Your immune system is comprised of numerous smaller systems which combine to defend the body against disease. This system’s aim is to kill or block sexually transmitted pathogens, airborne viruses, and ingested toxins or bacteria. It also attempts to safeguard the body against tumors and other invaders.
Defending the Realm
Imagine your body as a castle with several gates. Each one is defended by a knight of the realm: fine hairs in your nose blocking bacteria; mucus in the vagina suffocating them; acid in the stomach dissolving bugs; or white blood cells attacking disease. If the system is well structured, those knights can stand firm against invaders, but chinks in their armor let a few hostile parties get through.
Exposure and Immunity
At this point, if only a small amount of bacteria or pathogen is released into the bloodstream, an immune system response is mounted right away in order to assimilate the intruder in order to defend against future attacks. That’s why, when a mother announces that her child has chicken pox, her friends bring their children to play with the infected youth.
If they all develop chicken pox in their early years, these children can fend off the disease in later life. Vaccinations work in the same way: expose the immune system to a little bit of flu or measles and the body will naturally attack marauding flu or measles viruses later on.
Vaccinating before visiting an exotic country with foreign germs like malaria is especially important. The usual North American has never been exposed and has not developed natural immunity to these diseases.
Recognizing the Response
How do you know your body is doing its job? When you come down with flu, fever shows your body’s core temperature has risen and is fighting the disease. Sneezing and coughing expel germs. In the case of food poisoning, diarrhea and vomiting are signs of your body getting rid of pathogens. Swelling around an infected wound shows that blood cells are concentrated around the area in order to kill the infection. That is why the spot feels hot, itchy, and heavy. Sometimes the response seems like overkill in which case you might be allergic to something: dust, a wasp’s sting, strawberries, or peanuts.
Risks to Immunity
Youngsters in kindergarten are sick every second week, but by grade 2 they have suffered through so many colds their immunity is stronger and their bodies attack bugs more efficiently. Children and adults who spend too little time away from people are at risk of suffering worst when they are exposed to germs because they have not built up immunity. They also feel alone and depressed which makes the situation worse.
A nutrient-poor diet puts you at risk as well. The immune system is strengthened by the foods you eat, especially vitamins C and E. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits, varying the colors, and keep junk food to a minimum. Get plenty of rest and keep your body weight under control through regular exercise. The more balanced your system is, the stronger you are overall and the more effectively you fight disease. Reduce stress and rest your mind every day.
Diseases that Fight the Body
Inherent diseases — those which are caused by genetics — can also interfere with your body’s natural defense system. You might not have enough white blood cells. Your system might turn on itself and attack healthy cells. Autoimmune diseases are rampant in American society. Scientists now believe that Diabetes Type 1 is an autoimmune disease.
What if the disease is a tumor which appears to grow from the body itself regardless of one’s immune system? Genes are responsible for many cancers. Environmental factors play a role. So do nutrition and fitness.
The body is able to defend against cancerous cells with a diet rich in antioxidants such as fruit, especially berries, plus green tea and Vitamin C. While these foods don’t guarantee a positive outcome, antioxidants fight free radicals which develop into tumors. They do this constantly and silently, so there’s no way to know how many free radicals were slain by a healthy immune response.