If there’s one aspect of health that has taken on unprecedented importance this year, it’s your immune system. As Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths skyrocket across America it’s become a priority to understand how you can support your own immune system on a daily basis.
In this first post in a short series of three, we’ll take a look at what the immune system actually is and a simplified peek at how it functions.
Your immune system is an amazingly complex network of organs, cells, and tissues that elegantly coordinate to defend your body against invaders known as “antigens”. Antigens appear to your body as foreign and harmful. In a nutshell, the immune system’s critical job is to recognize and destroy these invaders.
Antigens may present in many forms:
- Abnormal cells
- Even a thorn in your finger!
The two different types of natural immunity – Innate and Acquired.
#1 – Innate (non-specific) Immunity Simplified
This is your first line of defense with which you were born, thus “innate”. Additional aspects continue to develop shortly after birth. Written in your genes, this protection is with you throughout your lifetime.
Innate immunity is a constant process that is fast-acting when an antigen is detected and can continue up to 4 days. The immune response is always the same, whatever the antigen, thus non-specific.
With innate immunity, it’s all about barriers!
- The hair on your body
- The wax in your ears
- The sticky mucus that lines your nose and other openings
- Your skin
- Enzymes in saliva and tears
- The acid in your stomach
- Inflammatory cells
- White blood cells
- Substances like interferon and interleukin-1 (which cause fever)
When antigens manage to breach your barriers and are not contained completely, your acquired immunity kicks in.
#2 – Acquired (or adaptive) Immunity Simplified
Your acquired immunity is developed specific to a particular antigen. It’s considered adaptive because it continues to change with each new antigen encountered. This response is not immediate and may not offer lifelong protection in some cases.
The first time a new antigen is recognized, your adaptive immune system creates very specific antibodies to destroy that particular invader. Initially, it takes your body time to build these antibodies to mount this defense. However, due to “memory cells” in your immune system, in cases of subsequent exposure, responses are faster and stronger. This is due to “memory cells” in your immune system that can survive for decades.
This is a slower process out of the gate, however the response can be maintained over a much longer term.
Both aspects of the immune system have specific cells that are called to action in the presence of antigens. The chart below is a basic representation of the extremely complex components of the innate and adaptive immune cells.
Why “strong immunity simplified?
As I write this blog to you, I am struck with the enormity of the job of the immune system, for the thousandth time! There are few areas of research that are as fascinating or amazing as how your own body manages to recognize and protect you from perceived danger. Equally as dramatic is what happens when the system becomes overwhelmed and results in what we call “illness” and “disease”.
The goal of these blogs is not to bog you down with a detailed course in immunology. Instead, I hope I’m offering you “immunity simplified” that will help you better choose a tangible support system.
In the next two posts, it’s my pleasure to introduce Vital Flora Immune Biome Probiotic and explain how it functions to support your immunity daily.
If I’ve sparked a desire for continued study on this incredible subject, please check out the references I’ve added at the end of this post.