Mobilize Your Infection Army with Immune System Basics
Your immune system’s ability to identify and attack viruses, bacteria and other invading pathogens is truly amazing. In addition to keeping you safe from infections, your immune system also keeps you safe from abnormal and degenerate cells that can cause cancer. Clearing out waste products and toxins from your body is also part of the immune system’s job.
One of the easiest ways to understand the immune system is to look at it like a large, highly trained army. Just like an army, your immune system is organized into specialized parts or regiments, each with a unique job to do.
All the different regiments in your immune system army communicate, coordinate and work together with great skill. This army collects sophisticated intelligence on its surroundings, its neighbors and on all invading enemies. Importantly, this army can quickly grow and increase in numbers to supply reinforcements or counter an invading threat. Mobilizing this army within is your most powerful weapon against infection like Staph and MRSA.
How your immune system works
While all the different parts of your immune system have a unique job to do, they also work together in complex ways to keep you alive and well. Entire books have been written on the immune system, but here are some key points on how it works:
- Your skin, respiratory tract and intestinal lining. Just like a barbed wire fence, your skin and the linings inside your nose and intestines provide a physical barrier for invading pathogens. Your skin and nose are actually your first line of defense against most infections.
- Beneficial bacteria. Hundreds of trillions of beneficial bacteria on and inside your body provide a barrier to invaders. Some of these ‘good’ bacteria actively kill the ‘bad’ bacteria. Other beneficial bacteria make vitamins, immune boosting chemicals and infection fighting compounds. In fact, experts say that 60 to 80% of your immune system is actually inside your gut in the form of beneficial bacteria.
- T-cells, B-cells and Killer cells. These are different types of white blood cells and these immune system cells work like pathogen seek and destroy units. T-cells are experts at sniffing out many different enemy pathogens within cellular hiding places inside your body, following chemical clues and footprints to track down, identify and destroy the enemy. B-cells are made to identify and destroy particular enemies inside your blood and lymph. Killer cells communicate with the other immune system cells, helping to prevent ‘friendly fire’ by identifying friend from foe.
- Antibodies. Antibodies are protein molecules that don’t kill pathogens directly. Antibodies can act as tags, identifying ‘bad’ bacteria so they can be more easily seen and attacked by immune system cells. Some antibodies serve to neutralize the toxins made by infecting bacteria. Antibodies can also envelope invading bacteria and physically drag them out of your blood to be eliminated.
- Phagocytes. Phagocytes are the white blood cells that eat and digest invading pathogens. Once T, B and Killer cells ‘mark’ or render the invading germ incapacitated, it’s time for phagocytes to come in and clean up the mess. There are different kinds of phagocytes, including macrophages, neutrophils and monocytes. Some phagocytes seek out and eat pathogens that have been marked by antibodies. Others consume and get rid of waste products inside your body, such as dead cells and necrotic tissue.
- Granulocytes and Dendritic Cells. Granulocytes wage chemical warfare on invading pathogens and are especially active against parasites and cancer cells. Dendritic cells are like a clean-up crew. They help your body remove expended T-cells, B-cells and killer cells after a battle. Dendritic cells also process help the T-cells and B-cells to identify and attack pathogens.
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