What makes up the immune system, and how do we support it?
We talk about it all the time, especially when it fails us. We see it written everywhere, especially during this pandemic. It is the great protagonist of our survival... but do you actually know what it is? You’re not alone if you don’t! Most people talk about it but have no idea where or what it really is. We’ll explain and give you ways to take better care of it.
Immune, immunological, or immunity?
You've probably even been confused by the name, too. It is the ‘immune’ system, but after widespread common usage, either term is accepted. What truly important is that the immune system is not comprised of a particular organ, one responsible for taking on the entire burden of defending the body from illness. The immune system is a complex network with two parts: the innate immune system, and adaptive immune system. Together, they fight viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins. (1)
The innate system is a response we inherit and are born with. It is responsible for producing the first line of defense against invading organisms or pathogens. It is a security guard that prevents dangerous microorganisms from entering the body, identifying and trapping them to be eliminated with the help of cells called phagocytes. (2)
The adaptive system, on the other hand, is acquired as we are exposed to microbes and their chemicals. Once our first line of defense has done its job, the adaptive system brings in the big guns to produce antibodies, cells that are responsible for responding to invaders. B lymphocytes oversee the creation of these antibodies. Once the antibody is created, the immune system is no longer unprepared. The next time it identifies invaders, it will be better able to defend the body. That is precisely the effect that vaccines have on us. It provides a small quota of invaders to activate antibodies, effectively training the body to react and eliminate larger load of pathogens more easily – such as in the case of viruses, which can lead to infection.
What makes up the immune system?
It is made up of individual cells, tissues, proteins, specialized organs, and entire organ systems, such as: (3)
- Skin, adenoids, bone marrow, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, Peyer's patches of the small intestine, spleen, thymus, and tonsils.
All these parts are interconnected and work as one team. For example, most immunity cells are created in bone marrow (4). If you feel a swollen lymph node and have no other symptoms, this could mean your body is fighting off an invader because swelling is an immunity response.
How can we keep the immune system strong?
The immune system changes throughout our lives, strengthening or weakening. Autoimmune diseases, mostly related to chronic inflammation, can attack. Poor lifestyle also plays an important role, subjecting the immune system to excesses like smoking, bad diet, lack of exercise, and other toxins. Hence the importance of doing everything we can to support it.
Most research shows that an optimal immune response has a lot to do with nutrition (5). Having an adequate protein intake is critical to producing antibodies. A good level of micronutrients, such as vitamin A or zinc, help reduce the risk of infection, inflammation, and oxidative stress, which negatively impact our defenses.
Vitamins like vitamin C and E, and phytochemicals such as carotenoids and polyphenols, provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.
Vitamin D can help slow down viral cell infection.
Dietary fiber is also essential to immunity support because, when fermented with intestinal microbiota and short-chain fatty acids, it produces anti-inflammatory effects.
Probiotics activate T-cells and modulate intestinal microbiota, decreasing pathogens among other benefits. (6)
Ginseng is a supplement been shown in various studies to support and regulate the immune system by strengthening all types of immune cells, including T- and B-cells. Ginseng can also help control inflammatory diseases and microbial infections. (7)
Most importantly, remember that your immune system is a network of interconnected parts, where every piece is important and taking care of them is your job.
Let's get healthier together.
Your Santo Remedio Team
1. How does the immune system work? Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Last Update: April 23, 2020; Next update: 2023 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/
2. David D. Chaplin, Overview of the Immune Response. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb; 125(2 Suppl 2): S3–23. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.12.980. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923430/
3. What are the organs of the immune system? Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Last Update: July 30, 2020; Next update: 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279395/
4. Lindsay B. Nicholson. The immune system. Essays Biochem. 2016 Oct 31; 60(3): 275–301. Published online 2016 Oct 26. doi: 10.1042/EBC20160017. PMCID: PMC5091071. PMID: 27784777 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5091071/
5. Mohammed Iddir , Alex Brito , Giulia Dingeo , Sofia Sosa Fernandez Del Campo , Hanen Samouda, Michael R La Frano, Torsten Bohn. Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32471251/
6. Carolina Maldonado Galdeano, Silvia Inés Cazorla , José María Lemme Dumit, Eva Vélez, Gabriela Perdigón Beneficial Effects of Probiotic Consumption on the Immune System. Review Ann Nutr Metab. 2019;74(2):115-124. doi: 10.1159/000496426. Epub 2019 Jan 23. PMID: 30673668 DOI: 10.1159/000496426. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30673668/
7. Soowon Kang and Hyeyoung Min*. Ginseng, the 'Immunity Boost': The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System. J Ginseng Res. 2012 Oct; 36(4): 354–368. doi: 10.5142/jgr.2012.36.4.354. PMCID: PMC3659612. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3659612/
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