The word ‘immune’ has been derived from the Latin word ‘immunis’, which means “untouched”. We need immune system for our survival, as it offers protection against the harmful bacteria and viruses from the environment, which are essentially pathogens like bacterium, fungus, virus, toxins etc.
The moment the body detects existence of these harmful substances, your immune system is triggered. Pathogens or foreign bodies that invoke the response of the immune system are called antigens. At times, they can also be our own body cells that have turned bad or faulty, or dead.
How does the immune system work?
For our immune system to work, our body has to detect the existence of threat. It has to be able to tell our own tissue from foreign tissue, that is, it should know the difference between self and non-self. Our body uses the white blood cells for the purpose of this identification.
White blood cells (also called leukocytes) are on constant alert at all times and when they find an intruder, they multiply and alert all other cells to do the same. There are two types of WBCs—Phagocytes and Lymphocytes.
- Phagocytes are attackers, they surround and absorb the pathogens causing them break down.
- Lymphocytes are like a memory system whose job is to remember the attackers or pathogens, and recognize them when they show up the next time. They are of two types, B and T Lymphocytes. Type B produces the antibodies to counterattack antigens and Type T destroys the damaged or compromised body cells and alerts other WBCs.
Once our body creates an antibody against an antigen, a copy of it remains in the body. This means the next time the same antigen appears, it can be dealt with in the same way as before. An example for this is chickenpox, which attacks us only once in our lifetime.
How to boost your immune system?
Though we all have different immunity levels, our immune system develops with time and becomes stronger when we approach adulthood. That’s the reason why children show a greater tendency to fall ill as opposed to adults.
General routine habits and food habits can greatly affect a person’s immunity. Following are some general tips which would help boost your immune system and therefore your immunity levels:
- Get enough sleep
- Learn to acknowledge and manage stress
- Drink and smoke less
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds
- Get plenty of Vitamin D
- Exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight
- Take precautions such as regular handwashing, maintaining bogy hygiene, etc. to avoid infections.
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