I’m sure you’ve heard of your immune system. But how much do you know about it?
It’s essential to understand how important the immune system is and in which manner it protects us from disease and infection. The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infectious organisms and other invaders through a process called the immune response. The immune system actively fights foreign pathogens that invade the body and cause disease. Five essential bodily functions occur throughout the body, which are components of the immune system:
The Five Key elements of the immune system:
Lymphatic system: The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes and vessels that function by eliminating toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The lymphatic system transports fluid containing white blood cells (lymphocytes) which are deployed to destroy the pathogens.
White blood cells (lymphocytes such as B and T cells): White blood cells protect your body from infection by moving through blood and tissue, looking for foreign microbes.
Spleen: The spleen filters blood by excreting old or damaged red blood cells or platelets. The spleen also produces antibodies and lymphocytes.
Bone marrow: Bone marrow is the soft tissue found inside your bones which produces red and white blood cells along with platelets and yellow marrow.
Tonsils and the thymus: Produce antibodies to attack foreign invaders.
What happens during an immune response?
When the white blood cells come into contact with foreign antigens, an immune alarm goes off, setting off a chain reaction of cellular activity in the immune system. The bodies first line of defence is made up of innate cells including macrophage, neutrophils, basophils and dendric cells. These cells respond quickly to foreign cells to fight infection, battle a virus or defend the body against bacteria.
When the first line of defence is not able to destroy the pathogen, the body utilises T and B lymphocytes.
Although antibodies can recognise an antigen and lock onto it, they need the help of the T-cell to destroy it. There are two main types of T-cells. Helper T-cells and killer T-cells.
Helper T-cells send a chemical message to B-cells to produce antibodies and help killer cells develop. Killer T-cells destroy antigens tagged by antibodies. B- cells fight bacteria and viruses by making Y-shaped proteins called antibodies, which attach to each pathogen. The antibodies remain in a person’s body so when the T-cells recognise the same antigen it can destroy the microbe before it can multiply and make you sick. That’s why someone who gets infected with a disease, like chickenpox won’t get sick from it again.
What are the symptoms of a compromised immune system?
Feeling sick, tired, and other nagging symptoms can often mean you have a weakened immune system.
There are some common warning signs.
- You always have a cold or infection
- main symptom of a compromised immune system is susceptibility to infection.
- Normal for adults to get around 2-3 cold per year. Most people feel completely recovered after ten days. It takes four days for the immune system to develop antibodies and fight off germs. Continuously catching colds or not being able to get rid of a cold is a clear sign your immune system is struggling to keep up.
- You experience frequent gut problems
- 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. Your gut contains bacteria and microorganisms that defend your gut from infection and support the immune system. If you experience frequent diarrhoea, gas or constipation that could mean your microflora is unbalanced, therefore lowering your immunity.
- Your wounds heal slowly
- you get a cut, scrape or burn your body works to heal and protect the wound by sending nutrient-rich blood to the injury to help regenerate new skin.
- A wound to heal correctly healthy immune cells are required. If your immune system is compromised, your skin will not be able to regenerate, and your injuries will have a longer healing time.
- You feel tired all the time
- you know you are getting enough sleep, but you still feel run down and tire it’s usually a sign your immune system is trying to tell you something. When your immune system is struggling so is your energy levels.
- of the factors that affect immune function include:
- Lack of sleep
- Smoking & Alcohol
- Poor diet
- Exposure to certain germs
All of the above factors affect gut health and compromised gut health lowers immune function. It begins and ends in the gut. Boosting your gut health is the primary factor in boosting your immune system. It’s best to start by eliminating irritants including processed foods, sugar, dairy and gluten. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and fermented foods. Include herbal support in the form of medicinal mushrooms. Specific immune-boosting mushrooms are Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga and Lions Mane. Include immune-boosting supplements like Vitamin C, D, Zinc and Omega 3’s. Omega 3 also provides secondary benefits to brain and cardiovascular function.
Other necessary steps to ensure are adequate sleep, proper stress management, exercise and skincare that supports the skin microbiome. Avoid stripping and over-cleansing your skin.
It’s the small changes that count. Do what you can, what feels right, and your immune system and skin will thank you later.
Written: By Gabby Wills