This is a system of the body that’s come up much more frequently in this year than the past: immune system.
In fact, you probably hear about your immune system every day, and how you need to strengthen your immune system more than ever. So, how exactly does the immune system work, and how exactly do you get a stronger immune system?
Here’s How Your Immune System Works
There are many different elements that make up the immune system, working together to fight for our survival while we navigate through the world full of bacteria, parasites, and, of course, viruses.
The main parts of the immune system are:
- White blood cells
- Bone marrow
- Lymph nodes
As you can see, there are many different systems all at work throughout your entire body that are warding off pathogens. In a nutshell, here is how an immune system responds to threats.
The immune system needs to be able to tell what is part of itself and what is not part of itself - or what’s a threat. To do this, it detects proteins that are located on a cell’s surface. It ignores self proteins, because it recognizes the proteins that are part of your body.
If the immune system detects something that isn’t part of your body, an immune system response is triggered. The substance that is not a part of your body is an antigen, and can be anything from a virus, fungus, toxin, bacterium, or other foreign substance. Sometimes it can even be one of our own cells that has become faulty or that died.
This is where B lymphocytes come into play. They spot the antigens, and start to release antibodies. These antibodies lock onto the antigens. Each B cell is responsible for making one specific type of antibody, which are part of a larger family of chemicals called immunoglobulins.
Some of the things that immunoglobulins are responsible for are:
- IgD: attaches to a B lymphocyte and assists in triggering the immune response
- IgM: helps kill bacteria
- IgA: present in fluids like saliva and tears, where it builds up a barrier against pathways into the body
- IgE: helps protect against parasites
These antibodies do not actually kill the antigens your body is trying to get rid of. Instead, they act as a marker to tell other cells, like phagocytes and lymphocytes, to kill the antigens.
T lymphocytes can be broken down into two main categories: helper T cells and killer T cells. As the name suggests, helper T cells help to coordinate the immune response. They communicate with other cells, gather more T cells, tell cell-eating phagocytes to gather, or tell B cells to produce more antibodies.
Killer T cells also are aptly named - they attack other cells and recognize when a virus is present on cells that are infected, killing the infected cells.
So, how do you strengthen your immune system, now that you know how it works?
To help your immune system perform all these functions, it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle. While that sounds simple, it’s one of the most important and effective ways to strengthen your immune response. These actions include
- Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Exercising regularly
- Drinking alcohol in moderation and not excess
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night
- Washing your hands frequently
- Maintaining a healthy weight
You might also consider boosting your immune system by supplementing with vitamins. A dose of immunity will literally give you a dose of immunity, supporting the functions of your immune system and increasing your body’s defenses with natural ingredients.
Knowing just how your body fights off antigens and just what you can do to help it are key factors in helping to support your immune system, and living a healthy, balanced life.