Understanding Your Immune System

by Wellness Editor – MH

Every day the body fights dangerous toxins that can be very harmful to your overall health. The immune system works to kill these toxins which keep the body from becoming ill.

Keeping Your Body Safe

The immune system is well equipped to handle a very tough job; it consists of a fully-functioning network of cells, tissues and organs that must destroy antigens. Fortunately, our immune system has the innate ability to identify most types of foreign organism and to send the appropriate cells to terminate them before they can set up shop inside our body. Considering that there are literally millions of external microscopic threats to our health, this is indeed an impressive accomplishment.

So, exactly is the immune system able to keep our bodies from being overtaken by swarms of enemies? The answer lies in the unbelievable level of effective communication between the immune system’s millions of cells. These cells constantly pass information to each other once an invader in the body is detected. When called to action, the body’s immune cells neutralize these external threats with special chemicals, which allow cells in the immediate area to react appropriately to its adversaries. These cells are also given the option to utilize additional immune cells if needed, and to direct immune cells to at-risk areas of the body.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Immune System

The immune system’s cast of characters includes some familiar names to those who have studied the lymphatic system. Bone marrow, a soft tissue inside our bones, produces all the body’s blood cells, including disease-fighting lymphocytes. The Thymus is an immune system organ located behind the breastbone. This organ makes both T lymphocytes (also referred to as T cells) and antibodies-producing B lymphocytes (called B cells). Both cell types are further developed in the lymph nodes, bean-shaped immune systems organs scattered across the body in small clusters. These clusters can be found in the neck, armpits, abdomen and groin. The immune system also makes use of the spleen; in this organ waves of immune cells merge together and destroy enemy toxins.

Your immune system relies heavily upon phagocytes, cells which hunt down and eat bacteria, viruses and dead or injured body cells. They are divided into three distinct types: granulocytes, macrophages and dendritic cells. Granulocytes are the first responders that encounter antigens. They are fanatically devoted to their job, as they eat up antigens until they become too full and die. You can see dead granulocytes in the form of pus. Macrophages take longer to reach distressed areas than granulocytes. However, they over compensate for this weakness with their larger size, longer lifespan and more effective antigen-killing abilities. In their initial form, macrophages are white blood cells called monocytes; when they exit the blood stream, they morph into macrophages. This cell is also known for helping to alert the immune system of attackers. Dendritic cells feature very similar characteristics to macrophages, they remove on antigens and help sound the immune system’s alarm bell.

Boosting Your Defenses

You can improve the performance of your immune system with just some minor adjustments to your diet and daily routine:

Get Plenty of Pastured Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products – Animals and birds that live on pastures produce meat and dairy foods which are rich in Vitamins A, D, E, K and Omega 3s. These nutrients help the cardiovascular, brain and nervous systems to function properly. In addition, these minerals also increase production of conjugated linoleic acid, which reduces your risk of cardiovascular and heart disease.

Worry Less, Laugh More – Everyone knows that stress is bad for you. As it turns out, it’s not good for your immune system either. Try to take time from your daily schedule to relax and recharge your batteries. Watching your favorite comedic movies or TV shows is also recommended, as they tend to put you in a much better mood. Plus, laughing decreases stress hormones while simultaneously creating white blood cells, which are used by your immune system to fight off antigens.

Lay off Refined Foods and Carbohydrates – As much as you may like them, packaged breads, cereals, crackers, pastas, cookies, and snack foods do not add any nutritional value to your immune system.  Instead, snack in moderation on grains that have been soaked, sprouted or fermented.

Drink Lots of Filtered Water – You’ve undoubtedly heard that you should not only drink eight glasses of water per day, but also that filtered water is good for your body. Combining these two pieces of advice is a good idea for keeping your immune system up and running.

Load Up on Nuts, Spices and Yogurt – Nuts are a quality source of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.  A great suggestion would be to try one quarter cup of sunflower seeds, a quarter cup of almonds or a good amount of Brazil nuts. Spices like onions and garlic can strengthen your defenses against heart disease and cancer. As for yogurt, a University of California study found that adults who ate 3/4th a cup of yogurt per day reduced their odds of catching colds by 25%.

Buy Foods and Drinks With Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a great booster for your immune system. It can help shut down your body’s production of histamine, the culprit responsible for runny noses and swollen nostrils. Cold and virus sufferers can benefit from Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin C’s credentials have also been confirmed by the University of California at Berkeley; the university reported that out of a test size of 160 adults, those who took in excess of 500 milligrams of Vitamin C a day for two months showed a 24% decrease in C-reactive protein, a substance that causes inflammation and chronic disease.

The immune system plays an invaluable role in our health, and is a fascinating area of the body to study. Healthier lifestyle choices can go a long way towards ensuring that this crucial part of our bodies runs both efficiently and effectively.

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