Monica’s immunity 101
Each day, our bodies are at risk from an almost infinite array of invaders. Many things can cause us damage:
- Defected and mutated cells
- Toxic substances
And more. That's what the immune system is for. It helps to protect the body from damage. Anything this clever system sees as an enemy will be disposed of.
To carry on the army analogy, the immune system is organised into lines of defence. Monica says that these lines start with "the barriers which separate the inside of our body from the external environment". Our skin is the most obvious barrier. There are also internal barriers, such as the lining of body cavities (the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory airways, the vagina).
Nothing can penetrate these lines when they are healthy and strong.
But the good news is that, even if there's a breach, we have internal defences too. Our bodies come with what Monica refers to as "an army of soldiers for an immediate response to any attacks”, our innate immunity: a non-specific type of protection. This immunity is provided by immune cells. Like soldiers, these cells patrol our bodies all the time. They identify anything that looks out of place. Then they respond immediately to remove the invader.
If this isn't enough, we also have specific types of protection available.
Monica outlines "Our bodies can also call upon a wiser and more knowledgeable form of response which is very specific to the intruder. [It] is the result of years of exposure to various antigens. This is the adaptive branch of the immune response." In other words, once you've been exposed to a particular virus or bacteria, you'll have a certain degree of immunity to it.
Monica continues the army analogy. "Each branch of the army has its own soldiers: the white blood cells. Macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer cells are the main players in the innate immunity. B-cells (plasma and memory) and T-cells (T-helpers, T-cytotoxic, T-suppressors, T- memory) are the main players in the adaptive branch."
Like soldiers, immune cells have ammunition. Different cells have different weapons. Here are some examples:
- Inflammatory secretions
The cells use the weapons they need based on the type of threat they face. When our bodies face a threat, these cells mount an immune response. Such a response uses a lot of energy. For your body to be able to fight, it needs to be in top condition. Your body needs to be taken care of.
We can make a big impact on how successful our immune systems will be. Two key things we can do are to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle. These simple steps will strengthen our immunity.