6 Incredible Facts About How the Immune System Works
The immune system has a vital role in protecting your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make you ill. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins. The immune system is the body’s defence against infections. The immune system attacks germs and helps keeping us healthy.
Previously, we have discussed how to boost your immune system in only 48 hours. In this article, we are going to tell you these 6 incredible facts about how the immune system works!
1. The immune system saves our lives every day
The immune system works as a complex network of tissues and organs that spreads throughout the entire body. In a nutshell, it works like this: A series of “sensors” within the system detects an intruding pathogen, like bacteria or a virus. Then the sensors signal other parts of the system to kill the pathogen and eliminate the infection.
“The immune system is being bombarded by all sorts of microbes all the time,” Russell Vance, professor of immunology at University of California, Berkeley and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, tells Mental Floss. “Yet, even though we’re not aware of it, it’s saving our lives every day, and doing a remarkably good job of it.”
After they’re made, antibodies usually stay in our bodies in case we have to fight the same germ again. That’s why someone who gets sick with a disease, like chickenpox, usually won’t get sick from it again.
Although antibodies can recognize an antigen and lock onto it, they can’t destroy it without help. That’s the job of the T cells. They destroy antigens tagged by antibodies or cells that are infected or somehow changed.
2. Specialized blood cells are the immune system’s greatest weapon
The most powerful weapons in your immune system’s arsenal are white blood cells, divided into two main types: lymphocytes, which create antigens for specific pathogens and kill them or escort them out of the body; and phagocytes, which ingest harmful bacteria.
White blood cells not only attack foreign pathogens, but recognize these interlopers the next time they meet them and respond more quickly. Many of these immune cells are produced in your bone marrow but also in the spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus, and are stored in some of these tissues and other areas of the body.
In the lymph nodes, which are located throughout your body but most noticeably in your armpits, throat, and groin, lymphatic fluid containing white blood cells flows through vein-like tubules to escort foreign invaders out.
3. Disease symptoms are sometimes the result of your immune system doing its job
You often hear that bacteria, viruses and fungi are the cause of disease symptoms, but this is technically incorrect. Disease symptoms sometimes occur because your immune system is reacting to the microorganisms.
For example, having a fever and inflammation can be unpleasant, but they’re signs that your body is doing its job. Fever releases white blood cells, increases metabolism, and stops certain organisms from multiplying.
Inflammation occurs when each damaged cell releases histamines. The histamines cause the cell walls to dilate. This creates the redness, heat, pain, and swelling of inflammation. As a result, your body limits the effects of the irritant.
4. Gut bacteria are the key to a healthy immune system
The human body is home to trillions of bacteria, which outnumber our own cells 10 to 1. In the gastrointestinal tract, these microbes are often beneficial, helping with digestion and synthesizing vitamins B and K. But research has also shown that our gut bacteria help our immune system and keep us healthy in various ways.
For example, the beneficial bacteria prevent pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria from taking root in our epithelial and mucosal tissues. And these commensal bacteria also train the immune system to better distinguish between disease-causing pathogens and harmless antigens, which may help prevent the development of allergies.
Similarly, the “good” bacteria may influence the immune system’s sensitivity to antigens, potentially helping to prevent autoimmune diseases, conditions in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.
The bacteria also produce useful antibodies and trigger the expression of intestinal proteins, which cause the immune system to repair internal injuries.
5. Some sun is good for your immune system
Your body naturally produces vitamin D by exposure to sunlight. This helps ward off an array of bad things like depression, heart disease, and certain cancers. It’s even good for people with autoimmune disorders. A research suggests vitamin D might induce the production of anti-microbial peptides in the skin — these compounds help defend the body against new infections.
A fair-skinned person only needs about 10 minutes on a sunny day to get all the vitamin D they need. However, too much sun can cause temporary damage to your immune system and eventually lead to skin cancer due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Remember some sun is good, but you need to protect your skin when you plan to spend time outside.
6. Lack of sleep weakens your immune system
Research over the past few decades consistently shows that sleep deprivation depresses the immune system’s disease-fighting abilities, such as by decreasing the proliferation of cells called T-cells. Even a single night of poor sleep can impair the immune system by reducing the number of natural killer cells.
What’s more, a 2012 study in the journal SLEEP suggested that vaccines may even be less effective for people who sleep less than six hours a night, compared with people who get a full night’s rest, possibly because the loss of sleep leads to a dampened immune system response.
If you’re not getting more than five hours of sleep a night, your immune system can become depressed, just like you. This leaves you open to colds, flu, and infection.
Our immune system is an incredible component of our body works as the key to fight diseases and keep us healthy. Let us start building a healthy immune system to keep us strong.
Watch the following video to learn more about how the immune system works:
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- How does the immune system work? – NCBI
- Immune System – Nemours KidsHealth
- Fun Facts About the Immune System – Healthline
- 11 Surprising Facts About the Immune System – Live Science
- 12 Fantastic Facts About the Immune System – Mental Floss