The concept of immunity originates from the Latin word "immunize" which means " exempt from service or free from anything" which in context refers to protection against insults, damage or disease.
The immune system is popularly known for being a kind of internal "army", responsible for dealing with the entry of agents that settle causing imbalances (pathogens). The immune system constantly scans to see if it is encountering a foreign entity that can cause harm or if, on the contrary, it is part of the body. In this article we are going to analyze in depth the functioning of our immune system and the importance of controlling inflammation in our body.
1. The 4 main protective barriers of the body
Once it detects a threat to the body, it automatically sends the defenses through four main protective barriers:
- The skin: The skin has a layer of fat and a series of acids that promote protection against the entry of possible pathogens.
- The intestinal mucosa acts as a barrier to the entry of disease-causing agents, since almost 70% of the immune system depends on the intestinal flora. Good digestive health is crucial to keep our defense mechanisms in perfect condition.
- The airways have their protective role by capturing and enclosing foreign particles or microbes.
- Inflammation is another defense mechanism used by the body to protect our cells. White blood cells are the cells responsible for defending the body from infection and helping to remove waste and waste from tissues.
2. How do the white blood cells or defenses of our body act?
- They produce acids to dissolve and kill microbes and pathogens, "poison" for them.
- They release free radicals , fundamental reactive substances in physiological and immunological processes and in neuroscience. They act as vasodilators and bactericides. In high concentrations they can be harmful, which is why it is crucial that they be compensated with an adequate and balanced supply of antioxidants.
- They make hydrogen peroxide molecules that "indicate" to the cells of the immune system where the wounds are to attack the possible infection.
- They produce enzymes that favor microbial breakdown and dissolution: in this sense, a correct intake of minerals that ensure enzymatic functioning through food and/or supplements such as bottled seawater takes on special prominence.
- White blood cells generate mucus and inflammation , in such a way that pathogens are "trapped" in said mucus without any power of action.
- Our immune system has memory of everything that has happened. In such a way that it remembers the entry of previous pathogens to be able to act on it, so it is in a constant learning process when exposed to different pathogens. It is a mechanism for strengthening the immune system and that is why it is not entirely recommended that children be in excessively sterile environments, free from exposure to any pathogen. A little bit of dirt will help them build a good immune system to prevent disease as they age.
- Phagocytes: they are cells that devour microbes, they have a voracious appetite for viruses, microbes, bacteria, yeasts, but also remains of dead cells present in our body. To get an idea, in a liter of blood there are six trillion phagocytes.
3. There are two types of immunity: innate and acquired immunity
On the one hand, we have the innate immune system, which is the one we are born with. As has been pointed out, the body is born with a series of barriers prepared to deal with the entry of pathogens, when one failure (ie: the skin) there is another ( enzymes, saliva, stomach acids, etc ). It is a general defense system in such a way that when a pathogen manages to get around these entrances, another much more sophisticated type of immunity is activated: acquired immunity.
On the other hand, we have the acquired immune system , which is the one that we develop thanks to the memory capacity of our immune system and to which external aid such as vaccines or the creation of antibodies after suffering any infectious process contribute. Exposure to pathogens during our growth, as happens with children when they play in nurseries, schools, when they come into contact with soil microbes.
4. What weakens our defenses?
Immunodeficiency can be given at birth, primary immunodeficiency , or secondary , when it is acquired over time. The main causes for which the immune system can weaken are:
- Nutrient-poor diet: The immune system depends on vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. An interesting fact is that the greatest Spanish flu suffered in 1918, which after its expansion killed almost one hundred million people, took place just after the First World War. Industrial amounts of food were transported, the soldiers ate canned food, without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This, in prolonged periods of time, inevitably ends up weakening the immune system and especially added to a physiological state of constant physical and psychological stress such as being at war. This context undoubtedly predisposes the person to increase their susceptibility to being invaded by viruses.
- Stress: it is positioned as a key factor in the predisposition to a weakened immune system and poor in nutrients. Constant exposure to stress increases the levels of the cortisol hormone, which has an immunosuppressive capacity; For this reason, in these contexts, among other things, the appearance of herpes is more frequent.
- Few hours of sleep and poor rest favor the appearance of hormonal imbalances, the inability to face deficiencies or internal needs autonomously, which is closely related to exposure to chronic stress processes and consequently to the alteration of the immune system.
- Excess glucose in the body: certain viruses are especially stimulated in contexts of obesity, diabetes and sedentary life.
Tobacco and alcohol consumption: Although the carcinogens within tobacco are a crucial factor in increasing the risk of cancer, many other compounds act as inflammatory and immunosuppressive agents, including nicotine oxides, ammonia, benzopyrenes, or tar. of the acetone.
Inside the lungs, tobacco triggers a cascade of inflammatory agents that lead to the persistent chronic inflammatory syndrome so common today.
- Chemotherapy or radiation in the treatment of cancer.
If you want to learn how to strengthen your defenses, don't miss this article about what foods and natural tools can help you strengthen the immune system .
5. How to detect situations of immunosuppression
In most cases, we do not go to a health professional to take action until the pathology develops, as we tend not to pay special attention to the appearance of symptoms. To detect the levels of our defenses, it would be ideal to have a blood test done regularly, but it is not always possible, so we must pay special attention to the appearance of any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling of fatigue and persistent tiredness: although it is true that fatigue has a multifactorial cause, it is a common element in all immunocompromised systems.
- Intestinal disorders and herpes: we have more and more evidence of the importance of having a solid intestinal wall to prevent bacteria from food from crossing it and reaching the blood. Symptoms such as diarrhea is a typical reaction of our body to cleanse the intestine of the infection.
- Vaginal infections: when there is not a good defense mechanism, especially in the case of women, infections due to the activation of yeasts present and other agents become more frequent.
- Conjunctivitis or sinusitis: Eyes and nose are "doors" of our body that allow the entry of all kinds of infections, which is why they are covered by mucosa that "traps" the bacteria present. When the cleaning mechanism of such mucous membranes fails or there is an excess of agents that cause infection, the immune system becomes saturated and the mucous membranes become inflamed.
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