The immune system is designed to recognize foreign invaders in our body. It is like a defence system and that is the reason we cough and sneeze when foreign substances enter our body. This system is an automated mechanisms in your body that help keep you alive and healthy. It protects our body against diseases, infections, and helps you recover after an injury.
Dr. Stephen Sherwin, Director of clinical research at Genentech, Inc., adds his tribute: “It’s an incredible system. It recognizes the molecules that have never been in the body before. It can differentiate between what belongs there and what doesn’t.” And if it doesn’t, it’s war!
What is Acquired Immunity?
Your immune system gets stronger throughout your life as your body is exposed to more germs. This is called Acquired Immunity. It can come from:
- a vaccine
- exposure to an infection or disease
- another person’s antibodies (infection-fighting immune cells)
When germs enter your body from a vaccine or a disease, your body learns to target those germs by making new antibodies. Acquired immunity is different from innate immunity, which you are born with. Your innate immune system doesn’t fight specific germs. Instead, it protects against all germs, like bacteria and viruses, by trying to keep them from entering your body. Your innate immune system includes things such as:
- your cough reflexes
- stomach acid
- your skin and its enzymes
Therefore, Acquired Immunity helps your immune system to get stronger. And the stronger your immune system is, the less likely you are to get sick. When your immune system is exposed to germs, it learns to recognize it. This can make your immune system better equipped to fight off that type of germ the next time you’re exposed to it. You can build your acquired immunity by getting recommended vaccinations.
How does our immune system know what belongs there and what doesn’t?
A special protein molecule called Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is usually on the surface of every cell in our body. It tells the immune system that this cell is a friend, a part of us or a foreign body. This system thereby recognizes our own cells and accepts them but attacks any cells displaying different molecules on their surfaces—and all cells not ours do display surface molecules different from ours. So it is by means of these surface molecules that our immune system recognizes each cell as “us” or “them,” as self or nonself.
How does your immune system fight diseases?
If a deadly virus or any foreign invader enters the body for the first time, it may take your immune system a few days to destroy it. First, the right lymphocyte (a special type of white blood cell) must be found. The body has millions of lymphocytes to choose from; each one is capable of making a single kind of weapon that will match a particular virus. Once the right lymphocyte has been found, it reproduces wildly. In a few days the bloodstream is full of these warriors that either stick onto the enemy and destroy it or produce antibodies that inactivate the enemy and mark it for destruction. Your immune system has the following remarkable ability:
- Once the right weapon has been found, it remembers it. This means that antibodies can quickly be made in the event of a future invasion by the same type of microbe.
- Vaccinations causes the immune system to produce antibodies against the disease a person has never had before (Eg. Polio).
- Vaccination helps people to acquire immunity from some diseases, while some defy man’s efforts to bring them under control.
The science textbook Elements of Microbiology explains “A person who has recovered from a childhood disease, such as measles, mumps, or chickenpox, is usually not at risk to a second attack of this disease”
Can your Genes regulate your Immune Response?
Genes modulate your immune response which is your body’s mechanism to fight against foreign invaders. The carriers of genetic variant means that you are at risk to severe infections caused by bacteria and viruses (e.g. coronavirus). Genetics affects your overall risk for infections such as COVID-19, caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus.
What can help to boost the immune system?
- Inadequate or poor-quality sleep may increase your risk of getting sick. The average time of sleep for adults should be at least and not less than 7 hours per night.
- Several whole plant foods contain antioxidants, fibre, and vitamin C all of which may lower the risk of sickness.
- Healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3s are highly anti-inflammatory. Since chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system, these fats may naturally fight sicknesses.
- Moderate exercise can promote the healthy turnover of immune cells. Exercises like jogging, biking, walking, swimming, and hiking are great options.
- Dehydration can increase the risk of getting sickness, so drinking plenty of water each day is advisable.
However, the following supplements may strengthen your body’s immune response:
- Vitamin C per day reduces the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children
- Vitamin D helps people who have a deficiency but it does not provide extra benefits for people who already have adequate levels.
- Garlic reduces the incidence of the common cold by about 30%. However, more research is needed.
What can we do to keep your immune system strong?
Your immune system works hard to protect you every day, but there are things you can do to help it out:
- Get a good night’s sleep. Your body can’t function correctly if you aren’t sleeping well. Besides, researchers say getting good sleep can strengthen your immunity.
- Laughter helps your immune system because it releases a substance called dopamine in the brain. Twenty minutes of laughter a day may help you to strengthen your immune system.
- Practice good hygiene. Washing your hands regularly can prevent infections.
- Balanced diet and plenty of exercise will help you to strengthen your immune system and help your body fight infections.
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