We’ve all been there. Your throat starts to itch, your nose gets sniffly, and you’re suddenly fighting a severe case of sneezes. There’s no doubt about it: You’re sick!
You could be dealing with anything from the common cold to a more severe health condition like pneumonia or the flu. Still, one thing is sure: Your body needs some extra TLC. When you do get sick, all you probably want to do is curl up in bed and sleep all day — but that’s not always an option. You still have work to get done, kids to care for, and pets who need walking.
But why do we get sick in the first place? We’ll discuss these things and more below!
Immune System Explained
Your immune system is a group of soldiers in your body. They protect you against germs and attacks that could hurt you. When your body has a cold or the flu, the soldiers fight back so you won’t get worse and die.
The immune system comprises a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. The immune system consists of two main parts:
The innate immune system. It is the body’s first line of defense against invading germs and includes:
- Your skin.
- Chemical signals that cause inflammation.
- Enzymes in your body fluids.
The adaptive immune system. This slower but more targeted response produces antibodies to fight specific germs.
The Immune System Basics
Your immune system is the body’s shield against disease and infection. It comprises different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to fight off infections. It is a complex system that balances between being protective and tolerant to self-antigens (i.e., molecules produced by the body itself) while remaining ready to attack foreign antigens when necessary.
The immune system keeps a register of all the substances usually found in the body. These are called antigens. If foreign substances (antigens) such as bacteria, viruses or toxins enter the body, the immune system reacts by producing antibodies and activating specific cells to attack them. The immune system then remembers these antigens so that it can fight off any future infections more quickly and effectively.
A healthy immune system defends against disease-causing microorganisms (such as bacteria and viruses) while also protecting from infection and injury. Immune health is vital for maintaining optimal health and preventing illness, including seasonal threats such as colds and flu. Maintaining a balanced diet with adequate nutrition levels, limiting stress and practicing good hygiene are some ways to keep your immune system in good shape.
Components of the Immune System
Your immune system is a cluster of organs and cells that work together to defend the body, especially against invasion by potentially harmful microorganisms. The main components of the immune system are:
Physical barriers (skin and mucous membranes)
The first line of defense against infection, physical barriers help keep viruses, bacteria, and foreign substances from entering the body. These barriers include unbroken skin, the mucous membranes that line internal organs, and secretions such as tears, saliva, and gastric juices.
Blood and tissue fluids
If a pathogen evades the first line of defense, it encounters a second line of defense: blood and tissue fluids. These fluids contain substances that can kill pathogens or impede their growth. They also contain cells that attack pathogens directly or cause them to clump together so they can be more easily removed from the body.
Cells (such as leukocytes and lymphocytes)
The third line of defense — cells that attack pathogens specifically — consists primarily of leukocytes, or white blood cells (WBCs). There are several different types of WBCs in the human body; all perform some function against infection.
Importance of a Healthy Immune System
It protects the body against potentially harmful microorganisms. If the immune system is weak or lacking in any way — as in immunodeficiency disorders — a person may be more likely to contract an infection, have trouble fighting off infections or develop other health problems.
Your immune system is constantly monitoring your body for any signs of trouble. When it detects a problem, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack the threat. If you have a healthy immune system, you’re better equipped to fight off colds, the flu, and other illnesses.
The immune system is a guard against infection and illness. When your immune system isn’t working well, you’re more likely to get sick, and you may get sick more often.
Even though we are constantly exposed to germs and diseases, most people do not get sick very often. This is because the immune system can recognize and destroy many of these harmful invaders.
If your immune system isn’t working as well as it should, you might get sick more often or for more extended periods than other people. Immune problems can range from allergies, where your immune system overreacts to foreign substances like pollen or bee venom, to autoimmune diseases, where your immune system attacks itself.
Common Disorders of the Immune System
Your immune system is a guard between your body and infection. Immunodeficiency disorders are a group of diseases that cause your immune system to no longer function properly.
If your immune system is not functioning correctly, it may be less able to fight off infections and more likely to cause problems in other parts of your body.
Some people are born with an immunodeficiency disorder, while others develop one later in life.
Causes of immunodeficiency disorders include:
In these cases, you inherit abnormal genes from one or both parents that impair the function of your immune system. Examples include Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), DiGeorge syndrome, and cartilage-hair hypoplasia.
In these cases, something disrupts the normal function of your immune system later in life. Causes can include HIV or AIDS, certain medications and cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, organ transplantation, and poor nutrition.
Some autoimmune disorders may impair the function of the immune system by destroying certain types of white blood cells or by affecting other parts of the immune system involved in fighting disease.
How Can You Help Your Immune System?
Our immune system is an incredible network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect you from illness and disease. It’s most effective when it’s healthy, and you take care of it.
- Keep your immune system healthy by:
- Avoiding cigarette smoke
- Partake a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
- Exercising regularly
- Getting adequate sleep
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing stress
The immune system is an integral part of your overall health, and it’s one worth taking care of. Knowing more about it can help you keep it in proper working order, to keep you and your family healthier overall.
For more information, please contact LifeQuest Physical Medicine and Rehab today!