Jan 18 2015

The Amazing Immune System…Part 2

Published by at 9:35 am under Immune System

The Amazing Immune System…how it works

(Part two in our three part series)

The body’s immune system is an amazing machine….a complex system only second in complexity to the nervous system.2 Last week we talked about what the immune system  is. This week, I’d like to delve in to how it works. We get sick…we get well. A cold comes on, and our body fights it off. We don’t give it much thought when things are working as they should. But when our immune system is compromised and introduced to harmful pathogens, illness can occur and this complex group of cells, organs and proteins collaborate to form alliances against just about any pathogen.

If a pathogen crosses the first line of defense, or the innate immune system, it then encounters a second line of defense. Most of these second line defenses are present in your blood, either as specialized white blood cells or as chemicals released by your cells and tissues. The second part of the immune response, the part that gives you immunity, involves the activation of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are found in your blood and also in specialized lymph tissue, such as lymph nodes, the spleen and the thymus.1

If pathogens manage to get through your first line of defense, they encounter special white blood cells present in your bloodstream. White blood cells move through the bloodstream and respond to various infections caused by bacteria, viruses or other pathogens. “…Neutrophils engulf bacteria and destroy them with special chemicals. Eosinophils and monocytes also work by swallowing up foreign particles in the body. Basophils help to intensify inflammation (swelling)…”1

Another important part of your immune response is inflammation. When inflammation occurs, chemicals are released which help direct specialized white blood cells to the site of the injury and attract neutrophils and monocytes to help defend against bacterial infection at the site of the injury.

Lymphocytes have a variety of different functions, including attacking viruses and other pathogens, making antibodies which help kill bacteria. They are divided into T cells and B cells. “…Bone marrow is the tissue found within the internal cavity of bones. It contains stem cells, which create B and T cells. B cells mature in the bone marrow whereas T cells mature in the thymus. These are the cells responsible for developing immunity to particular types of bacteria and virus…”1

B cells and T cells work in different ways. B cells produce antibodies, a special type of protein which attacks antigens. Antigens identify molecules as being foreign and are found on the surface of bacteria. “…One of the most amazing features of the immune system is that B cells can recognize millions of different antigens. B cells can recognize antigens that have never entered the body before and even man-made molecules that don’t exist in nature…”1

“…When a foreign body enters the body, B cells recognize it, binding to the antigen on its surface. This activates the B cell which then changes into a plasma cell. The plasma cell makes antibodies specific to that antigen. Antibodies can immobilize bacteria, encourage other cells to “eat” the pathogen, and activate other immune defenses. While some B cells become plasma cells, others don’t. These cells live on as memory B cells that respond more vigorously should the same antigen invade the body again….”1

T cells also adhere to antigens, but require a second signal to activate. But once activated, they get bigger and divide, targeting invaders and releasing chemicals to destroy pathogens.1

There are approximately 600 lymph nodes throughout the body, which are one of the components of the lymphatic system, a major part of the body’s defense against infection. “…Lymph nodes are a filter for the lymph which flows  through the vessels. They contain B and T cells which recognize bacteria and pathogens which have entered the lymph via the bloodstream. When foreign material is detected, other dedicated immune cells are recruited to the node to deal with the infection. This helps to prevent the infection from spreading throughout the body.”1 When you get sick and your tonsils or lymph nodes swell, that is your body’s natural response to fight off infection.

The thymus, an important part of the lymphatic system, teaches white blood cells to recognize our own cells. “…In order for the immune system to function properly, white blood cells must be able to discriminate between invading pathogens and the body’s own cells. After T cells are produced in the bone marrow, they migrate to the thymus. Here they are educated by the thymus to stop them from attacking our own cells….”1

Lastly, the spleen is the largest single mass of lymphatic tissue in the body and helps to filter the blood.

So next time you get sick and you wonder how your immune system is responding to infection, you can think about this miraculous machinery that is working to protect and heal you. No wonder it is so important to keep this vital system strong and healthy. With 80% of your immune system originating in your gut, BODY BIOTICS™ SBO Prebiotic/Probiotic Consortia™ can play an important part in building your immune system and keeping it healthy. Next week we will go over the importance of improving the health of your gut and how this can improve the health of your immune system.

Until then,

Healthiest wishes,

 Kelli

 

Resources:

  1. www.patient.co.uk/health/the_immune_system
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0010386/

 

 

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