What You Need to Know About the Immune System
By Dr. Molly Casey
Have you wondered, especially with the health crisis at hand, how and why we get sick? Why do certain viruses, bacteria, colds and other illnesses affect some and not others? Why do one or two family members become ill and others in the same household don’t? The short answer is the immune system.
Your immune system is the reason why you do or don’t get sick. It’s why one person in an office can be taken out for days by an illness and employees in the adjacent cubicles don’t even seem to be phased.
If it were a superhero, the immune system would be Superman.
The immune system is the body’s defense system. It is extensively complex and is composed of various structures and biological processes that protect it against disease and perceived threat. Immunity is the strength of the body’s ability to fight infection, invasion, or destruction from a toxin or foreign antigen.
There are two types of immunity, which is to say the immune system is divided into two parts: innate /non-specific and adaptive/specific.
Innate immunity is the portion of the immune system that detects and takes care of toxins/antigens that the body inherently knows what to do with; it’s non-specific and reaction usually occurs immediately or within hours of the antigen’s appearance. Physical barriers such as skin, chemicals in the blood, and immune system cells that attack foreign cells in the body all assist in this portion of immunity. The innate immune response is activated by chemical properties of the antigen.
For example, let’s say you get a splinter in your finger that has some bacteria on it; it breaks the skin and gets stuck. Whether you get it out or even leave it in, the body recognizes this foreign invader and starts the innate immunity response; the area may become a bit inflamed and within a few days it pushes the splinter out on its own.
Adaptive immunity, sometimes called acquired immunity, is the part of the immune system that involves specific cells and systems of the body fighting specific antigens or toxins. This is much more complex than the innate response. When a specific bacteria or antigen presents, the body must recognize it, then build an army of cells and processes to attack it. Once complete, the body remembers that specific antigen and keeps the process to kill it in its memory bank so that it can be deployed if it ever deals with it again.
When immunity is high or strong, these two parts of the immune system are working well and indicate the body’s increased ability to fight off toxins or antigens. When the immunity is low, these two systems are not functioning optimally and the body’s ability to resist antigens or toxins is diminished. The likelihood of the body succumbing to an illness or disease is much higher when immunity is low. That’s why people with suppressed immune systems are at risk whenever there are particularly strong strains of flu in circulation.
Germs Are Everywhere
You, the neighbor, me, and the lady upstairs -- everyone, absolutely everyone -- is in contact with germs all day every day. Sometimes the type varies. The body’s response to the germs and whether or not we suffer symptoms of infection and illness rely solely on whether our body’s immune system can effectively fight the germs.
So long as there is life on this planet, there will always be ever-evolving lines and threads of new bacteria, viruses, parasites, and so on. Germs are a part of our life and we should do our best to fight them. Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Don’t touch your face. If you worry about each and every germ out there, you’re doomed to suffer extensively mentally and emotionally just because of the sheer numbers. Instead, focus on the truth that your ability to withstand an infection, virus or bacteria is dependent upon whether or not your immune system can fight it off. So instead of worrying about germs, work toward increasing your level of immunity and boosting your health through prevention.
Immunity is complex -- and increasing your body’s immune system takes time and attention. That may not be what you want to hear in the current global environment. We typically want things to happen immediately. Take solace that you can boost and build up your immune system and your chiropractor can help. Doctors of chiropractic are equipped to discuss many of the avenues you can take to improve your immune system such as, improving your levels of activity, nutritional advice and other topics that can help to improve your overall health and wellness. I’ll get into it more in this space next week, but if you want to begin the immune-building process, see your chiropractor this week and you’ll be one step closer to having your best possible immune system.
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