What is the immune system?
The immune system is an extremely complex and interconnected system. It works to fight infections, disease, and assists in the repair of injury. It is made up of a complex system of tissue, cells, and organs throughout the body.
There are two parts of the immune system which I’ll describe in this article: the innate system and the adaptive system. Having a readily available supply of nutrients is vital to the immune system, so your daily nutrition intake plays a huge part on the effectiveness of your immune response to the constant barrage of potential infections we encounter all day every day.
I will keep this article fairly high level, but if you want more detail check out the reference links at the end.
The innate immune system
The innate immune system is our first-line army which works to protect us from foreign invaders. It acts immediately when an intruder is detected. Unlike the adaptive immune system it treats all invaders the same way every time they are encountered, and a byproduct of this response is inflammation.
Since this is our first-line defense system, it’s vitally important that it works well. There are many ways this can be enhanced, but nutrition and preventing constant “overuse” of the workers is key to a healthy immune system that’s ready to tackle infection when it strikes. You can’t “prevent” infection, but with a strong healthy body and immune system you might never know you had been fighting something off!
Examples of the innate immune system
- Physical: The skin for protection from exposure to environmental sources, and mucus linings of the nose and throat.
- Chemical: Acidic properties of the stomach.
- Biological: Gut microbiome which manages the bacteria in the gut. There are good and bad bacteria which must be kept in proper balanced proportions to keep us healthy and able to extract the nutrients from our food.
The adaptive immune system
The adaptive immune system, also known as the acquired immune system, has knowledge of specific invaders and knows how to deal with them from previous exposure. It also learns new forms of threats from exposure, but this takes days or weeks, and while this work is in progress the innate immune system is still the first-line defense against these invaders until the adaptive immune system knows how to and starts to deal with the new threat. In short, the healthier you are and when you have an adequate supply of nutrients, the faster you will respond and start to fight an infection.
Fuel for the immune system
Generally with most things you can only get out what you put in. The immune system is no different.
This is why you have to maintain a healthy lifestyle with a good whole food balanced diet rich in nutrients and vitamins. The whole spectrum of nutrients is needed, but at a minimum vitamins A, C and D are high in demand when you are fighting intruders.
How can we assist our immune system so it’s ready to fight off the constant barrage of intruders?
Healthy whole food nutrition, appropriate exercise and recovery, and stress management are factors which heavily influence our general well being.
I will be writing a number of articles covering all of these topics. I started with the immune system because everything is interconnected and what we do and what we are exposed to influence how we feel and ultimately how we react to foreign invaders. The effects of what we eat and how we live our lives have a major influence on health.
There’s a balance of dependencies between nutrition, exercise, how we perceive life, and how this affects our long term health. For a while someone can get away with tipping this fine balance, but eventually it catches up and the result is usually not good.