How Does the Immune System Work?

How Does the Immune System Work?

From microscopic germs and mutating viruses to unfriendly pathogens and other foreign invaders, your body faces intrusion by many different sources each day. Without the protection of your immune system, these unwelcome guests could lead to some very unpleasant effects.

So, how does your immune system pull it off, exactly? Read on to find out more about this amazing network that works hard to shield you from harm.

What is immunity?

You may be wondering: what the heck is my immune system, anyway? Your immune system is a combination of organs, tissues, proteins and specific cells that, much like a superhero defending his or her home city from attack, targets and seeks to defeat potentially harmful germs, viruses and pathogens.

Immunity from a certain virus or pathogen means that your body is able to fight and resist it. For example, it can occur once your body discovers the right tools (types of immune cells, typically) to fight off a specific strain of the common cold. 

Fun fact: there are actually two types of immunity. The kind described above is known as active immunity, but you can also experience passive immunity, naturally at birth (thanks, Mom!) or through medical procedures and therapies where human or animal antibodies are transferred to someone who cannot make their own. 

How does my immune system work?

Here’s the simple explanation of a very complex process: different types of immune cells take on different tasks like a military unit. Some immune cells work to identify the invader so the body knows what it’s up against, while others use that intelligence and information to create antibodies that actively fight against the bacteria, virus or pathogen. Other cells then clean up the mess left in the wake of the battle.

After the threat is neutralized, the specific antibodies remain behind, which is what we described above as immunity. 

How can I support my immune system?

There are many different ways to support immune health, including eating plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, getting adequate sleep and exercise, and practicing good hygiene habits. (Did you know that you need to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds to sufficiently kill germs?) 

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