and the acid produced in our stomach. Specialized defenses target and fight specific types of pathogen. 

First Line of Defense

The first part of the immune system is made up of defenses that we are born with, thus the term “innate system”. The first line of innate system defense is the skin, which is a water proof barrier that prevents pathogens from entering the body.

The nose and mouth have mucous membranes able to produce sticky mucus which traps pathogens and other disease-causing bacteria. The stomach produces gastric juice with high acid levels able to kill bacteria in the foods we eat.

Saliva is also part of your innate system defense. It washes off pathogens on your teeth and reduces the amount of bacteria remaining in your mouth.

Disease-causing bacteria that manage to infiltrate the first line of defense and enter the body encounter the second line of defense.

Second Line of Defense

The second part of the immune system is what we commonly refer to as “immunity”. Immunity does the task of fighting against specific types of pathogens. The immune system comes pre-loaded with a database of specific types of threats and continuously develops as we grow. It adds to its store of knowledge as it encounters disease-causing pathogens throughout our lifetime. 

Our body’s immune system, i.e. the part that provides us immunity, mainly involves lymphocytes that are found in the blood, lymph nodes, thymus and spleen. Lymphocytes produce antibodies that attack antigens. These lymphocytes also have the capability to destroy virus-infected cells.

Once a certain illness is defeated, lymphocytes will keep a record of it throughout your lifetime. If these disease-causing bacteria or virus manage to penetrate your body a second time it will be much easier for your system to defeat them. Amazingly your body produces millions of defender cells every day to kill germs and prevent them from causing illness.

Understanding the way immunity works led to the invention of vaccines. They contain weakened antigens that may be injected into the body.  Vaccines are not always available. Even when they are the first step should be to strengthen your immune system as much as possible. Click here for a few ways to start boosting your immune system.

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