Your body remains healthy most of the time despite the fact that microbes and germs infect it regularly. This is largely thanks to your immune system, which is automatically triggered every time it detects bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other microbial organisms.
There are three types of blood cells — red, white, and platelets. Of these, the white blood cells are tasked with fighting infection. When some unwanted organism invades your body, the immune system initiates an early response, which is often called the innate immune response. However, this is usually not enough to deal with the infection.
“We need the activation of our adaptive immune response, which takes about three days (after the early response is initiated). Lymphocytes (one of the types of white blood cells) are the main cell types responding at this stage. Some of them can kill virally infected cells and some can make antibodies that help clear the infection.” Liu Haiyan, a professor of microbiology and immunology, said to Today.
Neutrophils make up a significant portion of the white blood cells and they play an important role in fighting infection. For instance, when a person is suffering from cancer, one of the worst things that can happen to them is for their neutrophil count to go low, since this increases the risk of being infected with serious illnesses. Monocytes are white blood cells that aid lymphocytes in recognizing germs. They usually help in fighting fungi, bacteria, and parasites. Monocytes have the ability to surround and digest germs that have been coated with antibodies.
Your immune system gets stronger with experience. “The first time your body comes into contact with a certain type of germ, your immune response may take a while. You might need several days to make and use all the germ-fighting parts you need to get rid of your infection. It takes time to hack the germ’s code and destroy it. If you come across that same germ, later on, your body will remember and fight it off faster, so you can get over the infection and feel better,” according to WebMD.
Boosting your immune system
There are various ways to boost your immune system. First, eat a healthy diet with plenty of veggies, fruits, seeds, and nuts. This will provide nutrients that will strengthen the immune system. One study on older adults found that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables improves the efficacy of the Pneumovax vaccine that fights against a bacterial strain called Streptococcus pneumonia.
You should get as much sunlight as possible. “Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. In the summer, a 10-15 minute exposure (minus sunscreen) is enough… Low vitamin D levels correlate with a greater risk of respiratory infection,” according to Everyday Health. A study on kids discovered that children provided with Vitamin D supplements every day saw a reduced risk of contracting influenza A.
Consuming probiotics is a growing trend among health-conscious people. The habit does aid in improving the immune system. Various studies have shown that the intake of probiotics diminishes incidences of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.
Your immunity is also affected by your mental state. An analysis of 293 studies found that while short-term stress can give a boost to the immune system, being exposed to stress for the long term will damage your immunity and make you susceptible to diseases. The study had analyzed results from more than 18,000 participants.