Immune system - Our defense mechanism to fight against invisible invaders!

Date: 05/02/2020


Health Stream | Health Talk

By K Patel, MD, MPH

 

Our immune system is the defense mechanism by which we protect ourselves from various harmful infections caused by numerous organisms. There are two types of immunity – the one we are born with (innate immunity) and the one that we create as we get exposed to an organism or vaccine (adaptive immunity).

Source: National Institute of Health

Innate immunity consists of skin barrier, various cells and enzymes that are ready to fight against invading organism right away without any delay. It also includes defense mechanisms by which some of the friendly organisms that we carry (microbiome) help us in defending ourselves from harmful organisms!

Adaptive immunity is the antibody response we generate after our body is exposed to an antigen (part of the invading organism). This is also the mechanism by which we generate antibody response to a vaccine which is designed to stimulate our immune system without causing actual infection from that pathogen. It’s a fascinating function which is vital for existence of our species!

Having said that, there are several factors that weaken our immune system while others that make it stronger.

What makes our immune system weaker?

Antibody deficiencies and cell dysfunctions due to genetic malfunction

Aging

Stress

Excessive alcohol use

Medical conditions like diabetes, liver failure (cirrhosis), kidney failure

Malnutrition

Removal of spleen

HIV infection

Cancers

Autoimmune conditions (like rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease)

Medications that weaken the immune system (like chemotherapy, immunosuppressive drugs)

 

What makes our immune system stronger?

Nutrition – adequate vitamins (A, D, E, B, Folate, C), minerals (selenium, zinc, copper, iron) and proteins

Stress reduction

Regular Exercise

Staying up to date with the recommended vaccines

 

As noted above, basic healthy lifestyle and timely vaccinations are crucial to keep our immune system strong and intact.

 

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