The Complexities of the Immune System and How to Boost It 

A mom and her daughter high-fiving after eating a healthy salad

Health is a primary concern for every family. This year, we’ve all been especially focused on health after the world was affected by a virus that forced society to press the pause button on school, work, travel, and overall day-to-day normal life. It has certainly forced everyone to reflect on their health and how they are taking care of themselves. According to the data, COVID-19 affects the elderly and the immuno-compromised the hardest. So now, more than ever, Americans are wondering how they can strengthen their bodies to better resist infection and be more resilient against infections or threats such as this. The immune system is, of course, too complex to cover here, but we thought we’d go through a brief overview of some of its main components. 

The Immune System and Its Functions — A Quick and Fascinating Overview

When someone tells you to “strengthen your immune system,” what exactly do they mean? The immune system is complex, but there are specific types of cells that work throughout your body or live in a certain tissue. Each of these cell types will have a specific role and will know to recognize specific problems. These cells communicate with each other and work together. 

The overall function of the immune system is to protect the body from infection. Infectious diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, protists, and other pathogens. It is a defense system against foreign invaders that want to cause harm to our body. It can distinguish between normal, healthy cells and unhealthy cells, as it recognizes danger signals often termed danger-associated molecular patterns. As the immune system recognizes these signals, it gets to work. If the response cannot be activated, that means there is a problem.

The First Line of Defense

The first line of nonspecific defense is the skin. This, after all, is a physical barrier that keeps pathogens out. Openings in the skin, such as the mouth and eyes, are protected by saliva, mucus and tears contain an enzyme that breaks down bacterial cell walls. This is why we have heard so much talk about washing our hands and not touching our eyes or nose with unwashed hands. Simply by reducing contact with outside pathogens in the openings of your skin, lowers the chances of infection. 

The Second Line of Defense

The second line of defense refers to the nonspecific defense that happens when something does make it through the skin. This occurs, for example, if you fall down and get an open wound that encounters bacteria. This might be called an inflammatory response is when a pathogen stimulates an increase in blood flow to the infected area. Blood vessels will expand  and the white cells get to work. 

Then there is the adaptive immune system, which is a more specific defense when something gets through the initial defenses. If the immune system sees cells it does not recognize, it jumps into action. This might be for something like a cold or the flu. Once your immune system fights this off, the cells will ‘remember’ these pathogens and recognize it next time, increasing efficiency in fighting it off. It’s why you can be kind of immune to a cold if you’ve just gotten over one recently. The Humoral Immunity refers to the actions of antibodies circulating throughout the body, in order to fight infection. 

Can You Boost Your Immune System and Strengthen Your Body’s Defense?

The immune system is just another aspect of the human body that is quite fascinating. For the most part, it is highly effective at protecting you from disease-causing microorganisms. And while there are ways we can keep ourselves healthy and lower our chances for infection exposure, there is no clear cut answer. That might be because your body has so many different cells that fight off different infections, so it’s difficult to know which ones to boost at any given time.

There are a few things, however, that can be quite helpful for strengthening your immune response. 

Choose a healthy lifestyle. The idea of living a healthy lifestyle has always been at the forefront of people’s concern, but the coronavirus scare certainly has people wondering what they can do to keep their systems strong. And a healthy lifestyle can be as simple as getting the right nutrient-rich food, adequate sleep, avoiding excessive drinking, smoking. In addition:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables 
  • Minimize stress 

The Importance of Diet 

Remember that your immune system is like your fighting army. If this system doesn’t get the nutrients and energy it needs, the consequences to their ability to defend your body can be significant. Studies have shown that people that live in poverty and suffer from malnourishment are more susceptible to infectious disease. 

It is true that as we age the capability of our immune system is reduced. And this is why the elderly are always at higher risk of infection. A lot of it has to do with a decreased count in T cells that are used to fight off infection. 

Keep an Eye on Your Health with Primary Care that Counts 

Here at Healthonomic, we work with various populations to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep their bodies strong and resilient. Whether you are a younger person in their twenties or a grandparent above the age of sixty-five, we are here to help you stay healthy and ensure effective healthcare. Call us today for more information.