Immune system improvement

Essential to the functioning of the body, our immune system works to defend us from invading pathogens, parasites, viruses and indeed, any bacteria that can cause us harm.

A constantly evolving defence mechanism, our immune system reacts to recognise and counter ever-evolving bacteria. It learns how to deal with viruses that we’ve encountered before and adapts to fight new ones. Like any mechanism in our body, there are diseases and disorders that can affect how well these vital processes function.

How our Immune system responds

A properly functioning immune system will respond to invading pathogens and bacteria with inflammation. This swelling reaction to infection or injury is a mechanism that protects the affected area. Inflammation causes blood cells and specifically virus and bacteria fighting white blood cells to congregate. Molecules called eicosanoids and cytokines cause the inflammation, triggered by cells signalling damage. Anti-viral agents and other bacteria fighting mechanisms are also activated by these two signalling molecules.

Common Immune System disorders

Characterised by underactive and overactive immune system activity, most disorders fall into these two categories.

Overreaction from the immune system results in symptoms from everyday particles, e.g. certain foods, pets or pollen. This is also known as hypersensitivity or an allergy. As a substance called histamine is produced by the body when an allergen is sensed, antihistamines are commonly prescribed medication for this reaction. Ranging to anything from sneezing, to skin rashes, to respiratory problems, and in the case of say a peanut allergy, swelling of the throat and airways, allergies are relatively common.

Asthma is another widespread disorder that occurs in the airways to the lungs. Inflammation is the first reaction of the body in the primary instances of immunological response. In this case, the inflammation causes the airways to become constricted often causing shortness of breath.

Autoimmune disorders deficiency diseases

Autoimmune diseases are types of diseases are caused by many, sometimes unknown factors. Antibodies actually attack the body’s own healthy tissue as opposed to invading pathogens.

A few well known autoimmune diseases are: Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Graves’ disease, IBD – inflammatory bowel disease, MS - multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Immune deficiency diseases are contracted through illness and having a weakened immune system, through aging, genetically, or from medication that suppresses the immune system response – usually administered to counter autoimmune diseases.  HIV/AIDS is probably the most well known immune deficiency disease.

Looking after your Immune System

To help our immune systems’ work to their best, a good, balanced diet should be maintained throughout the year. Regular exercise, plenty of sleep and detoxifying occasionally all help. In terms of daily hygiene practice, washing hands regularly – especially before and after eating food, avoiding cross-contamination whilst preparing food, i.e. raw meat chopped on the same board as fresh vegetables without washing in between are all simple measures we can take to keep infection down and our immune systems bolstered.

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