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What Is The Immune System?
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. The immune system keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated so it can recognize and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again.
Our immune system is essential for our survival. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. It is our immune system that keeps us healthy as we drift through a sea of pathogens.
The immune system is made up of special organs, cells and chemicals that fight infection (microbes). The main parts of the immune system are: white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow. These are the parts of your immune system that actively fight infection.
Parts of The Immune System
The main parts of the immune system are: white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow. These are the parts of your immune system that actively fight infection.
The key primary lymphoid organs of the immune system include the thymus and bone marrow, as well as secondary lymphatic tissues including spleen, tonsils, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, adenoids, skin, and liver.
White Blood Cells
White blood cells are the key players in your immune system. They are made in your bone marrow and are part of the lymphatic system.
White blood cells move through blood and tissue throughout your body, looking for foreign invaders (microbes) such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. When they find them, they launch an immune attack. White blood cells include lymphocytes (such as B-cells, T-cells and natural killer cells), and many other types of immune cells.
Antibodies help the body to fight microbes or the toxins (poisons) they produce. They do this by recognizing substances called antigens on the surface of the microbe, or in the chemicals they produce, which mark the microbe or toxin as being foreign. The antibodies then mark these antigens for destruction. There are many cells, proteins and chemicals involved in this attack.
The complement system is made up of proteins whose actions complement the work done by antibodies. The complement system is a part of the immune system that enhances (complements) the ability of antibodies and phagocytic cells to clear microbes and damaged cells from an organism, promotes inflammation, and attacks the pathogen’s plasma membrane.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a network of delicate tubes throughout the body. The main roles of the lymphatic system are to:
- manage the fluid levels in the body
- react to bacteria
- deal with cancer cells
- deal with cell products that otherwise would result in disease or disorders
- absorb some of the fats in our diet from the intestine.
The lymphatic system is made up of:
- lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) — which trap microbes
- lymph vessels — tubes that carry lymph, the colourless fluid that bathes your body’s tissues and contains infection-fighting white blood cells
- white blood cells (lymphocytes).
The spleen is a blood-filtering organ that removes microbes and destroys old or damaged red blood cells. It also makes disease-fighting components of the immune system (including antibodies and lymphocytes).
The spleen is the largest organ in the lymphatic system. It is an important organ for keeping bodily fluids balanced, but it is possible to live without it. The spleen is located under the ribcage and above the stomach in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. A spleen is soft and generally looks purple.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue found inside your bones. It produces the red blood cells our bodies need to carry oxygen, the white blood cells we use to fight infection, and the platelets we need to help our blood clot.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside some of your bones, such as your hip and thigh bones. It contains stem cells. The stem cells can develop into the red blood cells that carry oxygen through your body, the white blood cells that fight infections, and the platelets that help with blood clotting.
The thymus filters and monitors your blood content. It produces the white blood cells called T-lymphocytes.
The thymus serves a vital role in the training and development of T-lymphocytes or T cells, an extremely important type of white blood cell. T cells defend the body from potentially deadly pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
The thymus produces progenitor cells, which mature into T-cells (thymus-derived cells). The body uses T-cells help destroy infected or cancerous cells. T-cells created by the thymus also help other organs in the immune system grow properly.
Your immune system is a large network of organs, white blood cells, proteins (antibodies) and chemicals. This system works together to protect you from foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) that cause infection, illness and disease.
How can I keep my immune system healthy?
Just like the rest of your body, your immune system needs nourishment, rest, and a healthy environment to stay strong. Certain lifestyle changes have been proven to boost immune systems and help you avoid illness.
Manage Your Stress
Everyone gets stressed. Short bursts of stress may help your immune system. But lasting stress is a problem. It can hamper your immune system.
You can take action to tame stress. Make these steps part of your stress management plan:
- Get enough sleep.
- Learn and use relaxation techniques.
- Take time for yourself.
- Build your support network of people you can talk to.
- Consider counseling, especially when you’re going through a very stressful time.
Get the Nutrients You Need
Food is your best source. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, and split the other half between lean protein and grains, as the government’s “MyPlate” guidelines recommend.
Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system, which may offer protection from seasonal illness and other health problems. No one food or supplement can prevent illness but you may help support your immune system by including these nutrients in your overall eating plan on a regular basis.
Protein plays a role in the body’s immune system, especially for healing and recovery. Eat a variety of protein foods including seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Get this vitamin from foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs or foods labeled “vitamin A fortified,” such as milk or some cereals.
Vitamin C supports the immune system by stimulating the formation of antibodies. Include more sources of this healthy vitamin by choosing citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, or red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, tomato juice or foods fortified with vitamin C, such as some cereals.
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant and may support immune function. Include vitamin E in your diet with fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts and peanut butter.
Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans, seeds and nuts.
Other nutrients, including vitamin B6, B12, copper, folate, selenium and iron also may support immune response and play a role in a healthful eating style.
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References: https://www.livescience.com, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21196-immune-system, https://symptoms.webmd.com/cold-flu-map/keep-immune-system-healthy, https://www.eatright.org, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system