All you need to know about your immune system and how can you help
With more and more infectious diseases impacting our society and health, we often hear “to boost our immunity”. Why is an immune system so important? Because it is what will fight the various germs and diseases that enter into our body. That is why it is so important to keep our immune system solid.
This article will include the topics on how the immune system works and how we can enhance it.
How does an immune system work?
When a pathogen or an infectious agent comes into contact with our body, there are two lines of defense: an immediate and spontaneous immune reaction also known as “Innate Immune Response” and “Adaptive Immune Response”, an immunity that occurs after exposure with a pathogen. Let’s continue to see how each of these systems work.
Innate Immune Response
Let’s say we have a foreign pathogen in our body. This is the first line of defense. This system can respond almost instantly. For example, if a superficial wound on our skin gets infected, the innate immune response will be first recruited to the site of infection in a very short time. That is why not all wounds get infected easily.
However, this system will not remember the pathogens they fought off since their response only lasts for a very short amount of time.
The members of innate immune response are
- Skin and membranes
- White blood cells
- Blood and its components
Skin and membranes
Skin and membranes are great protective layers in defending the body against foreign particles and pathogens. Tiny hairs lining the entire respiratory tract, the membranes and mucus lining the digestive tract and acids in the stomach also take part as the first line of defense against various infections.
White blood cells
Beyond the skin and membranes, the infections will be met with the white blood cells. They will try to kill off infections by the use of enzymes and toxic chemicals.
Blood and its chemical components
Blood has many soluble enzymes and protein components to help fight off infections. Moreover, cells known as natural killer cells will also detect and kill the infected cells of the body by releasing toxic chemicals.
Adaptive immune response
When the innate immune system fails to obliterate the infections by 4-7 days, the adaptive immune system comes to play its part. This kind of response might be delayed but its mechanism is specific and fatal. It can also memorize the nature of pathogens so that if these pathogens come into the body the next time, it can easily kill them off. Adaptive immune response works with two white blood cell components: T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes.
T lymphocytes have an ability to differentiate between our own healthy cells and infected cells. It can also memorize the invading foreign pathogens.
The role of B lymphocytes is to produce suitable antibodies against the foreign pathogens that enter the body.
We cannot forget antioxidants when we talk about our immune system. Through the body’s natural functions and metabolism or harmful effects of environmental pollution, UV rays and smoking can release the free radicals that are harmful to the body. Free radicals can destroy the enzymes and DNA of the cells. If the destroyed cells include the cells and enzymes responsible for the body immunity, the immune system will start to deteriorate. That is why anti-oxidants are important to defend against free radicles and its destructive effects on the body’s immunity.
How should you improve your immune system?
Now that you know how an immune system works, let’s talk about how we can improve it. There are many ways but in times of social distancing like right now, eating a balanced diet is your easiest and sole way to do it. Let’s continue on what we should eat.
Nutrients that will boost your immune system
Protein can help you heal and take part in recovery and rehabilitation. Eat lots of protein rich food such as red meat, white meat, seafood and beans.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A can boost the immunity for the skin, digestive and respiratory system that will consequently prevent against entry of infectious agents. Vitamin A rich food include sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, Vitamin A infused supplements and cereals.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C can stimulate the body defense mechanism to help prepare the body for fighting infections. Vitamin C is also a popular and widely used antioxidant. You can get Vitamin C from citrus fruits, grapes, tomatoes and Vitamin C infused cereals and meal replacements.
- Vitamin E
Full of antioxidant properties, Vitamin E can also help in keeping the cells in immune response healthy. Sources of vitamin E are sunflower oil, cashews and peanut butter.
Zinc helps maintaining the function of the immune system and also has healing properties. Options for zinc rich food include meat, seafood, peas and seeds.
Vitamin B6, B12, Folate, Selenium and Iron also take part in boosting your immune system.
Not one food can offer all the nutrients needed for a strong immune system. If an individual is in a poor health condition or in old age, meal replacements and dietary supplements can be a great alternative to a natural balanced diet.
Getting plenty of sleep, exercise and avoiding smoking and crowds, washing hands are also very effective and proven ways to prevent against many infectious diseases.