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The inner-workings the body's immune system

The inner-workings the body's immune system

Do you know how the immune system works and what it takes to help keep it strong? Let's do a simple breakdown of the body's immune system and some tips for giving it some support.

Lifestyle insight

Your immune system and how it works

Your immune system function is truly amazing – it has the ability to fight off new infections, and remember all the microbes it has ever fought before. It does so with some very specialized organs, cell and proteins.

Here are the basic components of this sophisticated defense system:

White blood cells

These hunt around your body looking for microbes and attacking any that they find.

Antibodies

These are proteins that help white blood cells find and attack microbes.

Complement system

This is a series of proteins that assist white blood cells and antibodies in their defense duties.

Lymphatic system

This is a set of tubes, a bit like veins and arteries. Its roles include being a battleground for fighting microbes and cancer cells, plus managing our fluid levels.

Spleen

This is an organ that filters your blood, removing microbes and damaged blood cells.

Bone marrow

This is where your white and red blood cells originate from.

Thymus

This is another place where blood is filtered, and another source of white blood cells.

What can cause differences in immune system function?

Being so complex, it’s not surprising that your immune system function can play up from time to time, or even on a regular basis. The reasons for this can involve too much or too little defense.

Overactive immune system function

Too much defense can range from causing common allergies like hayfever, more serious conditions like peanut allergy, and some potentially lifelong autoimmune diseases where the body attacks itself (eg, psoriasis).

Underactive immune system function

Too little defense, sometimes called immunodeficiency, can result from some inherited diseases, infectious diseases, and treatments that affect the immune system.

What helps you maintain a strong immune system?

If you’re just plain sick of always being sick, getting into some good immunity habits might be just what you need. These are some great ways to boost and strengthen your immune system:

  • Start with the basics of a healthy lifestyle – a good diet and regular exercise

  • Maintain good hygiene – including taking care of your teeth

  • Get enough sleep – lack of sleep makes you more likely to get sick. Check out this article on how to improve sleep quality. 

  • Manage stress – a little stress is okay, but too much can lower your natural defenses, so don’t forget to make time to relax

  • Avoid people who appear sick – look out for runny red noses!

  • Go for regular check-ins with a trusted health professional – prevention is better than cure! Read our tips for finding the right health professional for you.

References available upon request.
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