What is Immunity and How do you Bolster it?

COVID has helped to make questions and awareness of your immune systems front and center. Immunity is a physiological mechanism your body has to recognize germs and to prevent them from causing illness. The immune system is designed to recognize materials as foreign and to neutralize, eliminate, or metabolize them without injury to its own tissue.

There are two types of immunity: innate and adaptive.

Innate Immunity

The good news is that we are all born with innate immunity. Innate immunity involves barriers, like skin and mucous membranes, that keep harmful materials from entering your body. These barriers form the first line of defense in the immune response.The challenge with these special cells and proteins is that they can kill a germ, but once the germ is dead, the innate immune system forgets it. It does not have a memory to communicate or store any information about the germ. Without memory of the germ or contaminant it can reinfect the body. 

Adaptive Immunity

Adaptive immunity is what enables the body to recognize and memorize germs and foreign substances. An antigen is a toxin or other foreign substance which induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies.

When your body recognizes antigens, it produces antibodies to fight the antigens. Antibody production is one of the most important ways that immunity is developed.

There are two types of adaptive immunity: 

  • Active Immunity – antibodies that develop in a person’s own immune system after the body is exposed to an antigen through a disease or when you get an immunization (i.e. a flu shot or COVID Vaccine). This type of immunity lasts for a longer timeframe.
  • Passive Immunity – antibodies given to a person to prevent disease or to treat disease after the body is exposed to an antigen. Passive immunity is given from mother to child through the placenta (placenta and  breast milk). It can also be given medically through blood products that contain antibodies, such as immune globulin. Passive immunity is fast acting but lasts only a few weeks or months. 

Bolstering your Immune System

With a stronger immune system you have a higher probability of fighting off germs such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins that can make you sick. So, your immune system is very important – got it! Now you may be asking yourself how you can support/strengthen it? The most important thing you can do is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Adopting good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take towards naturally keeping your immune system working properly. 

Here are the basic healthy lifestyle steps you can take to help support a strong immune system:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables. Seek organically grown food as it is free of additional chemicals which make it easier on your immune system.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Drink minimal alcohol, if at all
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid infection by washing hands regularly and cooking meats properly
  • Try to manage or minimize stress
  • Keep current with all recommended vaccines

If you want to learn more about boosting your immune system you an read more from health.harvard.edu.

In summary, the immune system is critical to good health. With all of the toxins in the environment and food we consume building a strong immune system is going to continue to be vital.  

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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