BUT FIRST, WHAT IS IMMUNITY?
We are now in mid-fall and with it comes the rise of colds, the flu, and other respiratory issues. Many people, including me, are wondering if we are doing enough to keep ourselves and our families protected. We've all heard about different ways to prevent severe illness from these viruses like washing our hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing but what about boosting your immune system?
While the rest of the preventative measures seem straight-forward enough, immunity boosting isn't so clear. I've been looking into this for a while, trying to understand immunity boosting from both a holistic and modern western medical perspective. I have a little more clarity now, but I'm still far from an expert - or even a novice on the subject. I just want to share with you what I've learned.
First, what is an immune system, exactly?
The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and the substances they make that helps the body to fight infections and other diseases." Our immune system works to recognize and identify an infection or injury in the body. It responds to specific information with the goal of restoring our bodies to normal function. The immune system includes white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system, such as the thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and bone marrow.
The immune system protects us from things like harmful bacteria which could reproduce in our bodies and release toxins that can damage the body's tissues and make us feel sick. Harmful bacteria are called pathogenic bacteria because they cause diseases and illnesses, such as: strep throat, staph infection. - https://www.healthline.com/health/bacteria
But sometimes our immune system is wrong, like with food allergies: they're caused by your immune system releasing a number of chemicals to attack harmless proteins in certain foods that it sees as a threat.
Now we know that the immune system is a response system and that it causes things to happen within our bodies to protect us from what it deems as a threat. Another name for these threats is "antigens". Our immune systems job is to detect and destroy substances that contain antigens. What does that response look like, though?
What does that response look like, though?
Before we can get into what the immune response looks like in action, it's important to understand that there are different categories for immune responses. That's innate immunity, adaptive immunity, and passive immunity. Innate immunity is born what we are born with; it's our natural immunity, a type of general protection. For example, the skin acts as a barrier to block germs from entering the body. And the immune system recognizes when certain invaders are foreign and could be dangerous. Adaptive (or active) immunity: develops throughout our lives. Passive immunity is "borrowed" from another source and it lasts for a short time, babies borrow immunity from their mothers. That immunity begins to wane after about 6 months.
An innate immune response may include coughing, watery eyes (enzymes in tears and skin oils), upset stomach, and mucus, which traps bacteria and small particles. Adaptive immune response is the second line of defense against an antigen that gets past the innate immune response of coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes. Unlike innate immune responses, the adaptive responses are highly specific to the particular pathogen that induced them. They can also provide long-lasting protection. A person who recovers from measles, for example, is protected for life against measles by the adaptive immune system, although not against other common viruses, such as those that cause mumps or chickenpox.
It seems all that coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes that comes with a cold is a good thing, so why do all the medicines we take seem to advertise suppressing our natural immune response?