You can complete a college course on the immune system and still not know everything you need to know about it. We want to provide a quick introduction to the immune system and how it works, and then discuss the ways to boost the immune system naturally, as well as what tends to happen when your immune system is not the best it can be.
Your immune system is made up of special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs throughout your body. The immune system is not one specific part, but rather, a combination of things within your body to provide a “shield” against incoming bacteria, viruses, and diseases. And when that shield is broken, it is up to the immune system to eliminate the problem.
All plants and animals have an immune system, not just humans. Your body fights off infections and diseases the same way a tree or dog would.
An easy way to think of the immune system is as our body’s miniature army. We are always at war with the germs around us. The things we touch, the food we eat, and the air we breathe are filled with germs we cannot see – but know that they are there.
Our immune system army keeps these germs at bay, all day and all night. Obviously, our immune system does not go undefeated. When a germ does penetrate the body, it is the job of our immune system army to seek and destroy it before it becomes a problem. The real battle begins when the germ has turned itself into an illness. This is when the immune system wages war and works overtime to get rid of any sickness you may have.
When we are born, we start with a very immature immune system. Babies are given vaccinations (vaccines are a barely-living, or dead strain of a bacteria or virus) to help strengthen their immune system (they build tolerance to the real versions of these diseases) As the years go by, our bodies develop a tolerance for each “sickness” we recover from. For example, we usually catch chicken pox only once in our lives because after the first time we have developed an immunity to it.
You cannot exactly see your immune system, but you can see it working many times throughout your life.
Sometimes, a wound can become infected if the immune system missed something. Pus and inflammation around a wound happen as the immune system works overtime to try and fight off the spread of an infection.
But, every once in a while these germs get past our immune system and we do get sick. Your immune system is the reason your body survives a cold or flu. Without it, we’d have very short life spans. People with stronger immune systems tend to get sick less often, and are able to recover from illness faster.
When a germ (the generic term for harmful virus and bacteria) finds a host (i.e, enters the body), it reproduces and spreads like wildfire. Germs have only one goal in mind, and that is to spread as quickly as possible. A single bacterium can turn itself into 2 separate bacteria in about a half-hour. Overnight, one piece of bacteria can develop into millions – which is why it does not take much to catch a cold from somebody else. Viruses work differently, but can spread just as quickly.
Infections and illnesses from germs cause things like colds, flu (influenza), mumps, measles, malaria, AIDS, and much more.
Sometimes, the immune system attacks foreign invaders that we actually want inside our body. For example, the immune system attacks “foreign” organs during an organ transplant. This is why organ transplants are much more difficult than they should be. The operation is usually easy. It is the days after a transplant that are the hard part.
Allergies are another error caused by the immune system. Some people react to fur, food, or pollens because the immune system overreacts to stimuli that others do not react to.
Obviously, the immune system is not perfect. If it were, we would never get sick. Or if we had to get sick, no one would ever die from a disease or illness.
Some people have very good immune systems, and do not get sick that often. When they do, they can recover quickly. Others have weaker immune systems, and these people suffer infections and sickness more often than average.
There are certain things everybody can do to improve their immune system, whether it is weak or strong already. This is what we will discuss in the next few articles about boosting the immune system.
If you want to learn about the technical aspects of the immune system, check out these two articles.