The immune system is our body’s defense system. The main purpose of the this system is to identify self from non-self. It identifies and defends the body from non-self proteins, viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other pathogens. Occasionally, the immune system can make a mistake and attack itself, resulting in autoimmune disorders. The immune system comprises many different cells, organs, and tissues that work together to combat infection, cellular damage and disease.
The first line of defense against outside attacks on our body is innate immunity. The innate immune system protects from physical, chemical and cellular attacks on our system. The main purpose of the innate immune response is to immediately prevent the spread and movement of foreign particles throughout our body.
The second line of defense we have is called adaptive immune response. Adaptive immunity is also referred to as acquired immunity or specific immunity and is only found in vertebrates. The adaptive immune response is specific to the attacker presented. The adaptive immune response is meant to attack non-self pathogens. Sometimes the adaptive immune system can make errors and attack itself. When this happens, autoimmune diseases can develop like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.
The idea of using the immune system to help the body fight disease has been in existence for some time; vaccines, which allow the body to remember disease-causing infiltrations, provide an excellent example. One of the main impacts on our immune system is poor nutrition. Poor overall nutrition can lead to inadequate intake of energy and the nutrients that are required for proper immune function. Impaired immune responses induced by malnutrition can increase one’s susceptibility to infection and illness. Research indicates that plant-based foods such as those high in phytonutrients, water- and lipid-soluble vitamins, and other antioxidants, as well as dietary fiber, can help manage your immune response.
Physical activity provides the movement the body needs to oxygenate, circulate blood and nutrients, and eliminate waste from cells, all of which are essential to the function of the immune system. Moderate, regular physical activity helps immune system function by raising levels of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies, increasing circulation, and decreasing stress hormones.
Another key factor in your immune age is your gut bacteria. There is good evidence that poor gut health is a cause of premature ageing and that a healthy microbiome can reduce your immune age. Eating a healthy, varied diet rich in fiber, plant matter and fermented foods can help maintain a healthy community of gut microbes.
Social relationships are a significant determinant of immune health. Older individuals may be particularly at risk for the effects of loneliness if their immune system is already compromised. Research indicates that individuals who feel this sense of interconnection, either horizontally with other people or vertically through a sense of something greater than themselves, have favorable gene expression, decreased stress, increased antibodies, and better health outcomes.
Our body has a highly evolved, intricate defense system that’s effective at keeping you well, but only if you look after it. Looking after your immune system is a no-brainer, and it’s as easy as a walk in the park.