What Is An Immune System?

October 24, 2011

It can almost seem abstract, the immune system isn’t a specific organ, system, or function of the body, so when it gets mentioned, the immune system can seem increasingly vague.

The immune system is the body’s response to foreign pathogens (like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) that may invade. The immune system also deals with damaged cells. Here’s a few key elements of the immune system:

So what is an immune system?

Skin

The skin is the first line of defense against foreign pathogens. For most people, as long as the skin isn’t broken, it does a great job of keeping you healthy, despite public toilet seats, pools, and other germy places.

But the skin can also leave you wondering how to increase immune system strength: when the skin IS broken, infection can be serious. Cellulitis, or skin infection, is hard to treat and can quickly lead to serious complications if not closely monitored.

Plus, some viruses like HPV and herpes, as well as many fungi, like to live in the skin, causing more serious infections. Keep dead skin sloughed off, and be aware that daycares, gyms, and other public places can lead to the spread of diseases.

The GI Tract

The gastrointestinal tract is your line of defense against the pathogens in the foods you eat (no matter what you do, there will always be something that gets ingested). The liver and kidneys cleanse toxins, nutrients are extracted in the small intestine to fortify the rest of the body, and good bacteria in the stomach offer protection from foreign bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Again, though, the gastrointestinal tract can be compromised—by a strong virus, too much acid (from coffee, for instance), or from medicines like antibiotics, which kill of the protective bacteria.

Eating healthy foods like yogurt (and excluding as many non-food ingredients, like preservatives, as possible), can help keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning and acting as a barrier against pathogens.

What Is An Immune System’s Best Defense?: Blood Cells

Most people know about white blood cells, which the body sends out to attack foreign pathogens that get past the skin and GI Tract. They’re responsible for finding the pathogen’s weakness (or learning it from a vaccine), remembering, and disabling.

Of course, things can go horribly wrong. Poor nutrition weakens defenses, certain illnesses attack the immune system directly, and some people may suffer from autoimmune disorders, where how to increase immune system strength is the last thing on their mind (support it instead).

What are good tips for how to increase immune system strength?

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