Have you watched a historical film where there are kings and queens? Where wars between kingdoms arise? Imagine a film where a kingdom has been attacked. The enemy soldiers are banging the front gate with a big tree trunk until little by little it is broken and destroyed. As the gate breaks down and enemies start to invade, they are stopped and fought by the kingdom’s warriors.
These warriors who are waiting by the gate of the kingdom are like our bodies’ own warrior. It is called the immune system. A composition of a vast network of cells, tissues, and organs that serves as the body’s defense’s system against germs, infectious organisms, and other invaders through the process called immune response. The process involves seeking, attacking, and barriers disease-causing substances.
How the substances of the immune system work
White blood cells, well-known as leukocytes which are a cage in lymph nodes, are produced or stored in many parts of the body like spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. Leukocytes travel and patrols throughout the body via blood and lymphatic vessels to detect any harmful organism that might cause a problem. White blood cells multiply and send signals to other types of cells if they find threats.
Two types of leukocytes
The phagocytes are responsible for killing invading pathogens by breaking and eating them down. There are numerous numbers of phagocytes cells, and neutrophil is one of them. This cell is the primary soldier that fights and exterminates bacteria. Macrophages duties are also to patrol for pathogens as well as to remove dead and dying cells. Other types of phagocytes, like monocytes and mast cells, have several roles to play including healing of wounds and defending from invading threats.
On the other hand, lymphocytes are the one that remembers and destroy threats if it ever attacks again. Their life begins in the bone marrow. Some stay in it and mature into B lymphocytes while others leave for thymus glands and mature as T lymphocytes.
These two types of lymphocytes have different functions. The former is acting like a military intelligence who defends and quarantine a specific target alerting the latter whose job is to destroy the identified invader provided by the intelligence. Let’s say that an antigen attacks the body which instantly detects by several types of cells. These cells work together to recognize and respond to the foreign substance which triggers the B lymphocytes. The B lymphocytes then produce antibodies specifically for the antigen and stay in the body so that it is already there once the same type of antigen attacks. That is why a person who has chickenpox (for example) before will never have it again.
Though antibodies recognize an antigen, they are not capable of terminating it by themselves. This is where T lymphocytes come in. They are the one that kills antigen and signals other cells to do their jobs.
All these cells working together in the immune system offer protection to the body. That protection is called immunity and it has three types namely innate, adaptive, and passive.
Three types of immunity
Everyone is born with the natural, innate immunity. The coughing reflexes, the enzymes in tears and skin oils, and the mucus that traps small particles are part of the innate community that serves as the immune system’s first line of defense.
The second type of immunity is adaptive. This type of immunity matures through time by being exposed to diseases or by the immunization that vaccines provide.
Passive immunity lasts shortly as it is considered as borrowed from another source. The best example of this would be an infant getting nutrients from the mother through breastfeeding. The antibodies from the mother’s milk give temporary protection to the baby.
There are some events where bodies are attacked not only by invisible viruses but also by physical damages such as injury. Once an injury or harmful things enters the body, immune cells react to the damaged area that causes inflammation and immune functions. Inflammation is a natural protective response of the body which causes temporary discomfort and resulting in pain, warmth, swelling, and redness.
Think about it. There are wars raging inside your system whenever it is injured, visually or not, and you don’t even realize it.
When the immune system doesn’t work
At times, the immune system will not work accordingly. There are certain disorders that happen to an immune system that causes for function failure. First is the immunodeficiency disorders wherein a part of the immune system is missing or not working properly. Some people are born with it while others acquire it. Secondly is the autoimmune disorders in which the immune system mistakes tissues as foreign substances and attacks it. Thirdly is allergic disorders. Allergic disorders occur when the body’s soldier overreacts to the antigen in the environment upon exposure. Lastly is cancer to the immune system. It takes place once cells grow out of control which includes the cells of the immune system.
Ways to improve your immune system
According to experts, immune system disorders cannot be prevented. But there are ways to improve or strengthen one’s immune system.
Number one on the list is choosing a healthy lifestyle. These include exercising regularly, not smoking, drinking moderately, and sleeping adequately. Stress or anxiety has also a close relationship with immune function. Although it is a challenge to find this close relationship between the two, professionals advise of having a positive mind as emotional stress has a negative effect on the immune system.
Healthy lifestyle links to a healthy diet; and eating is the most nutritious and delicious way to boost the immune system. Nothing will beat being healthy when one does have a happy stomach, right? Nutrients as proteins, zinc, and vitamin A, B6, C, and E may assist for immune system enhancement.
Boosters for your immune system
On your next trip to the grocery, you can include the following food items in your cart:
- Citrus fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C helps with the production of leukocytes, and citrus food is your primary vitamin C boosters. Yet citrus food is not the only source of vitamin C. You may want other fruits like red bell peppers, papayas or strawberries, or some that are fortified with this vitamin like cereals or tomato juice.
- Broccoli. This is the healthiest vegetable you can serve. It contains important vitamin like A, C, and E. Cooking it as little as possible is the secret to keep its nutrients intact. Nonetheless, eating it raw is much better.
- Protein-and-zinc-rich food. Protein is one component of the body’s defense mechanism while zinc is responsible for the immune system to work properly. Some food that has protein and zinc are seafood, poultry, eggs, whole grain products, beans, milk, unsalted nuts, and soy products.
- Vitamin A-packed food. Sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, and apricots are examples of food that are fortified with vitamin A. Vitamin A regulates the immune system and protects the body from infection.