Immune System: The Basics

The immune system is a very complex system that plays an integral role in tissue homeostasis and cell survival. It is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to limit or prevent infection or illness. In general, the immune system can be divided into two parts: innate and adaptive immune system. The two systems are closely linked and work together to trigger immune responses.

The innate response is the naturally occurring immune system and it is the first line of defense against invaders (e.g. viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi) that have breached physical barriers like the skin or digestive system. It is inherited and is active the moment you are born. This system is sometimes referred to as the ‘nonspecific’ immune system because it provides a general defense against harmful substances and invaders. The defenders of the innate immune system are mostly composed of natural killer cells that destroy infected cells and phagocytes (i.e. neutrophils, macrophages, dendritic cells, monocytes) that eat or engulf harmful particles or dead and dying cells.

The adaptive immune system is the acquired response that develops over time with exposure to various antigens. Adaptive immunity is more complex than innate immunity because adaptive immunity targets specific threats to the body. The adaptive immune system consists of lymphocytes that are further subdivided into B cells and T cells. B cells seek their target (antigen) and produce antibodies to lock them out. After the target antigen is locked by an antibody, the T cells come into action and destroy the antigens identified by the B cell. The adaptive immune system changes throughout one’s life as it is constantly learning and adapting the body to fight bacteria or viruses that change over time.

Part of a healthy immune response includes the inflammatory response. One of the main functions of the inflammation response of the immune system is to repair damage and restore tissue homeostasis. Part of this process includes the synthesis and release of cytokines from activated immune cells. Cytokines are proteins that bind to receptors on immune cells affecting differentiation and proliferation, and that direct the inflammatory responders to the site damage or injury. The inflammatory response of the immune system is a tight controlled and well-organized process. Ideally, it is meant to be a specific and self-limiting response that is rapid and destructive when necessary.

In these times of quarantine for coronavirus, it is important to support and tune up your immune system. But if you ask yourself what’s even more important….the answer is maintaining and keeping that same energy even after quarantine because that is when a healthy, balanced, and properly functioning immune system is really going to be needed! Get ahead and contact Balanced Healing to schedule a consultation to help support and balance your immune system.

Dr. Elena, ND