Have you heard the word immunity over the last two years? I joke.
There has been much discussed about immunity & the immune system but what more does anyone know about their immune system?
Today, without mention of the ‘C’ word we are going to explore the immune system.
By the end of it you are going to have a foundational understanding how it works & things you can do to boost and protect it. Shall we?
Types of Immunity
There are two types of Immunity
Innate Immunity – Is the general broad immune functions with which we are born. These are the parts of the human body that always exist (unless some genetic dysfunctions stop it) and provide broad, nonspecific immunity.
Acquired Immunity – As the name suggests, this is acquiring immunity through external sources via therapeutics or otherwise,
We are going to stick with Innate immunity for today.
PS ‘Immunity’ is a deep, deep topic and *no-one* understands it fully. Let us discuss what we do know
Physical barriers are the body’s first line of defence. Starting with the largest organ in the body – the skin.
The skin is made up of multiple layers.
- The epidermis stops us from getting infections and letting foreign microbes enter the blood stream
- We have ‘mucus membranes’ around the eyes, nose, mouth & these work to trap anything the body deems as a threat and traps it in the mucus/phlegm.
- The cells in our airways contain ’cilia’ and these cells beat to a rhythm to create an escalator like effect and take any harmful or dangerous microbes from our airways via coughing, spitting, or swallowing.
That is three physical ways the body creates systems to actively move harmful items our of our body.
Two more being the urine & faeces which remove microbes from the bladder and stomach.
Why drinking water (1 litre per 25KG body weight) and high-quality food are the best things you can do to support & help your own bodies defences – today.
You cannot talk about the immune system and not mention the chemical barriers our bodies employ.
In our saliva, an enzyme called Lysozyme helps kills microbes while being constantly produced in our body.
When we get infected by something, it is usually because the number of infected cells overwhelm your natural defences and you become sick.
Until the dilution of the infection comes down. Saliva continues to spread through the body with the Lysozyme enzyme increasing the effectiveness of your body’s infection fighting mechanisms.
Hence why people are recommended to drink excess fluids while they are sick.
It helps flush the system & support the spread of the infection fighting enzyme.
Finally, lets look at non-specific immune response. These exist universally and we do not need prior infection for the body to realise it is under attack.
What cells are involved with Immunity?
Phagocytic cells engage in innate immunity (note there are others)
When these white blood cells encounter an invading microbe, it recognizes as foreign, it attaches to the microbe
It then extends its own cell membrane around the microbe (infection) and pulling it inside the cell.
Once in the cell, the microbe gets destroyed by the enzymes and is safely digested.
For future infection, the cell ‘remembers’ this invader and serves as a link to ‘Adaptive Immunity’ or acquired immunity.
Now we are onto the final two pieces of non-specific innate immune response. You are going to know these two 😊
Inflammation & Fevers
Inflammation serves as a signal for other white blood cells to join the fight.
When the body is attacked by an invading microbe, inflammation & white blood cell production increases.
Heat, redness, pain, and swelling are all a result of more white blood cells in the area and the body’s natural response to infection
So, if there is one take away….
- Natural Inflammation is good
- Chronic Inflammation (arthritis, eczema, stress, stomach issues, muscles tears) are bad.
Fever acts slightly differently.
It increases blood flow to the area which improves healing of damaged tissues. It also brings more white blood cells to the area.
Fever increases the temperature of the body which makes the body less hospitable to bacteria.
Every bacterium has a range of temperature it survives & thrives in
By increasing the temperature, the body is hoping to take advantage of this phenomenon and reduce the effectiveness of bacteria or viruses.
Think twice about popping a Panadol to reduce fever – your body is trying to heal itself
As a final takeaway, your body is smart.
Do not underestimate your bodies power to heal if you have set a good foundation for it.
Natural stressors such as Heat & Cold increase immune responses, so when the real infection comes your body is in top order to fight it.
There are a reason people swear by their winter Sauna’s & Cold Plunge routines.