Immunity is a complex system. Our bodies have multiple lines of defence we use against aggressors that can be split into innate and adaptive immunity. Understanding how these systems work can help us better take care of ourselves and ensure long-term effects that will keep us happy and healthy for a long time.
The first and most active system of defence in your body is your innate immunity. It consists of physical barriers like your skin or bodily hair such as eyelashes or nasal hair, preventing bacteria or viruses from entering. It also functions as an alarm, notifying your adaptive immunity to begin working, and sets off the healing functions.
When you are exposed to germs, your innate immunity kicks in. It tells your body to produce cells that will destroy the infection. If you are injured, it triggers the inflammation response and begins healing. If a foreign body enters your eyes or throat, it reacts with tears or coughs to expel it. This buys time for your adaptive immune system to understand the threat and respond appropriately.
The adaptive immune system is the second line of defence of the body. Once the bacteria or disease has been recognized, your body can respond by creating antibodies to fight it and prevent it from multiplying.
Your adaptive immunity has a memory that remembers threats so that it can fight them faster and more efficiently the next time. This is called acquired immunity. This type of immunity can only be built after exposure to pathogens or infections.
Active and passive immunity
When you inject antibodies by vaccination or when your body produces antibodies after you have been infected by a virus, this is called active immunity. This type of immunity is usually long-lasting and is quite a strong defence.
Passive immunity is passed on through antibodies, whether through the placenta in utero, or through blood plasma from a donor who has the antibodies.
Three ways to keep your immune system healthy
Your innate and adaptive immunity is naturally formed, but you can do a few things to help preserve your health.
To keep your system healthy, you should maintain a moderate and well-rounded diet. The food you put into your body fuels your life and energy level. It also affects your short- and long-term health. Eat at the right time and include a healthy mix so that you get the vitamins and minerals that you need. You should also drink enough water to stay hydrated.
If you aren’t sure about the right balance of vitamins and minerals, it might help to consult a nutritionist.
2. Waste Elimination
One of the most important functions of your body is elimination. Through bowel movements and urination, your body gets rid of any waste matter that has accumulated. Left too long, that waste can be toxic and will cause bloating, nausea, constipation, and other issues.
To keep your elimination function healthy, avoid too much processed food and add fibre, fresh vegetables and fruit, and plenty of water to your diet. And finally, make sure you set aside enough time to go to the toilet every day – a complete and regular bowel movement is critical to your health.
Exercise is important to your health for many reasons. It increases your heart rate, helps your body eliminate toxins through perspiration, and regulates your circulation. All these benefits add up to stronger and more responsive innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
To get a good workout, you don’t need to go farther than your living room. Try our 30-minute home workout for beginners, or browse our top recommendations for YouTube fitness channels that you can follow for a daily new workout at home.
Infection and the innate immunity system
When a potential threat attacks your body, your innate immunity system is the first battle it must fight. There are two levels on which this fight takes place:
Physical barriers like your skin or hair (repels attackers), mucous (traps and removes foreign bodies), or physical reactions like a sneeze (expels irritants). This is usually the first time the attacker is coming in contact with the body.
Biological reactions like swelling, fever, or a runny nose, help the body focus on healing and repairing the infection or injury. Your innate immunity causes this reaction, to create an opportunity for the adaptive immunity system to react.
In these times, it is important to keep your body healthy and your immune system functioning well. The practices you put into place now will help you during flu season or if you are prone to allergic reactions. Read our blog post on immunity here for more information on keeping your immune system strong.