Critical Role of Immune System in our Body

Nrs. Oke Ololade

 A documentary that I stumbled upon recently, showing the richest people in the world and their security agents. Top among the list of these wealthy and famous personalities were Mark Zuckerberg, Zay-z and Beyonce, Donald Trump to mention just a few of them. These security agencies are handsomely paid in dollars for their services in securing the lives of these wealthy individuals. In the documentary under review,  Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook and whatsApp could be seen performing his routine early morning joggings ( exercises) and to my amazement was surrounded by heavily armed security guards. What that simply suggests is that, no unwanted persons can be allowed access to these individuals. And as such, their lives are heavily guarded against any external aggressors. So they are considered well secured and protected.

 

In the same veins, I want you to see the above illustration, about the documentary being referred to in terms of a relationship between an individual and their immune system. The immune system can be perceived as the security guards which protects our individual body against germs, bacteria, viruses(external aggressors). They help our bodies fight against any such diseases and also provide a defence to keep our body healthy and safe. For our body immune system to be active, it will require certain foods, and supplements just as the security guards are well paid for their services to protect Mark Zuckerberg. The critical question to be asked is: what is the immune system ; how can we feed our bodies so they can defend us? This week’s edition will help us to know all these.

 

The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. The immune system keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated so it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again. This system is made up of special organs, cells and chemicals that fight infections(microbes). The main parts of the immune system are: white blood cells, antibodies, the complement system, the lymphatic system, the spleen, the thymus, and the bone marrow. These are the parts of your immune system that actively fight infection. The immune system(B- & T-lymphocytes) also known as memory cells keep record of every microbe that has ever been defeated by the white blood cells in the body. This means that, it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again, before it multiplies and makes you fall sick. Some infections, like the flu and the common cold, have to be fought many times because so many different viruses or strains of the same type of virus can cause these illnesses. Catching a cold or flu from one virus does not give you immunity against the others. It therefore goes to show that, the stronger your immune system, the less vulnerable your body is to any infectious diseases.

 

 PARTS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

 

White blood cells

White blood cells are the key players in your immune system. They are made in your bone marrow and are part of the lymphatic system.

White blood cells move through blood and tissue throughout your body, looking for foreign invaders (microbes) such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. When they find them, they launch an immune attack. White blood cells are also called leukocytes. They circulate in the body in blood vessels and the lymphatic vessels that parallel the veins and arteries.

White blood cells are on constant patrol and looking for pathogens. When they find a target, they begin to multiply and send signals out to other cell types to do the same.

There are two main types of white blood cells (leukocyte):

  1. Phagocytes

These cells surround and absorb pathogens and break them down, effectively eating them. There are several types, including:

Neutrophils — these are the most common type of phagocyte and tend to attack bacteria.

  • Monocytes — these are the largest type and have several roles.
  • Macrophages — these patrol for pathogens and also remove dead and dying cells.
  • Mast cells — they have many jobs, including helping to heal wounds and defend against pathogens.

 

  1. Lymphocytes

Lymphocytes help the body to remember previous invaders and recognize them if they come back to attack again.

Lymphocytes begin their life in bone marrow. Some stay in the marrow and develop into B lymphocytes (B cells), others head to the thymus and become T lymphocytes (T cells). These two cell types have different roles:

  • B lymphocytes — they produce antibodies and help alert the T lymphocytes.
  • T lymphocytes — they destroy compromised cells in the body and help alert other leukocytes.

 

Spleen is a blood-filtering organ that removes microbes and destroys old or damaged red blood cells. It also makes disease-fighting components of the immune system(including antibodies and lymphocytes).

Bone Marrow is the spongy tissue found inside your bones. It produces the red blood cells our bodies need to carry oxygen, the white blood cells we use to fight infection, and the platelets we need to help our blood clot.

Thymus filters and monitors your blood content. It produces the white blood cells called T lymphocytes.

The body has several other ways to defend itself against microbes, including:

Skin- a waterproof barrier that secretes oil with bacteria-killing properties.

Lungs- mucous in the lungs (phlegm) traps foreign particles, and small hairs (cilia) wave the mucous upwards so it can be coughed out.

Digestive tract has a mucous lining which contains antibodies, and the acid in the stomach can kill most microbes. Other defenses are body fluids like skin oil, saliva and tears contain antibacterial enzymes that help reduce the risk of infection. The constant flushing of the urinary tract and the bowel also helps.

FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS THAT BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are fruits that produce Vitamin C .Vitamin C helps the body to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections.

Common citrus fruits include: Grapefruit, Oranges, Limes, Lemons, tangerines, and so on. These fruits are highly required in the body because they are not produced or stored in the body and most importantly they are needed daily. Citrus fruits have been highly recommended against Covid-19.

 

Garlic

Garlic is very good in fighting infections. It also slows down hardening of the arteries and helps lower blood pressure. It has an immune boosting property such as allicin

 

Ginger

Ginger helps to decrease inflammation in the body, which can help reduce sore throat and inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may help with nausea as well. It contains cholesterol lowering properties.

 

Spinach

Spinach is rich in vitamin C. it is also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may both increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. It is similar to broccoli, and fluted pumpkin leaf (Ugwu leaf). Spinach and other vegetables are best cooked with low heat so as to get the nutrients such as vitamin A and oxalic acid.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is known as a key ingredient in many curries. This bright yellow, bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory drug in treating inflammatory diseases. Research has shown that turmeric has high concentrations of curcumin, which gives turmeric its distinctive color. It can help decrease exercise-induced muscle damages. Generally, Curcumin is an immune booster.

 

 

Some health habits that help in boosting our body immune system

Here are some habits and factors that can help in building the immune system. Such habits include staying hydrated–which means drinking up to 8-10 glasses of water daily (mostly warm water) as this helps to flush toxins away from the body and lower the chances of flu.

Daily exercises, also prevents the body from producing toxins when over used and also promotes body metabolism which has a direct correlation with body immunity.

 

Avoid Smoking, alcohol and other addictive substances

Certain habits like smoking, vaping, alcohol consumption and substance abuse have a direct correlation between weakened body defence and respiratory illnesses. Engaging in smoking and vaping is proven to weaken your lung capacity and destroy the cells lining your respiratory tracts. These cells are crucial to fight viruses that enter through your nasal orifices (nostrils/nose). There is new research claiming that individuals who engage in heavy alcohol consumption tend to suffer from ARDS (Acute Respiratory distress syndrome) which is one of the conditions caused by Covid 19 infection. If you must drink, practice moderation. If you are dependent on any of these, a sudden withdrawal can also prove to be risky.

 

Eat Healthy meals: It is a normal say that health is wealth; when you are healthy then an individual can be productive. The food we eat plays a key role in determining our overall wellbeing and immunity. Eat low carbohydrate foods, which helps in controlling high blood sugar. Focus on protein rich meals to help keep you in shape. Regular consumption of vegetables and fruits rich in ascorbic acid and essential vitamins such as spinach, broccoli, tomato, bell pepper (tatashe) are good options to build resilience in the body against any infection and in particular, Covid-19.

 

Maintain good hygiene: It is essential that we live in a clean and serene environment, wearing of clean clothes, brush our teeth twice daily, regular bathing with soap and clean water, cutting our fingernails with nail cutters and not with our teeth, if they must be kept then they should cleaned properly, regular washing of our hands before eating and after, also after using the toilet.

Let me conclude with this note: Always remember that health is wealth.

 

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