How the Immune System Works

Don’t worry, you do not have to be a doctor to understand this blog post. We have kept it as simple as possible so that anyone can gain a good understanding of what their immune system really does and how it works.

What does your Immune System do?

The purpose of your immune system is to protect you from foreign invasions that can harm you. These foreign invaders are called “antigens”. An antigen could be a parasite, bacteria, fungi, or viruses (such as the coronavirus).

How Immune System Works

Whenever these antigens are discovered in your body they will trigger your immune system. Once kicked into action, your immune system will do everything possible to destroy these antigens using a variety of methods. It really is an amazing system that you need to take care of all of your life.

Your Innate Immune System

The human immune system is divided into two categories:

  • Innate
  • Adaptive

Think of your innate immune system as the “first responder” to any antigens that find their way into your body. Your innate immune system is made up of your skin, the cells within your immune system, and certain chemicals in your blood.

Your Skin

Your skin really is your first line of defense because it provides a barrier on the surface of your body to prevent bacteria and viruses from getting inside. If you are wondering why there is so much emphasis on washing your hands with the coronavirus pandemic, it is a way to destroy antigens before they can enter your body.

The Cells of your Immune System

Your immune system contains vital immune cells. Some of these cells are more selective than others when it comes to defending against certain antigens. There are 3 main types of immune system cells:

  • T Cells
  • B Cells
  • Phagocytes

The purpose of T cells is to regulate your immune cells. It can activate the cells or eliminate them. If there are abnormal cells in your body or some that are infected with antigens then T cells will kill them. They are “killer cells”.

The B cells in your immune system will activate the necessary antibodies. These antibodies are proteins that have the sole purpose of destroying antigens in your bloodstream. B cells perform a vital role.

Phagocytes are larger white cells that basically eat antigens. You will find phagocytes in tissue and blood. If you notice some inflammation in your body this is very likely to be phagocytes at work. When your immune system needs to send phagocytes to a part of your body it can cause inflammation to increase the flow of blood.

Your Adaptive Immune System

Your adaptive immune system has a very important role as it remembers any past antigen attacks you have encountered. It uses this information to attack these same antigens in a more effective way.

You will have had at least one vaccine as a child. The reason that vaccines work is that they trigger your adaptive immune system so that whenever one of the antigens in the vaccine is encountered again it will know how to deal with it in the most effective way.

Your adaptive immune system will remember specific antigens and then dispatch the appropriate immune cells to destroy them. This is a fast and effective process that prevents the buildup of the antigens in your body.

Your Lymphatic System

You have another critical system in your body that helps prevent you from becoming sick and this is your lymphatic system. It comprises nodes, vessels, and tissues that assist your body to eliminate toxins and any other substances that can cause you harm. Your lymphatic system circulates lymph fluid through your body. This contains white blood cells (similar to the B cells and T cells we discussed above).

That wasn’t too painful was it?

So there you have it – a lay guide to your complex immune system. We believe that it is very important that you understand what and how the immune system works. This will help you when it comes to avoiding the things that can harm your immune system and doing the things that will help to boost it.

Images courtesy of:
Renate Köppel , swiftsciencewriting, Pixabay

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How the Immune System Works

Part 2 of Boost Your Immune System Series
Pam Byc
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