The Immune System
The Body's Protective Force
The immune system is responsible for protecting us against billions of bacteria, viruses, toxins, free radicals and other parasites. The lymph system which is part of our immune system works closely with the blood, particularly the white blood cells, and it is responsible for dealing with waste and harmful particles. The areas of our body that come into contact with the outside environment like our skin, mucous membranes, nose, eyes, and the lining of our lungs are the body's first line of defense. If these areas are not successful, then a team of cells within the immune system go to work to protect our bodies.
Cells of the Immune System
- Phagocytes find and eat bacteria, viruses, and dead or injured body cells.
- Lymphocytes are white blood cells (T-Cells and B-Cells) that originate in the bone marrow and move to every organ in the body.
- Helper T-Cells are the drivers and coordinators of the immune system and are responsible for activating the B-Cells and killer T-Cells.
- Killer T-Cells are responsible for attacking cells in the body that are infected by viruses and possibly bacteria. It searches cells it comes in contact with and destroys the ones that are infected.
- B-Cells search for foreign substances called antigens that have triggered the immune response in the body. B-Cells divide and produce antibodies that will directly destroy antigens, neutralize toxins , and/or incapacitate viruses and keeps these invaders from infecting new cells.
- Memory Cells are produced in addition to antibodies when the B-Cells divide. Each memory cell has a long life span and remembers the biological signatures of the viruses that intruded the body. The T-Cells produce memory cells that can recognize intruders after an even longer span of time. When the same intruder tries to enter the body again, the memory cells activate quickly eliminating the invader before the body usually feels any symptoms.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is part of our immune system and it is a multifaceted network that supports the body's immune system. It consists of the following:
- Lymph Vessels are found in almost all parts of the body. These vessels are responsible for cleaning up the body by removing excess fluid, foreign particles, and other materials from the body.
- Lymph Nodes are a small bean shaped knot of lymphatic tissue and vessels. They are located in the groin, armpits, and neck area. These nodes produce and store immune cells and lymphocytes, and also serve as a clean up station. As the lymph fluid passes through the node, bacteria and invading organisms are filtered out from the lymph fluid and then destroyed. As the fluid leaves the node it picks up more immune cells to circulate throughout the body.
- Tonsils and adenoids monitor the mouth which is a primary entrance to the body. They also serve as a location to produce more lymphocytes, trap germs, take care of local infection and kill bacteria that enter the mouth.
- The Spleen is about the size of a fist and is located under the left side of the rib cage. It is a main filter of the blood and is responsible for cleaning the blood by removing old worn out red blood cells and abnormal cells. The spleen also removes microbes and debris from the bloodstream and stores and produces lymphocytes which then produce antibodies.
- The Thymus is located just behind the sternum and shrinks when we age. In our early years it is larger because it programs the way our body's will resist infection. It also produces B-cells, T-cells and contains many lymphocyte's. It also offers an area for T-Cells to mature.
Threats to our Immune System
- Bacteria are complete organisms that reproduce by cell division. The majority of bacteria can exist independently, however some live in or on other organisms such as humans. Many bacteria that live off our bodies produce toxins that damage us. However, not all bacteria is harmful. Some bacteria is desirable to the body and performs important functions throughout our bodies.
- Viruses need a host cell to survive. Viruses can not reproduce on their own, so they take over control of the cells and mislead those cells into propagating new viruses that can then occupy other cells. During this process, the host cell will often be destroyed.
- Toxins and free radicals. A toxin is any substance or agent that causes an abnormal reaction in the body. Common types of toxins are chemicals, cleaning agents, mold, pollutants and pesticides. Toxins cause free radical damage and toxins promote many of the diseases we face today. Free radicals steal an electron from a cell which disrupts the cell and makes it unstable. This results in a chain reaction that moves from cell to cell. Free radicals are capable of damaging DNA and suppressing the body's immune system. Immune cells, T-cells, and natural killer cells are susceptible which can then suppress their activity. Many diseases have been traced to toxic overload.
Avoiding Toxic Overload
Four simple things you can do to reduce your body's exposure to toxins.
- Reduce the amount of pre-packaged meals and processed foods you eat. These types of food contain preservatives and chemical additives
- Eat organic produce. If you can't eat organic produce, thoroughly clean your fruits and vegetables to make sure you remove pesticides that have been applied.
- Drink filtered water.
- Use natural cosmetics, creams, and household cleaners and avoid artificial fragrances.
What we do affects our immune system
Our bodies and our immune systems are influenced by the choices we make. The following areas have a very large influence on our immune system.
- Stress has been defined as any type of change that causes a physical, emotional, or psychological strain. There are numerous studies that highlight the negative impact of stress upon the immune system. Researches have said that even small amounts of day to day stress can confuse your immune system which can cause it to turn on itself.
- Food Choices are crucial to our immune system and are the most important factor in immune system health. If you do not eat nutritious balanced meals it can seriously weaken your immune system. In addition, a good diet gives you more energy, mental clarity, more stamina, and improved attitude.
- Sleep studies have shown that adults need an average of 8 hours of sleep each night. Most people do not get that much sleep and the lack of sleep impacts our sleep cycle. During our sleep cycle our bodies produce melatonin and pro lactic. These two hormones promote the production of immune cells which help to clean up viruses, bacteria and microbes. Without the proper sleep cycle, our bodies do not produce these hormones.
- Water is the largest compound found in the body. Fifty to sixty percent of our body weight is made up of water. Our lymphatic system is where our bodies store excess fluid. According to the Mayo Clinic every system in our body depends on water. Water flushes out toxins and helps carry nutrients to our cells.
- Mental Attitude is believed by many health practitioners to have a direct connection to the body. Our thoughts and attitudes influence our bodies performance, especially our immune systems. With today's technologies, neuroscience can now track the sequence of reactions through which harmful thoughts unleash destruction among the body. Worry, anxiety, fear and anger create the strongest responses.
- Exercise is needed for the lymphatic system to move since its movement depends on an osmotic pressure. The lymphatic fluid is only active if we are active.
Dealing with chronic pain for over 16 years and not always making good choices, I can attest to the fact that the choices we make do directly affect us. We are what we eat, think, say and do! A friend of mine who was fighting Hodgkin's Lymphoma, wore an embroidered hat that said "Attitude is Everything". Without a healthy attitude we won't have a healthy body. The more we are aware of how things affect us, the more control we will have.