Our immune system is a hot topic right now, and for a good reason! With the spread of COVID-19 touching our lives directly, our immune systems must be working at peak performance.
But even after COVID-19 has come and gone, the essential role our immune system plays in our day to day lives will remain.
Whether its influenza, chickenpox, or just the common cold, there will always be some virus or bacteria out there knocking on the door. And you need a robust immune system to answer it.
Do You Know How It Works?
You may have a basic idea of what the immune system does- but do you know how the whole thing works?
Here’s the part you probably know: the immune system is a system in the body that fights off disease and infection. It keeps us well.
- But did you also know that the immune system interacts with all of the other systems of the body?
- And after it has fought off an invader the first time, it’s prepared to eliminate that same type of invader in the future immediately?
Your Body’s Team Approach
Your immune system is made up of a variety of cells and organs that work together to attack germs. They each play a specific role in your body’s defense system. You may be familiar with the term “white blood cell count.”
This term is used by doctors to determine whether or not the body is fighting off an infection. If the white blood cell count is high, then that means the immune system is working against an invader.
Two white blood cells that make up the immunity team are phagocytes and lymphocytes.
- Phagocytes destroy invading organisms.
- Lymphocytes remember the invaders so that next time they show up, the body is already ready to go.
The immune system is so complex, and there are so many players on the immunity team that we can’t get into the details in this article, but here are the basics.
When an antigen like chickenpox enters your body, your immune system immediately reacts. If you’ve never had chickenpox, then your B Lymphocytes start producing antibodies. These antibodies are custom-made to kill the chickenpox antigen.
After release, the antibodies find the antigen like heat-seeking missiles. After they lock onto it, they call on the T-Cells, also known as killer cells, to come to destroy the antigen.
T cells not only kill cells that have been tagged by antibodies, but they also kill cells that are infected or distorted and signal other cells to action.
If you’ve already had chickenpox, the antibodies your immune system created the first time around are still hanging around.
That means that if the chickenpox antigen makes another appearance, the antibodies can immediately destroy it, which is why most people only contract chickenpox once in their lifetime.
The Types of Immunity
You may think that you are born with one kind of immunity, and that’s it for life. Not true. Researchers have discovered that there are three types of immunity: innate, adaptive, and passive.
- Innate immunity, also called natural immunity – Is the one we are all born with.
- Adaptive immunity, also known as active immunity – Evolves throughout our lifetime as we are exposed to diseases and vaccines.
- Passive immunity, also known as borrowed immunity – Is a temporary immunity borrowed from another source like a mother’s breast milk.
A Healthy Immune System Starts With Healthy Choices
Most of the time, our bodies have the incredible ability to work on their own— without our intervention. We don’t have to tell our:
- Hearts when to beat
- Lungs when to breathe
- Immune system when to attack invaders
Our Bodies Are Built to Take Care of Themselves
But things can go awry when we aren’t taking care of them properly. And that is especially true when it comes to the immune system.
Before you reach for a handful of supplements or the latest quick-fix that promises to boost your immune system, it’s necessary to take an honest look at your lifestyle and whether or not it is supporting the proper functioning of your body.
If you are not making healthy lifestyle choices, the odds are your immune system is suffering. So get out a pen and paper and ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I –
- Eating a well-rounded diet that includes whole foods, and a high number of fruits and vegetables?
- Exercising regularly? Do I get in some cardio, strength training, and stretching each week?
- Getting enough water from beverages, fruits, and vegetables?
- Addressing any chronic stressors and minimizing the other stressors in my life?
- Ensuring my weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) is appropriate for my build?
- Do I –
- Get enough sleep? Do I wake up in the morning feeling rested?
- Respect my body by washing my hands thoroughly and avoiding environmental toxins?
- Avoid the use of nicotine or other toxic inhalants?
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all?
- Have firm boundaries with myself and others?
Working On You
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then good for you! You are a consistent and loving ally to your body and your immune system. If you answered “no” to any of these questions, there is no shame in that.
These are just areas that you need to work on. Odds are that this isn’t the first time you’ve been made aware that there is some work to do in certain areas of your life.
We Can Help
And maybe you’ve been struggling in these areas for a long time but feel overwhelmed or like you aren’t getting anywhere.
That’s not unusual. Sometimes all that is required is some outside support. That’s where we can help!
- Assess your specific situation
- Help better educate you about healthy lifestyle choices
- Create a treatment plan customized just for you