The most obvious part of the immune system is what you can see. For example, the largest and first basic defense system to our immunity is our skin, since it acts as the primary boundary between germs and your body. Skin is tough and generally impermeable to bacteria and viruses.
This is why we must treat our skin with respect. Keep it clean as often as you can (shower two times a day, once in the morning and once at night before bed) and wash bedding and clothes once a week. Our nose, mouth and eyes are secondary entry points for germs. By keeping hands clean, people minimize possible infection through such entry ways. Tears and mucus contain an enzyme (lysozyme) that breaks down the cell wall of many bacteria. Did you know that our saliva is also anti-bacterial? Since the nasal passage and lungs are coated in mucus, many germs not killed immediately are trapped in the mucus and soon swallowed. Any bacteria or virus that wants to gain entry to your body must first make it past these defenses.
The third layer of our immune system is inside our bodies. Once germs make its way inside the body, they must deal with the immune system at a different level: the internal components of the immune system.
White blood cells
3 Types of Immunity
Humans have three types of immunity — innate, adaptive, and passive:
Innate Immunity: Innate (or natural) immunity is the basic protection our bodies provide. This includes the body’s external barriers to germs and disease (the skin and mucous membranes), which are the first line of defense. If this outer defensive wall is broken (as through a cut), the skin attempts to heal the break quickly and special immune cells on the skin attack invading germs.
Adaptive Immunity: Adaptive (or active) immunity develops throughout our lives. Adaptive immunity involves the lymphocytes and develops as people are exposed to diseases or immunized against diseases through vaccination.
Passive Immunity: Passive immunity is “borrowed” from another source and it lasts for a short time. For example, antibodies in breast milk provide babies with temporary immunity to diseases the mother has been exposed to.
Disorders of the immune system fall into four main categories
1. immunodeficiency disorders (primary or acquired)
2. autoimmune disorders (in which the body’s own immune system attacks its own tissue as foreign matter)
3. allergic disorders (in which the immune system overreacts in response to an antigen)
4. cancers of the immune system
Below are examples of the immune system gone wrong.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease result from immune system destruction or stimulation of thyroid tissue.
Psoriasis is an immune system disorder that affects the skin, and occasionally the eyes, nails, and joints. (pictured left)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: This medical term is used for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two diseases in which the immune system attacks the gut (intestine).
Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system targets nerve tissues of the central nervous system. Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Type 1 diabetes mellitus are also examples.
How does the immune system become sick?
Being a nutritionist, I almost always look at the type of foods consumed. By generally looking into the typical American diet, an understanding becomes quite clear. They are mostly all disease promoting, acidic foods which create a hostile and acidic internal environment. Perfect for germs and viruses to thrive and the immune system to weaken. Is the super sugar, salt, processed white foods and fried foods to blame for the nation’s 2/3 who are overweight and 1/3 who are obese? Maybe the current American lifestyle of eating, working, stressing and recreation is to account for the sky rocketing numbers of people living with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, suffering from multiple heart attacks, strokes, chronic diseases, and cancer? One thing is for sure. All of these ailments can be cured and reversed with better nutritional education through a holistic approach to wellness.
In a nutshell, when people fail to eat whole, organic, local and seasonal foods, without the antioxidants, phytonutrients and fibers (absent in processed foods, white foods, sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, aka bread, pastas, it is similar to eating straight sugar cubes. This goes for too much alcohol, and foods that come from boxes, freezer bags, cans and plastic wrapping. Devoid of any sort of positive nutrient for the working body. The foods are then rapidly broken down into the body into simple sugars, which causes insulin spikes (chronic insulin spiking is dangerous and damaging to the overall immune function of people), which sabotage weight loss and is linked to higher levels of disease, free radicals production, fuels appetite (for the wrong type of foods) and are hurtful for our overall wellness and immunity.
Perhaps this is why flu season spans from October (think of the Halloween candy, parties and festivities) through February every year. We are eating ourselves into a sickness stupor, and the media seems to report that this trend is getting worse every year. Let’s keep those new year resolutions to eat better, more consciously and whole-listicly alive throughout the year–make it a “whole” year resolution. See just how strong our immune system can be and how “sick free” is possible, even during flu season!
Sources: Nobleprize.org, healthyimmunity.org, webmd.com
photo source: redorbit.com