Jan 11 2015

Thank goodness for our Immune System – Part 1

Published by at 11:41 am under Immune System

The world is a dangerous place….
thank goodness for our immune system.

 

At every turn, there are millions of pathogens and bacteria just waiting to attack. Thankfully, we have our immune system to protect us! This complex, two part system is our body’s armored wall of defense that stands ready to combat and prevent invasion from harmful pathogens, viruses,  fungi and other disease causing microbes.

The body’s immune system is divided into two parts. The first part are the defenses with which you are born. This is your innate immune system. Found in many different places around the body it includes your skin, body cavities lined with mucous membranes, and bodily fluids. The second part of the immune system, the part that gives you immunity, involves the activation of lymphocytes.(which we will delve into a little later.)2

“…There are two main parts of the immune system: the innate and the adaptive immune system.The evolutionary older innate immune system provides a general defense against pathogens, so it is also called the nonspecific immune system. It works mostly at the level of immune cells like “scavenger cells” or “killer cells”. These cells mostly fight against bacterial infections….”3

“…In the adaptive immune system, particular agents like the so-called antibodies target very specific pathogens that the body has already had contact with. That is why this is also called a learned defense or a specific immune response. By constantly adapting and learning the body can also fight against bacteria or viruses that change over time. Yet these two immune systems do not work independently of each other. They complement each other in any reaction to a pathogen or harmful substance, and are closely connected with each other.”3

The first line of defense of your innate immune system is your skin. With its water resistant barrier, it prevents pathogens from entering the body. Secondly, body cavities such as the nose and mouth are lined with mucous membranes which trap bacteria and other pathogens with sticky mucus. Other fluids produced by the body work to defend against pathogens as well. Saliva washes pathogens off your teeth, and reduces the amount of bacteria and pathogens in your mouth, while gastric juice in the stomach helps to protect internal layers of the body from invasion.

If pathogens get through these initial defenses, they then encounter a second line of defense, mainly present in the blood, either in the form of white blood cells or as chemicals released by your cells and tissues. The second part of the immune system is known as immunity. Your immunity develops as you grow and protects against specific pathogens. It recognizes and memorizes particular pathogens which means that when you encounter a certain pathogen twice, your immune system recognizes it the second time around and usually responds more quickly to fight off the infection. This part of your immune system that gives you immunity, involves the activation of lymphocytes which are found in your blood and in specialized lymph tissue such as lymph nodes, the spleen and thymus.

The tasks of the immune system are:

  • Neutralizing invading pathogens such as parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi and removing them from the body
  • Identifying and neutralizing harmful substances from the environment
  • Fighting against the body’s own cells that have changed due to an illness (such as cancer cells)4

Next week we will continue this discussion on the immune system and go into more detail about how the immune system works to keep us healthy, including what happens when pathogens manage to penetrate the initial line of defense or our innate immune system, and enter the blood stream.

Until then,

Healthiest Wishes!

Kelli

 

  1. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/immunesystem/Pages/default.aspx
  2. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/the-immune-system
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0010386/

 

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