Over the past few decades, the word immune has gotten into the public eye rapidly. To be precise, since the emergence of COVID-19, terms like ‘how to boost your immunity or ‘strong immunity for better recovery’ are the most repetitive phrases that we all have come across. So let’s get into the details and know what immunity is.
What is immunity?
The body can defend itself against trouble and disease-causing organisms. Every day, our body comes in contact with several pathogens, but only a few lead to the disease condition. It’s because our body releases antibodies against these pathogens and protects the body against these conditions. This defence mechanism is termed immunity. It is the state of protection from infectious disease which has both a less specific (INNATE) and a more specific (ADAPTIVE) component.
1. What is natural / innate / non-specific immunity?
This kind of immunity is present from the birth of an organism and when the pathogen attacks, this is immediately activated. Specific barriers and defence mechanisms are built into innate immunity to keep foreign particles out of the body. The body’s defence system is referred to as innate immunity. It is a type of long-term immunity in which our bodies create their own antibodies. This immunity aids us by supplying natural resistance components such as salivary enzymes, natural killer cells, healthy skin, and neutrophils, among others. These generate an early response to illnesses before exposure to a pathogen or antigens at birth.
2. What is acquired/ adaptive/ specific immunity?
Our bodies develop or gain immunity over time. This type of immunity is not present at birth, unlike innate immunity. Acquired immunity refers to the immune system’s ability to adapt to sickness and create pathogen-specific immunity. It is specific as antibodies or lymphocytes mediate it, rendering the antigen harmless. The primary purpose of acquired immunity is to provide relief to the infectious disease victim while preventing future attacks. It comprises a sophisticated lymphatic defence system that recognizes and did not react to its own body cells.
What are antigens?
Antigens are toxic or foreign chemicals. These compounds might be germs that include species of bacteria and viruses. The immune system detects an antigen, and it responds by attacking it. This process is called an immunological reaction.
What is the role of Antibodies?
Antibodies are produced as part of this response. Antibodies are proteins that target, weaken and kill antigens. To combat the antigen, the body produces more cells. The immune system recognizes the antigen when it comes inside the organism’s system again because it has its stored memory.
How does the immune system work?
The first step in the immune response is sensing danger. Specialized cells called antigen-presenting cells (APCs) detect foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses, which are called antigens. APCs take up these antigens, which are then displayed on their surface where they can be recognized by T-cells (part of our adaptive immune response). T-cells bind to APCs via specialized receptors called major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules on their surface. This binding activates T-cells that then multiply rapidly and divide into two types: cytotoxic T-lymphocytes and helper T-lymphocytes. Cytotoxic T-lymphocytes kill infected cells by releasing chemicals that break down cell membranes. Helper T-lymphocytes activate other immune responses by secreting cytokines which stimulate other immune cells to fight infection. These include B lymphocytes which produce antibodies against specific pathogens or antigens; and phagocytic cells such as macrophages and dendritic cells which engulf foreign matter and present it to other immune cells for the attack.
How to increase your immunity?
The immune system is a system rather than a single entity and requires balance and harmony to work properly. Choosing a healthy lifestyle is the first shield of protection and the first line of defence. The best measure you can take to naturally keep your immune system strong is adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Stay hydrated: The human body is more than 60% water, so staying well hydrated is important for keeping your body's systems working properly. Water helps flush toxins from the body and keeps you feeling full throughout the day.
Get enough sleep: Sleep helps regulate hormone levels, including those that are part of the immune system response. It also allows your mind to clear itself of stressors so that it can recover from the day's events and prepare for tomorrow's challenges
Eat a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet will ensure that your body gets all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs to function at its best each day. A balanced diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables (the darker ones contain more antioxidants), whole grains (such as brown rice or oatmeal), fish (which contains omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation) and nuts (which contain monounsaturated fats which help reduce cholesterol levels).
Exercise regularly:- Regular exercise stimulates circulation, helping your body fight off germs and viruses. It also helps reduce stress levels, which can affect your immunity. Exercise also boosts the production of "good" hormones called endorphins - natural painkillers that give you energy and make you feel good.
Avoid consumption of Alcohol:- Alcohol increases your risk of mouth ulcers and other infections because it suppresses your immune system. The more you drink, the greater this effect becomes.
Quit smoking:-Smoking raises the risk of lung cancer and other cancers by causing damage to the lungs that reduces their ability to fight infection. It also damages cells that produce antibodies, which help fight infection.
Take care of your Mental-Health:-Stress can affect your immune system in a number of ways: it can suppress your body's ability to fight off bacteria, viruses and fungi; it can increase levels of cortisol (a stress hormone); it can reduce your body's ability to produce antibodies, and it can reduce levels of natural killer cells (which kill cancer cells). So practice yoga and meditation to regulate and manage your moods.
Studies say that immunity-boosting programs like COVID-19 can help boost your immunity in a very short time frame and offer a host of health benefits, not just protection against the common flu. Whether you have already opted for a particular program or are still contemplating the same, you can get your body to reach its peak fitness level and beat out common sicknesses with ease.
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